vmaton asked this question on 4/2/2000:
1) Why are there so many states in the U.S in favour of the Death Penalty ? Do you think it has a proven effect on criminal statistics ? 2) Why are (often) sexual crimes (rape, pedophilia etc...) considered like diseases, why not "common" crimes ? 3) Do you think that some people are "by nature" (or genetically oriented if you prefer) destined to crime ? Thank you very much for your time . Vincent Maton(Belgium) P.s : sorry for the 3 questions in one :)
clarka gave this response on 4/2/2000:
I really do prefer to answer questions independently because I do not believe in sound bites or easy answers.
1) Just less than a majority of states in the U.S. allow the death penalty. However, only a few execute more than a handful of criminals (almost exclusively violent killers) per year. The one state which is a notable exception is Texas, which has consistently executed ten to twenty prisoners per year for the last decade. Criminologists argue as to whether this has affected the crime rate, but my personal view is that the death penalty as currently used has no incapacitative value (not enough "kills") and little deterrence value (as a murderer is more likely to win the state lottery than be executed for murder, and that as much as ten years after the crime was committed.)
2) Crime as a disease state is problematic. If alcoholism is a disease, you treat alcoholics differently than you would common drunkards and bums. Rape and pedophilia and other crimes of sexual violence are often rooted in severe psychological disorders. Treatment attempts are thus typically made by psychologists who see crime as nothing more than a manifestation of mental disorders. However, many violent criminals are rational and sane. I am loathe to excuse violent criminals for their behavior (especially because sexual violence is criminogenic) on the basis that they are "ill" rather than "evil." However, I am not willing to deny anyone the medical and/or psychiatric attention they may need . . . once they are no longer a threat to society.
3) This is the ancient "nature-nurture" debate in criminology. Do criminals commit crimes because they were born criminal or "made" criminal? The answer is both to some degree. However, this question masks the more important questions of human choice and free will -- a much more important variable than either nature or nurture. My opinion is that while nature is largely outside human control, nurture is not; and nurturance is a critical part of long-term anti-crime strategy. However, getting American politicians to plan for the long term is an exercise in futility.
Also, genetic determinism carries with it complex moral issues. If we map human DNA and find a "violence gene," does this justify putting these people on probation when they haven't committed crimes? Does this change if they have committed crimes first and then are tested for the gene? What about testing prenatally for the violence gene and aborting those fetuses bearing it? In America the worst problem is that social Darwinists keep arguing that money spent on the poor is a waste because the poor are genetically unable to benefit from it. Evidence in favor of genetic determinism is used to cut welfare funding, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The average rating for this answer is 5.
vmaton rated this answer a 5.