The Brain May Be the Key to Criminality

The brains of criminals are biologically different from those of the general population, according to new research.

In one study, researchers scanned the brains of 21 people with anti-social personality disorder, a condition that often leaves people with no sense of right or wrong.  The scans showed certain portions of the brains were smaller on average for those with the disorder than those without.

Other studies showed deformations and smaller overall brain sizes in those with severe anti-social personality disorder. These and other studies were recently covered in a story by

Researchers say that many of these differences can be spotted in the brains of children who are very young, but they also say the traits are not  fixed but can be corrected.

Delinquents and Career Crime Not Linked, Study Finds

Children who get in trouble with the law early in life do not necessarily become lifelong criminals, according to the Marburg Child Delinquency Study.  Researchers in child and adolescent psychiatry in Marburg, Germany followed 263 people who were arrested for crimes before they turned 14.  They found “Offenses committed in childhood, whether known to the police or not, had no effect on the later (chronic) course of delinquency.”

Some of the indicators for a life of crime were the same as those for mental illness. Plus they cited three risk factors specific to criminal behavior in later life:   Boys, very aggressive behavior early on, and explosure to the negative influence of delinquent peers.

Read the full Marburg Study here.

Prison costs burden Georgia as other states test alternatives

Georgia taxpayers spend $1 billion dollars a year locking up criminals in prison.  An eye-opening analysis by the Atlanta Journal Constitution shows one in 70 Georgians is behind bars and each offender costs $49 a day.  It is not because the state has more crime, but because sentencing laws are tougher here, keeping criminals behind bars longer.  In the first of a two-part series, the AJC raises questions about Georgia’s tough-on-crime stand, and whether it’s worth the cost at a time when the state is cutting teachers, transportation and critical programs.  Even some conservative policymakers like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) are studying alternatives to prison.  In a surprising interview, Gingrich argues treatment programs for non-violent offenders work, and can be safer and less expensive.

In part two, the AJC reports about 2-thirds of inmates locked up are non-violent. For them, alternatives such as drug courts and work-release might work and save money.  Other states across the south, such as Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas are working on research-based alternatives.