A manual of advice born of long experience with violence.
Miller (Violence: A Writer’s Guide, 2013), spent 17 years as a correctional officer in Portland, Oregon, and has several books about violence and related topics to his credit. Here, he begins by postulating three types of brains. Two of them write the script for nearly all we do: the “lizard brain” operates at the survival level and dislikes change, because whatever it’s done to date has at least kept it alive, and the easily offended “monkey brain” is emotional, reactive, and values status in a group. Only the “human brain,” for those who learn to use it, can solve problems in a dispassionate fashion, Miller says. Generally, that’s the brain that one wants to use—particularly if one works, as the author did, in the violent confines of a prison, where inmates usually use their monkey minds. In such an environment, showing respectful behavior toward inmates, speaking softly, and avoiding inflammatory verbal hooks help keep the peace. One should stay away from the potentially confrontational word “you,” Miller says, as in “what are you looking at?” He advises to go instead for the softer “ya,” as in “how ya doing?” When force is necessary, he says to make it impersonal, professional, and overwhelming—but no more than is needed. Miller has actual experience extracting violent, rampaging inmates from prison cells, as he spent 11 years as a Correctional Emergency Response Team member, and six as team leader. His book will be most engaging to people who have or are contemplating careers in law enforcement, corrections, or any other job involving close contact with the incarcerated or mentally unstable. Other readers may not need these techniques, but they will still learn how not to be an easy victim of violence. Miller writes in a conversational style, and not infrequently uses the authentic language of the streets and the prison block. However, he also has an unfortunate tendency toward flippancy, so readers hoping for critiques of the prison system or racial injustices in incarceration rates should look elsewhere.
Unpleasant but useful information, particularly for those who routinely come in contact with highly aggressive people.