Correctional Officers, Wisdom

How to Protect Yourself From Sociopaths

Unknown- Quote found on Pinterest
Unknown- Quote found on Pinterest

Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, tunneled out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York on June 6.

From several accounts, including statements from Matt’s own family and facts about his crime, this man is a psychopath; at minimum a sociopath.

The female employee fell “in love,” and was likely manipulated into doing things clearly outside of her job duties. This happens in correctional facilities. A lot.

This scenario bothered me, mainly because I’ve seen similar events happen where people get hurt, lose their job and crush their family.

There is never only one victim and often the community pays. This escape has more than 800 police officers looking for the convicts in a search that costs $1 million a day.

I’m not a psychologist, my degree is in sociology and criminal justice, but I do have first-hand experience with psycho/sociopaths through my 28 years working at the California Department of Corrections.

Plenty of staff members fell prey to smuggling in contraband (comfort items, drugs, money, etc.) when they fell for an inmate. In every case, the inmate gave them up (snitched on them) when confronted. So much for love.

The set-up for escapes and other illegal activities has happened throughout the nation in several prisons. In Baltimore, a prisoner ran his drug enterprise out on the streets through his, and his gang members, manipulative relationships with 13 female correctional officers (CO’s). Four female CO’s got pregnant from the ‘mastermind’ inmate.

In the Baltimore case, gang members were told to target women with “low self-esteem, insecurities,” and other personality traits seen as “weak.” The same has happened with male CO’s and female inmates. The CO’s and prison employees were ‘groomed.’

But, you don’t have to be employed in a prison to be taken by a psycho/sociopath. The T.V show, Catfished, illustrates that point. So do the Nigerian money schemes and other online manipulations.

Forewarned is forearmed.

These are the ‘symptoms’ of a sociopath/psychopath as described by Dr. Richard Hare, the expert in psychopathology and also the top FBI consultant on psychopaths. His book, Without Conscience, is an eye-opening read and still relevant after 15 years.

Dr. Harer describes a world of con artists, hustlers, and other predators who charm, lie and manipulate their way through life.

This information should be required reading for any correctional employee. I’d recommend it to anyone as there are sociopaths who manipulate people outside of any correctional facility.

Many sociopaths lie, cheat, steal and never enter the CJ system. They’re out in our communities embezzling money, duping men or women for money, or stealing from the elderly. is an interesting site on how to recognize and recover from sociopaths.

How can psycho/sociopaths be recognized? And how can you protect yourself?

Educate yourself and be aware.

Here are the traits cited by Dr. Hare:

Interpersonal traits

  • Glib and superficial
  • Egocentric and grandiose
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Lack of empathy
  • Deceitful and manipulative
  • Shallow emotions

Antisocial lifestyle

  • Impulsive
  • Poor behavior controls
  • Need for excitement
  • Lack of responsibility
  • Early behavior problems
  • Adult antisocial behavior

You don’t have to read the book to know that much of the manipulation on a person could have been stopped by having boundaries.

I like this definition given in an Indiana University self-awareness bulletin:

A boundary is a limit or space between you and the other person. You are the gate keeper and get to decide who you let in and who you keep out…You may still be keeping a distance, but you are giving them a chance to prove their trustworthiness both physically and emotionally. The purpose of setting a healthy boundary is, of course, to protect and take good care of you.

Healthy boundaries come from having healthy self-esteem and self-awareness. Here’s a great list of healthy and unhealthy boundaries.




Inspiration, Latino culture, Wisdom, Writing

Mexican Dichos and #Writing

Mexican dicho on writing
Mexican dicho on writing


Many bloggers are also writers and authors. I’m one of those blogueras who love to write for the sake of writing, an adventure to places unknown and familiar.

A familiar place I’ve visited, during writing a novel, is the wisdom of the Mexican dicho. Loosely translated a dicho is a proverb, a popular saying.

I came across this pearl of wisdom:

“El mal escribano le echa la culpa a la pluma.”

Substitute escritor (writer) for escribano (clerk/bookkeeperand the dicho becomes:

“The poor writer blames the pen.” 

If you find yourself blaming the pen for poor writing, use the wisdom of the proverb to explore your feelings.

Perhaps you have a fear. This isn’t news, EVERY writer has fears: Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, Judy Blume, (insert name here).

Fear has us looking at the past or worried about the future so much that we forget to remain focused and present for our work.

Sometimes we don’t want to go ‘deep’ in our writing, which makes for superficial writing which is poor writing. I’ve been guilty of that one.

It’s scary looking under the rocks and it’s hard translating the feelings to paper, putting a piece of your heart and soul out there on a piece of paper for someone to see.

But do it. Write your heart and no blaming or shaming yourself or the pen.

Just keep writing, because:

No hay rosas sin espinas. There are no roses without thorns.



Chingonas, Encouragement, Latino culture, Sandra Cisneros, Strong Women, Wisdom, Writing

The Wisdom of Sandra Cisneros

I read an article about the author, writer, poet Sandra Cisneros turning 60 years young. To celebrate, she dressed up as a cake-A. Cake-and celebrated in her new town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

This is why I call her a chingona. Strong, fearless, badass (in a good way).

