The purpose of sanctions against criminals, then, is not to punish but to provide for treatment.

The purpose of sanctions against criminals, then, is not to punish but to provide for treatment.
The purpose of sanctions against criminals, then, is not to punish but to provide for treatment.

The purpose of sanctions against criminals, then, is not to punish but to provide for treatment.

epilogue: current Directions and Policy implications

current DirectionS

The more conservative attitudes of the mid-1970s through the present gave rise to an assumption of consensus in values, favoring the reemergence of nonsocial theories. A major impe- tus was that American society was doubtful of the value of reform and rehabilitation and had no desire to pay for the mas- sive social programs suggested by existing social theories. Thus, theories that cast the blame for crime on something more intrinsic were received favorably. A renewed interest in biologi- cal/biochemical and psychological theories of crime ensued.


Work in the biology of crime was especially focused during the 1970s and 1980s with research by Christiansen (1977a), Med- nick and Christiansen (1977), Mednick and various associates (Hutchings & Mednick, 1977; Kirkegaard-Sorensen & Med- nick, 1977; Mednick, Gabrielli, & Hutchings, 1984, 1987; Mednick, Moffitt, & Stack, 1987), the biosocial theorizing of C. Ray Jeffery (1977, 1979, 1989a, 1998), and defense pro- vided by James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein (1985). Mednick’s (1977) work, referred to as a biosocial theory, is an excellent example of the orientation of modern biological theo- rists. He views the biological characteristics of an individual as only one part in the equation of behavior—other parts are the physical and social environment. Mednick assumes that all individuals must learn to control natural urges toward antisocial and criminal behavior. This learning takes place in the family

and with peer groups and is based on the punishment of unde- sirable behaviors. The punishment response is mediated by the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. If the reaction is short lived, the individual is said to have rewarded himself or herself, and criminal behavior is inhibited. However, a slow physiologi- cal recovery from punishment (and fear of it) does little to teach the individual to refrain from undesirable behavior. Mednick views criminals as having slow autonomic nervous system responses to stimuli.

As part of a series of writings, C. Ray Jeffery also offered an interdisciplinary biosocial theory of criminal behavior in Advances in Criminological Theory (1989a) and a criminology text (1989b). His perspective is that sociological, psychological, and biological characteristics should be seen as interacting together in a systems model to produce criminal behavior. Three basic systems produce the total organism: genetics, brain struc- ture and function, and learning (1989a, pp. 72–73). He posits that individuals are born with particular biological (genetic) and psychological characteristics that not only may predispose but may actually cause certain forms of behavior. This “nature” is independent of the socialization process present in the social environment. There is, however, a good deal of interplay between nature and nurture through the physical environment and the feedback mechanisms that exist in human biochemical systems. For example, Jeffery notes that poverty translates to a certain type of diet and exposure to pollutants. The resulting nutrients and chemicals are transformed by the biochemical sys- tem into neurochemical compounds within the brain. Thus,

32 Chapter 3 • The Positive School

poverty indirectly leads to behavioral differences (and, poten- tially, criminal behavior) through the interaction of individual and environment. Jeffery’s general scheme can be summed up in an equation he provides (1989a, p. 73) which essentially says that genetics interact with the brain to create behavior which has a feedback loop to affect and potentially modify the brain. All of this has a two-way interaction with the environment. In short, nothing stands alone, every individual factor not only affects other factors but is itself also affected by those other factors.

In a controversial book, Crime and Human Nature (1985), Wilson and Herrnstein offer a similar biosocial version of the causes of street crime. They combine genetic factors with psychological dispositions and personality traits, drug usage, and socialization factors. Their final explanation of crime not only leans heavily toward individual human nature but also has a deterrence-like component: An offender makes a decision that the potential gain from crime will outweigh any possible pun- ishment. Thus, Wilson and Herrnstein’s criminals are born with and, throughout their life continue to gain, predispositions toward crime, but it is ultimately the criminal’s own decision to commit an act that is important. Other similar work has focused on neuropsychological functioning and its connection to behav- ior (Fishbein, 1990, 2000).

