Friday, March 7, 2014

Of Crime and Excuse

          As one who is absorbed into the constant study of and hunting of badmen I find some things of particular interest.

The large majority of people who work with criminals do not actually understand how the criminal's mind works and that no matter what, when a crime is committed, society-at-large has been brainwashed into a very clever scheme that the criminal must have had a bad childhood. We give them a pre-disposed excuse.

We should not.

Somewhere in the 1890s "experts" began theorizing that criminal behavior was a result of environment and that ultimately a person turned to crime because they didn't have the same advantages as others. Yet with the national unemployment rate hovering around 7% we don't see that same 7% all become criminals. In fact hardly any of them turn to crime.

We blame the parents, the economy, personal freedom, capitalism and the free market, access to guns as a clear road map to criminal activity. When the Great Depression hit we blamed the rise in crime on poverty. Yet in the 1980s when "Greed was king" we blamed wealth.

For some reason or another we never blame the individual solely and completely themselves. The truth is this crimes are committed based upon choice.

A man chooses to rob a bank, rape a woman, steal a car. A woman chooses to kill her children, embezzle funds, blackmail a former lover.

There is no socio-economical scale for criminals. Everyone will say "yes there is!", yet there are just as many well-to-do Suburban teenagers pushing pills, coke and weed to their confederates as there are in the inner city "bad neighborhoods". And just as there is in rural America as well.

One can point to the most fact proving "statistic" as it were about crime being a choice. And it is provided by the United States Department of Justice.

Crime in the U.S. essential made a steady rise from the 1920s forward. Graphs will show that it "dropped" in the 1950s and 1960s but that is not necessarily true because those rates never fell back to the pre-1920s crime rate. They essentially leveled then began spiking again.

Then something happened that caused crime rates to drop steadily and increasingly across the board.

Individual states began allowing the rank and file citizen to carry a handgun upon their person. The more conceal carry laws spread across the country the lower the crime rate dropped.

The crime rate didn't drop because criminals were being found shot dead in the gutter every morning.

Crime rates dropped because the criminal faced a choice. The choice to try and attack someone who may or may not be able to kill them. When your chosen profession is that of the criminal you look for easy prey. The moment a criminal no longer knows who is and is not easy prey they begin to lose the return in their investment....crime as a job. Getting shot is bad for business since there is no worker-comp insurance.

So the next time you watch the news and see some horrific crime take place don't think "what kind of parents did they have?" .

You choose to wake up everyday and go to work, or better your life.

You choose this.

Crime is a choice made by the criminal. Give them no inherent excuse for their behavior.



3 comments:

Alan said...

Lots of people have a crappy childhood and don't turn to a life of crime. That whole idea strikes me as similar to the "more guns more crime" idea. It's obviously false, yet it fits an agenda so it keeps popping up.

Dan said...

While you are correct in stating that the act of committing a crime is a choice for some people we KNOW that the mechanisms most of us use to make the decision is physiologically damaged. Modern medicine has allowed science to actually map the activity of the frontal cortex of people as they view specific images and conceive of specific actions. We know via this method that a small but not insignificant portion of society exhibit sociopathic behaviors and imaging studies show that this subset has a significant variation in how their frontal cortex functions. In essence the portions of the frontal lobe that cause most of us to self censor our activities is defective in sociopathic people. So while yes....choice IS involved for some people the mechanisms for choosing to do or not to do are damaged or defective. And while this is true the incidence of people who can honestly be considered organically defective is small....even though virtually ALL criminals would make use of this type of defense if they could. It's the same mechanism that allows millions of fat Americans to claim they are overweight because they have a defective metabolism when the real truth is they are overweight because they choose to eat more and move less. The number of obese people who have a valid medical reason for obesity is a tiny portion of the fat population. The number of criminals with a structural brain defect is a small portion of the criminal population. But there are physiologic factors involved in criminal choices....it's an area worthy of further study.

Peter said...

I generally agree. I've written about this problem in my memoir of prison chaplaincy, 'Walls, Wire, Bars and Souls'. If you'd like an e-copy, e-mail me (my address is in my blog profile) and let me know what format would suit you.