Shortly after I met serial killer Rodney Alcala, he invited me over to see his photography. At the time he was living with his parents even though he was 35. Upon entering the home, he introduced me to his mother who was visibly angry with him for inviting me over. Looking back now I can guess this was because he had been convicted twice of violent crimes against young girls.
I do not blame the Alcala family for the behavior of Rodney or for not telling me to get away from him. I only bring up this story to highlight the fact that when offenders are released from prison they become a problem for their families.
A person getting out of prison has no place to go, no home, no money and no job. It is only natural they turn to their families. It would take a pretty cold-hearted or perhaps enlightened family to refuse to help.
Criminologists consider family resources to be a buffer against recidivism. Although I have not thoroughly researched this field, I haven’t seen proof that families really prevent re-offense vs. Re-arrest. One authoritative web site says this:
Family-focused programs in community corrections are based on the recognition that families provide an informal agent of control that are more powerful than formal agents of control (probation, parole, law enforcement) for offenders under supervision in the community.
Now if you read that and understood the above quote you are laughing with me. While families may have a positive influence on offenders who are not disordered, to say that families have any power to stop a sociopath/psychopath is ridiculous.
I would like to see violent offenders evaluated for the presence of psychopathy. The reason is that many people especially the offender’s family members take the attitude “They served their time, give them a chance to do better.” In many cases offending is more reflective of a situation than an individual’s personality per se. But if a person goes out looking for prey, finds an innocent victim, lures them and then assaults them, we can’t chalk that up to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In the case of predation, assuming the person was not falsely accused/convicted, the crime has to reflect a personality disposition.
We should not be releasing psychopathic offenders (as defined by the PCL-R) to the care of untrained family members who haven’t the slightest idea what to do. In this case rather than the family serving as an “informal agent of control”, the family home serves as a secure base from which the offender can launch attacks upon the community.
For more on families as resources for offenders see the Center for Evidence Based Practice