Throughout history society has varying degrees of passing on knowledge.  The Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Indian cultures had vast verbal as well as written systems.  The Catholic Church used a dead language (Latin) to pass on teachings to the initiated but used preaching and symbolism to pass the belief onto the masses.  The Native Americans had no written language but had an extensive verbal teaching through story tellers and the Shamans.  

Today we have books, computers, teachers and all sorts of mass communication and teaching methods.  In police work we go to the Police Academy but that is only the beginning of learning law enforcement.  Once on the job a police recruit is trained by a Field Training Officer (FTO) and then when released into the world it becomes the job of the Sergeant and other shift officers to keep training the newbie.  All through his career the officer learns by doing, by watching and continues to attend In-service training.  

By the time an officer retires from police work, thousands of hours of training, official and unofficial have been taken.  

But what about the criminals?  Do they have a system of learning their trade?  They most certainly do.  Although their classes and teachings are not written down in a book, they do have a wealth of criminal knowledge passed on to them by other and more experienced criminals.  

Family members will pass along how to steal from stores, brothers will pull robberies together, sons will learn from their fathers by just watching.  I had a friend who during her childhood was taken to the stores and told to steal and if she got caught the mother punished her in the store for being bad, and then punished her at home for getting caught.

Imagine the trauma this child went through and I knew nothing about it until the day she tried to kill herself at the age of 44.

Recently I was in the clinic with an inmate to take his insulin shots.  This inmate is in for aggravated robbery awaiting trial.  He has been to prison or jail his whole adult life.  He claims himself to be “Institutionalized.”  This man is in his mid fifties and is a very decent person to talk with.  

Often the topic of our discussions is how the younger inmates, those in their twenties act like eight year olds.  He calls them the “Crazy young ones.”  Without any provocation the crazy ones will act out.  Over the smallest of slights they begin yelling and arguing and the fists start flying.  The older inmates just try to stay out of the way, do their time and go home.  The crazy ones feel like they are getting “Street cred” and won’t be dissed.

While in the clinic the inmate said to me, “My job is to pass on the knowledge I have to the younger inmates.  It wouldn’t be right not to.”

To hear this sentiment from a teacher or older police officer would sound right to me.  But to hear it from an inmate who is taking this task seriously was a little disconcerting.  He actually believes he is doing right to help the younger inmates gain criminal knowledge.  

Some of the passed on knowledge is good information.  Talk of accepting the savior into your heart and being a child of God.  Other times he has his nose buried in a law book, looking up ways for fellow inmates to get off with a lighter sentence or no jail time at all.

He knows every drug dealer on the streets of Miami County and Dayton.  What drugs are compatible and which are lethal.  A felony 2 robbery will carry so many years extra in prison than the felony 3 charge.  The trouble is he knows which carries the mandatory sentence and which gives the judge the option of choosing how much time.  

And no, this jailhouse lawyer does not give this advice out for free.  Information will cost you a boiled egg, piece of dinner cake or use of your good shampoo for a week. The next time you talk to a lawyer, ask if they would accept a boiled egg for their fee. 

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