This review considers juvenile delinquency and justice from an international perspective. Youth crime is a growing concern. Many young offenders are also victims with complex needs, leading to a public health approach that requires a balance of welfare and justice models. However, around the world there are variable and inadequate legal frameworks and a lack of a specialist workforce. The UK and other high-income countries worldwide have established forensic child and adolescent psychiatry, a multifaceted discipline incorporating legal, psychiatric and developmental fields. Its adoption of an evidence-based therapeutic intervention philosophy has been associated with greater reductions in recidivism compared with punitive approaches prevalent in some countries worldwide, and it is therefore a superior approach to dealing with the problem of juvenile delinquency.
Public perception, fueled not only by popular and news media but also by expert claims that psychopaths are archetypes of evil: incorrigible, remorseless, cold-blooded criminals, whose crimes manifest in the most extreme levels of violence. But is there empirical evidence that psychopaths truly are what they are portrayed to be? If so, should the law respond, and adjust its treatment of psychopaths in court - permitting psychopathy to be admitted under an insanity defense and/or resulting in mitigation? In this paper, we demonstrate that fundamental questions from the law to science remain unanswered and must be addressed before any alternative treatment of psychopathy can be considered. As it stands, psychopaths cannot be reliably defined or diagnosed and, as we will demonstrate, even the presumed link with criminal dangerousness is problematic. We conclude that the current legal approach should not be modified, however, if preliminary findings regarding impairments in impulsivity/self-control are confirmed, some, but not all individuals who fall under one definition of psychopathy may merit different treatment in future.
Background Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder that has been associated with criminal behavior in some studies. Pharmacologic treatment is available for ADHD and may reduce the risk of criminality. Methods Using Swedish national registers, we gathered information on 25,656 patients with a diagnosis of ADHD, their pharmacologic treatment, and subsequent criminal convictions in Sweden from 2006 through 2009. We used stratified Cox regression analyses to compare the rate of criminality while the patients were receiving ADHD medication, as compared with the rate for the same patients while not receiving medication. Results As compared with nonmedication periods, among patients receiving ADHD medication, there was a significant reduction of 32% in the criminality rate for men (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.68; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.63 to 0.73) and 41% for women (hazard ratio, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.50 to 0.70). The rate reduction remained between 17% and 46% in sensitivity analyses among men, with factors that included different types of drugs (e.g., stimulant vs. nonstimulant) and outcomes (e.g., type of crime). Conclusions Among patients with ADHD, rates of criminality were lower during periods when they were receiving ADHD medication. These findings raise the possibility that the use of medication reduces the risk of criminality among patients with ADHD. (Funded by the Swedish Research Council and others.).
The contagious nature of imprisonment: an agent-based model to explain racial disparities in incarceration rates
- Journal of the Royal Society, Interface / the Royal Society
- Published about 7 years ago
We build an agent-based model of incarceration based on the susceptible-infected-suspectible (SIS) model of infectious disease propagation. Our central hypothesis is that the observed racial disparities in incarceration rates between Black and White Americans can be explained as the result of differential sentencing between the two demographic groups. We demonstrate that if incarceration can be spread through a social influence network, then even relatively small differences in sentencing can result in large disparities in incarceration rates. Controlling for effects of transmissibility, susceptibility and influence network structure, our model reproduces the observed large disparities in incarceration rates given the differences in sentence lengths for White and Black drug offenders in the USA without extensive parameter tuning. We further establish the suitability of the SIS model as applied to incarceration by demonstrating that the observed structural patterns of recidivism are an emergent property of the model. In fact, our model shows a remarkably close correspondence with California incarceration data. This work advances efforts to combine the theories and methods of epidemiology and criminology.
- Journal of urban health : bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine
- Published over 7 years ago
In the USA, homicide is a leading cause of death for young males and a major cause of racial disparities in life expectancy for men. There are intense debate and little rigorous research on the effects of firearm sales regulation on homicides. This study estimates the impact of Missouri’s 2007 repeal of its permit-to-purchase (PTP) handgun law on states' homicide rates and controls for changes in poverty, unemployment, crime, incarceration, policing levels, and other policies that could potentially affect homicides. Using death certificate data available through 2010, the repeal of Missouri’s PTP law was associated with an increase in annual firearm homicides rates of 1.09 per 100,000 (+23 %) but was unrelated to changes in non-firearm homicide rates. Using Uniform Crime Reporting data from police through 2012, the law’s repeal was associated with increased annual murders rates of 0.93 per 100,000 (+16 %). These estimated effects translate to increases of between 55 and 63 homicides per year in Missouri.
