CRIMINAL JUSTICE ISSUE – Genetic Characteristics Influencing Crime
For any one person there might be a genetic characteristic such as intelligence, neurobiology, and neurochemistry which might explain along with their social influences, specific event context and also their state of mind the causes behind the diminished resistance to making a criminal choice. I do not believe that this means that it is somebody’s intelligence, neurobiology or neurochemistry alone which causes a person to commit a crime. I know that there are neurobiological sociopaths who do not know right from wrong and who are violent (not all are both, the harmless sociopath does exist) and harm other people, but these people are anomalous. My feeling is that due to the intensely self-analytical psychological nature of man and our extreme socialization process that social concepts like differential association far outweigh any genetic reasons for crime.
This week in preparation for this post, I have been thinking about potential physical reasons for the higher percentage of blacks incarcerated in this country. I can’t really say that I think it is anything much more than social and historical and familial as a progress out of and away from slavery. I have heard that many black people have higher blood pressure. I know that I can get rather irritable if I drink too much coffee. I don’t think this is a cause of crime though. I think that the excitability might play into the cultural trend I have seen in the media of people getting fed up quickly and being quick tempered. I don’t know if high blood pressure can lead people to be more likely to fly off the handle if you will and be mad about ideas that blame other people.
The other idea that I have been kicking around this week is the neurochemical difference between a kid with both parents in their lives and one without. This is not an ab initio condition in the life of a child. They have to be born into a family without a dad for them to be missing their sense of wellbeing that comes from seeing an ordered and loving parental home life. Maybe there is something in the stress levels of a mother who knows that there is not going to be a father in her growing fetus’s life once the child is born and there is some sort of different hormonal wash in the placenta and maybe this causes kids to be born with different probabilities of resistance to legal and social norms. I don’t know where I would look to find what kind of data to test a hypothesis like this.
Differential Association is something that happens within a worldview. People of all intelligence levels, neurobiological types and neurochemical patterns have a view of how they think the world works. If a person only surrounds themselves with ideas and other people who hold ideas that it is okay to break certain laws. The idea has been prevalent in black society that the white man has set up a system against minorities and especially blacks. I think that it would be much easier for me to commit crime if my ancestors had all been poor and never been a part of the upper middle class of society.
I have a sense that I have a family legacy to live up to in several different ways. Money is not always possible for me to have as much of when I am focused on my academics, at least to this point. I might have a reverse crime attitude that I am okay with having a low income because academic achievement and working towards my goals of being a published law author and building a non-profit which helps people get beyond recidivism are lofty beyond the value of money. Maybe somebody else who did not have a Grandfather who worked for NASA, another who ran a Newspaper, and another who was a longtime Teacher who played Ping Pong with kids in the inner city after school to help keep them out of gangs in Illinois would not be okay with a lofty goal and not as much money. I have this identity wrapped up in being in part like all three of them.
Slavery, Black Codes, Plessy V. Ferguson and Jim Crow laws, Civil Rights, then Iran Contra and Crack all have been reasons why black families have lacked fathers. Black men never felt much a part of our society and therefore much more easily made a choice to commit a crime against their oppressors. This sets up a cycle of fatherlessness and disenfranchisement which hit its worst with the Crack epidemic of the 80’s and isn’t looking much better with the current blaming of police for violence usually precipitated by an unlawful incident. The attitude is getting worse that the system is set up for failure and that it is okay to break laws.
I don’t see crime as genetic, but as a social progression and familial as far as influences. Convergence of actus reus and mens rea in an intentional harmful act against which there is a statute. That is crime. The only answer for any one individual is to accept the Judeo-Christian maxim that there is no temptation one cannot withstand. Jail is real and people will really keep going back if they commit acts of crime no matter how messed up our past as a nation was and no matter how messed up an individual’s past was.
I really think that the only biological considerations which should affect policy are biological predisposition to certain personality traits (kids who have always been quick to anger) and also predisposition to alcoholism and drug addiction. These types of issues can manifest themselves in the lives of people with high IQ’s and low IQ’s, the mesomorphic athlete who is recruited by a gang for their athleticism and encouraged to commit acts of violence against others. I think the issue is that people with a predisposition or not develop habits and patterns of anger and alcohol and drugs. Weekly group meetings for people on probation and parole which do not cost money would be a good policy shift to help a person analyze their own internal pressures to act in violence, have an attitude that it is okay to steal or sell drugs, and why they have the relationship they do with alcohol and drugs. I believe that there should be state run facilities and not private organizations like anger management facilities and na and aa. An actually trained and licensed person should facilitate these things and it should not cost a parolee money.
Where the money would come from would be in a decrease in recidivism ideally. Initial crime can probably be reduced with a social shift in the way we fund our schools and the way we feed kids at school. I think that the recent shift away from food stamps for unemployed is a bad thing and that it is the easiest thing we can do to give people a sense that government is for them. Put food into people’s bellies. I think the cost of a hungry angry disenfranchised person is much greater than the $200 a month we give them in food stamps. That and there should be free breakfast and lunch at the public schools. These types of things should help people develop a greater bond with their community and government rather than building up a whole long list of negative attitudes about government and committing crime in a differential association model.