“I have never felt younger or happier – now I can take care of me,” she says. “It’s a good time.”

She had a few things to say about life at sixty. This is part of a list she composed the day after her birthday, which began with “This is what I know…”

Channel of Light-Love.

When I let go of these distractions, then I write and live from a place of forgiveness, generosity, compassion, and humility.

Generosity  and Selflessness
Generosity and Selflessness

Err on the side of generosity.

Divine Providence
Divine Providence

When in doubt, sleep on it. Ask and you’ll get an answer.

Do the thing you fear most.
Do the thing you fear most.


Trust what comes from intuition; doubt what comes from my brain.

On love and life.
On love and life.

And you’re probably wondering how did she dress up as a cake? Well, here’s the photo:

Sandra Cisneros as her own birthday cake. Piñata skirt by Eva and Jorge Rios, photo by Tracy Boyer
Sandra Cisneros as her own birthday cake. Piñata skirt by Eva and Jorge Rios, photo by Tracy Boyer

We marched down the street like a parade to the jardin, the town center. A row of brilliant mariachis dressed all in white and gold serenaded me on my arrival with “Las Mañanitas,” the traditional birthday song.

Like I said, buen chingona.

Family, Latino culture, Mothers, Strong Women, Wisdom

Hurricane Mother – Part 2


SuperMom Logo by Jose Rios,
SuperMom Logo by Jose RIos,


Last week I wrote about gathering the puzzle pieces of my mother’s first 25 years of life. This made me think about how often we don’t know the stories that our loved one’s carry.

The tragedies, lessons, and life skills my mom learned in the first part of her life set the stage for her next 25 years.

I’m filled with mixed feelings about writing this portion of her life. I wasn’t an observer during this time, I was living this part with her, as a child and a teenager. At that time, I mainly thought of what I and my siblings were going through, as a result, of her choices.

Mom was gone from morning until late at night. We saw her on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and the weekend. Babysitters came and went, some pretty nice, some not.

The nicest one we called Sugar, she didn’t speak English except for the words to the song “Sugar, Sugar.” The meanest babysitter roared instructions. Mom had a cancelled class and caught the woman chasing my brother with a belt. She threw her out on the street.

Although Mom barely reaches five feet and was petite, she knew how to fight like a bantamweight boxer, a skill she learned sparring with her older brother. This was also a survival skill we saw displayed a couple of times when defending her children from drug addicts or an irate neighbor (that’s another story).


More Puzzle Pieces 

A new life meshes into her own. The stigma is great-“Unwed Mother.” Her baby girl passes off as little sister.

Years after the Korean War ends, the town is still surrounded by military bases. Everything changes when the USO women came to the neighborhood.

“Come to the dance. Free food, good music, appreciative servicemen…” “Sounds fun, what’s the harm, oh, come on,” said among giggles of the single young women.

A gaggle of men, handsome in Air Force uniforms, swarmed the newcomers. One sat behind mom, content to talk, unaware that his soft blue eyes, blond hair, and Kentucky accent mesmerized her into silence.

Her beauty brought him into the barrio, had him speaking Spanish. They married. He adopted two year old little sister/daughter. An anomaly of a couple, even in California.

Three more children, all in a row. Almost a big “Leave It To Beaver” family until alcohol, fear and anger tore them apart. She told him to leave. A regret to this day, even beyond his death. The good recalled with much more frequency than the bad.

Back to stifling packing houses, a heavy apron, aching back, wet wrinkled hands from sorting vegetables. Worked ten hours in silence, not allowed to turn her head left or right, the rules you know. Plenty of time to think of the future: a secretary, a police officer, a social worker.

Bus across the tracks to adult ed to get her high school diploma. The drive to want more accompanied the three-mile walk back, at ten p.m., three nights a week.  At thirty-two years old, she graduated and decided to  attend community college.

Ridicule, jokes, shaming comments from neighbors and relatives. “Who does she think she is, what kind of mother isn’t home for her kids after school, leaving them in the evening, sin vergüenza…” She carried books of knowledge along with her guilt through dark nights on the city bus.

In the early morning she knelt before the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the staircase niche. In the evening, a votive to the Virgen de Guadalupe. Weekends at Mass.

Government canned food, powdered milk, the kindness of her siblings fed her family. She pawned her wedding ring when the cupboards were empty. Hunger was the only thing that almost broke her.

Every summer for eight years she sent her children to her brother and his wife, angels to the rescue, so she could go back to the packing houses, save money, remove the cross tattoo on her hand, send her kids to Catholic school.

At forty, she graduated from community college, found her first office job, but still wanted more.

Commuting to a university filled her with hope for a future alongside the fear of what was happening at home, her children now teenagers living in the barrio where success stories are few and far between. We moved across the tracks. Strict rules, education, education, education, drummed into our ears.

Strikes, boycotts, Si Se Puede, self-determination. A community activist, volunteer, doer. Doors opened, scholarships bestowed, a donated car from a women’s group. No time for romance, no time for breathing.

Baby daughter left to college after Mom graduated with two Bachelor’s of Arts degrees, at forty-five.