Brain-activity markers of guilty knowledge have been promoted as accurate and reliable measures for establishing criminal culpability. Tests based on these markers interpret the presence or absence of memory-related neural activity as diagnostic of whether or not incriminating information is stored in a suspect’s brain. This conclusion critically relies on the untested assumption that reminders of a crime uncontrollably elicit memory-related brain activity. However, recent research indicates that, in some circumstances, humans can control whether they remember a previous experience by intentionally suppressing retrieval. We examined whether people could use retrieval suppression to conceal neural evidence of incriminating memories as indexed by Event-Related Potentials (ERPs). When people were motivated to suppress crime retrieval, their memory-related ERP effects were significantly decreased, allowing guilty individuals to evade detection. Our findings indicate that brain measures of guilty knowledge may be under criminals' intentional control and place limits on their use in legal settings.
Individuals with psychopathy have an increased tendency toward certain types of aggression. We hypothesized that successful psychopaths, who have no criminal convictions but can be diagnosed with psychopathy in terms of personality characteristics, are skilled at regulating aggressive impulses, compared to incarcerated unsuccessful psychopaths. Methods: In this block-designed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we sought to clarify the neural mechanisms underlying differences in frustration-induced aggression as a function of psychopathy in non-criminal populations. Twenty male undergraduate students who completed a self-report psychopathy questionnaire were scanned while they completed a task in which they either could or could not punish other individuals who made unfair offers of monetary distribution.
Child welfare clients represent a high-risk group for delinquency and adult criminality, but also for future suicidal behavior. We examine associations between delinquency and suicidal behavior in a national child welfare population. This register-based cohort study is based on data for all Swedish former child welfare clients born between 1972 and 1981 that experienced interventions before their adolescent years. We followed 27,228 individuals from age 20 years until 31 December 2006. Juvenile delinquency was defined as being convicted of at least one crime between age 15 and 19. The risk of suicidal behavior was calculated as incidence rate ratios (IRRs). Fifteen percent of the women and 40 % of the men had at least one conviction between the age 15 and 19. The adjusted risk of suicidal behavior among women with five or more convictions was 3.5 (95 % CI 2.0-6.2); corresponding IRR for men was 3.9 (95 % CI 3.1-4.9). Child welfare experience-specifically of out-of-home care-in combination with delinquency is a potent risk factor for suicidal behavior among young adults. However, we cannot exclude that some of this association is an epiphenomenon of uncontrolled confounders, such as impulsivity or severity of psychiatric disease. Despite this caveat, results should be disseminated to practitioners in the health and correction services.
Over 100 years ago Lombroso [(1876/2006). Criminal man. Durham: Duke University Press] proposed a biological basis for criminality. Based on inspection of criminals' skulls he theorized that an imbalance of the cerebral hemispheres was amongst 18 distinguishing features of the criminal brain. Specifically, criminals were less lateralized than noncriminals. As the advent of neuroscientific techniques makes more fine-grained inspection of differences in brain structure and function possible, we review criminals' and noncriminals' structural, functional, and behavioural lateralization to evaluate the merits of Lombroso’s thesis and investigate the evidence for the biological underpinning of criminal behaviour. Although the body of research is presently small, it appears consistent with Lombroso’s proposal: criminal psychopaths' brains show atypical structural asymmetries, with reduced right hemisphere grey and white matter volumes, and abnormal interhemispheric connectivity. Functional asymmetries are also atypical, with criminal psychopaths showing a less lateralized cortical response than noncriminals across verbal, visuo-spatial, and emotional tasks. Finally, the incidence of non-right-handedness is higher in criminal than non-criminal populations, consistent with reduced cortical lateralization. Thus despite Lombroso’s comparatively primitive and inferential research methods, his conclusion that criminals' lateralization differs from that of noncriminals is borne out by the neuroscientific research. How atypical cortical asymmetries predispose criminal behaviour remains to be determined.
Hundreds of thousands of youth are held every year in U.S. juvenile justice detention centers and incarceration facilities. Increasingly it is known that these facility placements are at best ineffective and at worst lead to additional youth recidivism outcomes. What is most concerning, though, is that a majority of these incarcerated youth have one or more mental health/substance abuse disorders, special education disabilities, or maltreatment victimization histories-comorbid situations that negatively impact their involvement with the juvenile courts. In this article the authors summarize the epidemiology of these youth problems within the juvenile justice system. The authors then compare the outcome evidence for the youth placed in juvenile justice facilities with those placed in residential treatment centers, finding significant advantages to addressing the problems through rehabilitative efforts. Recognizing that there are a small number of serious youthful offenders who will need placement, their analysis finds that the juvenile courts must continue (or in many instances begin) reshaping their detention and incarceration facilities reliance on punishment toward a rehabilitative residential model.