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JB: Early in the negotiations the inmates demanded that they be guaranteed that they would be transferred from Arizona prisons to prisoners nearer their homes. They asked for Maine and Wisconsin prison assignments. How important was that deal?
KR: With the inmates? That was critical, huge. They didn’t believe it. It was there. It was on the table. Truly brought to the table, signed in blood, you name it. It took a lot of convincing to have them think that it was going to be and it was.
JB: What was your sense of these fellows as they went along? One of them was a pretty savvy person, wasn’t he? The one they called “Rooster”?
KR: He was just that, strutting around, lot of show.
JB: Pretty smart?
KR: Very well educated, on his own. I think he had a GED, but he had learned quite a bit in the library. He has been in prison since he was a teenager. The longest time he’d been out was a few months at a time, before he screwed up. He was very manipulative, very self-centered, a sociopath. One of the psychologists from the FBI gave us an outline and it was like whoo. And it was unusual dealing with him because most people have a sense of right and wrong, sense of logic and they go through the normal thought processes, but he was way out there. For example, when he was ordering food, he ordered stuff like packaged tuna. He just had no sense of real world. He used a thought process that was totally foreign to me.
JB: When you were talking with him and you have this profile in your mind, you have a lot to keep track of every moment. Are you trying to evaluate all these comments?
KR: Yes. Every conversation that we had I was trying to figure out why he was asking me this … what his motive is. So the way he thinks, trying to put myself in that position. Had to go with the flow, focus, focus on conversation, not just how it’s going, but on every word and the way that he’s going.
JB: During all that was he threatening?
KR: No. He was great with me. He enjoyed my jokes. I treated him with respect. If you treat people with respect, they respond to you better. I knew from interviewing inmates that if you treat them like a real person they respond to you much better. I treated him like I would anybody else. Along with that comes the joking, building rapport, that’s the negotiating. Sometimes I’d play a little, asking him to explain some things. He was so hungry for attention and I gave him that attention.
JB: How long were your sessions?
KR: Some were almost half an hour, some were just a couple minutes. I’m sending food, for example. Several were a half hour or more.
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Copyright © 2004, John D. Baker
Copyright © 2004, The Negotiator Magazine