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Robert Barber

Violent Crimes 1. Summarize why people are born Criminals + Critical Answer: Biological Theory: criminals were not produced by society’s flaws, but that they were genetic misfits who were born to break the rules. Some people are “born criminal” or inherit a predisposition to crime which may become manifest when the individual is exposed to certain “triggering” environments.  Dr. Goring found a high correlation between criminality and low intelligence, so he concluded that crime was transmitted genetically through mental inferiority, could be altered by social factors such as education.  Hooton, concluded that criminals represent an aggregate of sociologically and biologically inferior individuals.  William Sheldon related particular body type to particular kinds of criminal behaviour. He found that the muscular mesomorphs were the type that were most likely to become involved in delinquent or criminal behaviour. 1) Criticism :  Lombroso’s comparison groups were chosen unsystematically and his statistical techniques were crude. He assumed that those in prison were criminals and those out of prison were not.  Dr. Charles Goring concluded that there was no evidence of a distinct physical type of criminal but had a number of flaws: he was comparing officially labelled criminals, who were not a representative sample of all criminals, with diverse groups of other people who did not represent the noncriminal population.  Hooton’s used conviction of crime as a method of separating criminals from noncriminals; he then examined the convicted group and concluded that they were inferior; and he used this finding of inferiority to account for their criminality; and his control group did not represent the general population. As in the case of Lombroso, Hooton’s and Sheldon’s attempt to link criminal behaviour to physical types was thoroughly discredited.  Studies in the US found that there were no significant differences in intelligence between inmates and others. The composition of these tests have been found to be biased in favour of the cultural groups of the designers of the tests.  Linking criminal behaviour to pathology ignores the political nature of social control – how laws are created and how criminals are defined. The emergence of a positive science coincided with the rise of a powerful capitalist class and expanded colonial activity.  There is no way to conduct experiments to discover if a biological factor will produce a criminal. Crime is defined socially. Biological factors interact with nonbiological ones to determine behaviour.  Genetic factors appear to be neither necessary nor sufficient to determine adult criminality. Genes could alter the neurochemistry of the brain, rendering the individual irritable and impulsive, but they do not cause criminal behaviour. Many different behaviours are defined as criminal, and each has a distinct combination of determinants.  The theory of the “born criminal” has been discredited because many people who present the same anomalies as the “born criminal” live honest lives and many people who do not present these anomalies behave like “born criminals.” Most offenders are not mentally defective.  XYY chromosome theory discredited, since the majority of carriers were found to be less rather than more aggressive than fellow XY prisoners. There is no evidence that biological factors play a causal role in violent crimes in general, and there is no support for the view that the mentally ill were more criminal than the rest of the population.  Genetic explanations for crime are not supported. Genetic differences affect individuals that in certain environmental contexts their differences may form the basis of lawbreaking activity.  Biological theory has a tendency to medicalize political issues, resulting in a denial of due process rights.  This theory is mobilized by the media and appeals to those who see a quick-fix solution to problems of crime and violence.(nazi) Psychological theories of crime Psychological theories of crime explain abnormal behaviour as the result of mind and thought processes that form during human development, particularly during the early years.  Psychoanalytical theorists (Freud – he did not make any attempts to relate his theory specifically to criminal behaviour) argue that crime results when the ego and superego cannot control the antisocial instincts or the id, which occurs because the individual has not been adequately socialized in early childhood.  Moral development theorists (i.e. Piaget, Kohlberg) argue that each individual must go through a sequence of moral development, so those with a high level of moral development will be more likely to make responsible choices when faced with the opportunity to get involved in criminal behaviour.  Personality theorists (i.e. Eysenck) argue that law-abiding people must develop a conditioned fear of deviance, so those who become delinquents and criminals do not develop this fear because of poor conditioning by parents or because they are less susceptible to conditioning.3 dimensions of personality: extraverts, neurotics, and psychotics. Extraverts, (high need for excitement), their impulsivity, and relatively weak conscience, are believed to be more prone to criminal behaviour. Neuroticism (characterized by anxiety and restlessness). Psychoticism (cold, impersonal, hostile, lacking sympathy, unfriendly, untrustful, unemotional, antisocial, inhumane, with paranoid ideas that people are against them) would tend to be more serious offenders. Eysenck’s theory shows how psychological variables and social variables can be interrelated because individuals who have a psychological propensity to commit crime may be effectively socialized if they grow up in an environment that provides effective conditioning, and individuals with a low propensity for criminality may become criminal if their environment is too permissive.  Social learning theorists (i.e. Bandura) argue that deviant behaviour such as aggression can be learned through direct experience or through modelling the behaviour of others.  Operant conditioning theorists (i.e. Skinner) argue that individual behaviour is shaped through both reinforcement and punishment, so behaviour that is rewarded will tend to be continued and behaviour that is punished will cease.  Psychopathy theorists (i.e. Cleckley, Hare) argue that psychopaths seem to lack empathy for their victims and do not feel guilty about their crimes, and they do not learn from their experience or fear the consequences of their behaviour. Early psychological theorists believed that all crime is symptomatic of mental illness, while the current view is that while some criminals exhibit symptoms of mental illness, the majority do not. Criticism : 1) Psychological research tends to ignore the potential importance of situational and environmental factors that affect individual behaviour. Choose illegal acts if desires are not satisfied socially. 2) Psychological theories of crime are based on the expectation that it is possible to classify individuals as criminals and non-criminals, but this cannot be done reliably, especially when it comes to white-collar crime. 3) Psychoanalytic theories explain aggressive acts with aggressive impulses, but the only evidence of these aggressive impulses is the occurrence of aggressive acts. 4) While some studies support the predictions of Eysenck’s theory, other studies found that the predictions do not hold. 5) It is possible that people who are more likely to behave aggressively simply prefer more violent television shows, so it cannot be concluded that viewing violence is the cause of aggressive behaviour. 6) Many individuals with diagnoses of antisocial personality do not have a history of violence and, even among those who do, very few would exhibit the extreme forms that Manson did. 7) Changes in diagnostic criteria and procedures can influence the perceived prevalence of antisocial personality. Most of the research on antisocial personality has used samples obtained from institutional populations, so our impressions of people with antisocial personalities are based on people who committed criminal acts but were not able to avoid apprehension. 8) The increased rate of mental disorder in prisons may be the result of institutional and public policy practices that have nothing to do with individual deviance. Police could no longer use the mental hospital as an alternative disposition to jail and were often forced to arrest a mentally ill person. 9) mentally ill, these individuals make up only a small percentage of the total criminal population. In a legal sense, most criminals are responsible for their actions because they are aware of their behaviour and can distinguish between right and wrong. 10) There is no reliable method of distinguishing between normal and abnormal minds. 11) There is no known link between a particular type of subconscious problem and a specific type of crime. 12) Those who receiv
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