“Neurocriminology” is a whole new field of research that deals with minds of violent criminals. The big question -- how much of who we are and what we do -- is because of our brain chemicals? Through years of hosting the "Think Tank" and anchoring and reporting TV news, I’ve learned if you simply raise that question, you get one response from scientists and another from the general public. Scientists say, “our actions are based on environment and very little chemistry.” The general public pounces, “you’re one of those liberals, who wants to find more reasons to go easy on violent criminals!”
No, no, no. Not a liberal. You can’t put me in one of your boxes. My questions are based on common sense. So, let me ask you; if violent, schizophrenic people are made calm by a pill or injection, isn’t that a chemical change, not environmental? If depressed people snap out of moderate or even severe depression by taking pills that influence neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine… is that not chemical too?
Let’s look at the other common sense aspect of this. We can no longer afford the largest prison system in the world. If we hate additional taxes, if we hate government bureaucracy, shouldn’t we be looking for ways to reduce costs, crime and recidivism? To me the questions simple. Do we pay for a cell (for years, if not decades or a lifetime)… or a pill to change brain chemistry?
The author of “The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime,” Adrian Raine asks: “If bad brains do cause bad behavior, if brain dysfunction raises the odds that somebody will become a criminal offender – a violent offender – and if the cause of the brain dysfunction comes relatively early in life… should we fully hold that adult individual responsible?”
We’re not talking about brain chemicals being destiny. We’re considering an option that is currently not part of the discussion about crime and criminals. Just another possible solution to a problem we have to solve, because the current situation is unsustainable.
There is some slight evidence to support the brain chemsitry/criminal activity relation. In the 50’s, 60’s and 70s lead was everywhere.Gas, paint, and even in the soil. In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s violent crime went up in America. Then, in the 90’s (and continuing today) violent crime started to come down. Some scientists believe the prevalence of lead in the environment, and the subsequent removal of lead from that environment, may have been a major factor in both the increase and the decrease of crime during that time period. Lead removal became a national campaign in the 70’s. Scientists tell us, in fact, if you map environmental lead levels over time, lead can explain 91% of those violent crime changes.
Let’s look at this in simple, every day terms. If someone meets you for the first time and you’re suffering from a headache, that person may label you grumpy or distracted. Maybe even label you a bad guy or lady. Not a person they or society want to deal with. If you take medication for that headache, you may revert back to your pleasant, amiable self. Did the person meet a bad guy, a good guy or simply a person who had not changed his brain chemistry?
It’s just a thought. No reason to cling to dogma. No reason to get angry. No reason not to look for needed answers.
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