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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Coerced Confessions - A Corporate Abuse

In a recent column I wrote about police interrogation tactics that lead a surprising number of people to confess to crimes they didn't commit. It turns out that corporate America has followed suit. Many large corporations take a "loss prevention" approach that utilizes training manuals modeled after the leading police manuals -- using the very techniques that cause false confessions. Indeed, the group that produces the leading manual, John Reid and Associates, boasts about its infiltration into loss prevention.
 
When a large chain finds money missing (which, needless to say, happens often), and is convinced that one of its employees is guilty of theft, in come trained interrogators with well-honed tactics of isolating the individual and cutting off all escape routes until he feels he is better off confessing - even if he's innocent. (The June 2005 issue of Scientific American Mind features an excellent discussion of the prevailing interrogative methods and their perils titled True Crimes, False Confessions by Saul M. Kassin and Gisli H. Gudjonsson).
 
It's even worse in the case of private companies than the police, because they don't have to issue Miranda warnings and give employees the opportunity to consult an attorney and remain silent. Instead, they place the defenseless employee in a small, claustrophobic room and systematically break down his will - confronting him with fabricated evidence of his guilt, threatening to fire him instantly (and get the police involved) unless he confesses and promising leniency if he does so.
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