Another approach to biological effects is work on intelli- gence and crime. Also referred to as mental deficiency, intelli- gence has been implicated in criminality for a long time. The “feeblemindedness” work of Dugdale, Goddard, and Goring is discredited today, however. Most criminologists see intelli- gence not as a cause of crime but as a predisposing factor in decisions to commit crime, but they do not discuss it very often. For a long time, interest in intelligence was based on a contro- versial position, taken in the late 1960s, that intelligence is genetically based and that differences in IQ can be used to explain different criminal propensities between races (see Jen- sen, 1969; Shockley, 1967). One criminologist, Robert Gordon (1986), used the position to argue that IQ is the best predictor of delinquency rates among various groups. In 1977, criminolo- gists Travis Hirschi and Michael Hindelang published an article that reviewed studies on IQ and delinquency. They found that, as a predictor of delinquency, IQ is at least as good as any of the other major social variables. Further, they noted that IQ is also strongly related to social class and race. Because delinquency is viewed as the province of lower-class, minority youths, this relationship implies that lower-class, minority delinquents have lower IQs. Responding to the IQ and delinquency position, Scott Menard and Barbara Morse (1984) argued that IQ is merely one of the ways in which juveniles are disadvantaged in American society. They see the societal and institutional response to these disadvantages as the real causal agent in delinquent behavior. Critics of IQ tests have noted that the way in which the tests are constructed provides advantages to those who are middle class and white. Moreover, they argue that these tests do not measure innate intelligence but rather some other ability, such as facility in language or cultural concepts.

The most recent work on IQ and delinquency relies on an indirect relationship model that argues that IQ may influence school performance, which will then impact overall school

adjustment and the positive social control mechanisms related to education. Vulnerability to the pressures of delinquent peers and one’s own self-control mechanisms are also indirectly related to IQ (McGloin, Pratt, & Maahs, 2004; Ward & Tittle, 1994). This research implies that if IQ can be addressed and improved, children may be able to develop more resistance to delinquency through stronger ties to school and stronger valua- tion of academic achievement.

Newer gene-based evolutionary theories are no longer postulating that genetic structures directly affect behavior. Because behavior is complex, these theories assume that genetic effects are indirect. They view the role of genes as affecting brain functioning, which governs behavior. Learning theories may be used in specifying how brain functioning is translated into behavior or there may be a propensity toward certain forms of learning. Even socialization may be affected by propensities toward such things as psychological or physio- logical traits, antisocial behaviors, and so on. These factors, then, influence how an individual will react in certain settings and make criminal behavior more or less probable. In sum, modern biosocial criminology is a complex perspective but is characterized by the way it emphasizes social context rather than straightforward biogenetic factors (Beaver, 2009; Walsh & Beaver, 2009a; Walsh & Beaver, 2009b). There are even those who advocate crime prevention on the basis of this approach (Rocque, Welsh, & Raine, 2012). Finally, there are some who feel that the field of criminology is finally open to causal con- nections from biosocial theories and research, even to the extent that a paradigm shift may be developing that includes both bio- genetic and social environmental factors (Rudo-Hutt, Portnoy, Chen, & Raine, 2014). Some support for this position may be found in a new unified theory of crime being proposed by Rob- ert Agnew (2014; Rebellon, Barnes, & Agnew, 2014).

There is also a form of biological research that may not be properly called “biology” anymore because it is quite different from the earlier positions. This research is virtually all brain based and is a form of neurochemistry. The essence of the posi- tion is that much of delinquency may be a product of immature brain function, particularly in the ability to judge consequences of actions (Albert, Chein, & Steinberg, 2013; Corrado & Mathe- sius, 2014; Monahan, Steinberg, & Piquero, 2015). This imma- ture brain function is related to the fact that the sheathing (myelin) that covers nerve fibers does not fully form until approximately age 24. The myelin acts as an insulator and contains the electric impulses flowing along the nerves. In the brain, with so many nerves in such close proximity, the myelin is critical to prevent- ing what we might think of as “short-circuits.” Apparently, accu- rate and thoughtful assessments of the consequences of behavior fall victim to poor myelination, and impulsive behavior is the result. Consider that, if this causal mechanism proves to be sup- ported, it may be possible to argue in legal proceedings (espe- cially in the juvenile court) that juveniles may have diminished culpability at the time of a criminal/delinquent behavior (Foubis- ter & Tedeschi, 2015). While there is much good research devel- oping in this area, it remains to be seen whether general delinquency can be construed as primarily a neurological issue and to what extent that is modified by environment.

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