Can a Con Man Change?
Emma never imagined that the Mr. Wonderful she connected with through a dating app would ultimately scam her out of $300,000 after weaving a complex web of lies. But that’s exactly what happened with Andrew “Tonks” Thompson. Emma delivered a powerful testimony that landed him a two-year sentence.
After being love-bombed, manipulated, and gaslit for months—not to mention, financially stripped—Emma Ferris sought to answer this question: Is reforming a con artist like Andrew possible? What happens to offenders in prison? Will they come out better, worse, or just the same?
In the Evergreen Podcast Conning the Con, hosts Emma Ferris, Dr. Sophie Muir, and Sarah Ferris bring together their collective expertise to answer these tough questions. Emma Ferris is a leading physiotherapist, stress, and breathing coach based in New Zealand. Her story is one of bravery and grit to get justice.
Sarah works in London and is an award-winning podcast producer and founder of CONMUNITY Podcast Productions. Dr. Muir is a clinical psychologist from Auckland who worked for the country’s Department of Corrections.
Together, they journey into the corrections landscape to understand whether the prison experience is enough to put most offenders on the straight and narrow—or if doing time is a pathway to recidivism vs. rehabilitation.
Sophie hashes through what it means to be in minimum and maximum security prisons, and how prisoners are assigned. She explains that security class is determined “not so much by the level of risk in the community, but their level of risk in prison. How tightly do they need to be controlled to protect themselves from themselves and from other prisoners?”
As for con artists like Andrew, minimum security units are generally adequate and offer more “freedom” such as an outdoor courtyard and possible work inside the unit or at a bigger prison.
The Conning the Con podcast team explores other prison security intricacies and how those might impact rehabilitation. For instance, with maximum security, “There’s a big push at the moment to target this group and actually help them reduce their security class so they can get access to programs and resources,” Sophie says.
Back for Seconds—or Thirds?
What is the likelihood of a con man offending again after serving time? The team deep dives into how prisons have moved away from the punishment model and toward proactive efforts like providing access to spiritual communities, education, job training, and life skills with a goal of building a more “prosocial life,” Sophia explains.
So what about Andrew?
If a con man has lived a “very parasitic life,” there’s a greater chance of returning to past behaviors. But those who had “prosocial periods” of holding a job, supporting themselves, and not exploiting others have a much better prognosis, Sophie says.
As for Andrew, he spent years defrauding friends, co-workers, and romantic interests. Will anyone even believe him if he does change? That’s an open-ended question.
Conning the Con came 'Runner Up' in the International Women's Podcast Awards for the Moment of Cliffhanger Drama and was written and produced by Sarah Ferris’ CONmunity Podcast Production Company which also produced other true crime chart toppers like Klooghless - The Long CON, Stop the Killing and for a lighter take a sustainability podcast called Guilty Greenie.
Tune Into Conning the Con on Evergreen Podcasts, a community of creators, founders, and innovators who share stories to inspire, empower, and educate listeners.
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