Do people still believe in the nature argument? How about the criminal man? What I mean by this is someone who is born with a biological propensity towards crime. The answer appeared to be no today in class but there were a few stragglers with the idea that nature really can explain behaviour. Take for a moment a consideration of this age old argument that nature drives the actions of human beings. What exactly does it mean and what are it's implications? For reference, I'm not talking about basic biological drives like the need for water, food, shelter, etc. I am discussing the behaviours of human beings and the development of cognitive processes based on genetics or your birth. Cesare Lombroso wrote "The Criminal Man" in 1876 attempting to explain the causation of criminal behaviour based on physical attributes. To simply put, just by closely looking at human beings you can discern whether or not they are a criminal or will become criminal.
Lombroso studied 54,000 patients, ten thousand of which were military soldiers who Lombroso observed during war time, they were not offenders. Lombroso had little to no background knowledge of the many cadavers used in the study and used psychiatric patients not associated with criminal behaviour. Thus, many of these patients are useless to the study of criminal behaviour and not representative of the offender population. Lombroso found that atavistic or savage like physical features linked criminals together, their physical degenerative abnormalities.
The 1993 study, Effect of Socialization Factors on Decisions to Prosecute by Tuohy, Wrenall, McQueen and Stradling showed that police are more likely to initiate interactions with “different” looking individuals and will prosecute those individuals at a higher rate than “normal” looking individuals. Using this social theory we can understand that there would be a higher representation of these primitive or atavistic looking individuals incarcerated based on the behaviour of police and their decisions to specifically investigate and prosecute individuals with these specific physical attributes.
Thompson's 1990 study also stands in contrast to Lombroso. Thompson discovered that approximately half of the inmate prison population in the state of New York were disfigured. This reinforces the concept that there is simply a higher representation of physical abnormalities in prison, not that atavism is proof of causation. Further to Thompson's findings these savage or primitive looking individuals may have a higher risk towards offending due to the socialization of their body type and appearance within their own community. Consider for a moment a child who looks different, they may have an inability to “fit in” because they do not look “normal”. This is a serious threat to their upbringing. The offender may have been shunned by people in their community for how they look and pushed to the fringe of society, socially isolated by school mates, bullied, etc. Truly, environmental issues must play a role in the propensity for individuals to offend.
Ultimately, I'm trying to make an argument to understand the behaviour of individuals through their environment, upbringing and other "nurture" factors. Not that I have the time to blog about it this morning but given an understanding of these factors may also help the justice process involving offenders and the process of forgiveness. Seeing the factors that led to an individual committing a criminal offence may increase empathy of victims (in situations of irrevocable harm this may not be the case) and help the healing process for victims and lead to a restorative relationship.
Boo to positivism,