The Roots Behind Criminality: Cyber and Regular

April 8, 2020

Coronavirus scams, global Internet traffic hijacking, and attacks on work-from-homers. Where does crime originate?

In the United States, true crime documentaries and fictional detective shows are popular. People love these shows because it explores the human psyche and tries to answer why people commit crimes. Mental health professionals have explored criminals motivations for centuries, including University of California Santa Cruz professor of psychology Craig Haney. Phys.org shares more on Haney’s work in the article, “New Book Debunks Myths About Who Causes Crime And Why.”

For over forty years, Haney researched the real causes behind crimes and he formulated the hypothesis that criminal behavior could be tied to childhood suffering, such as abuse, trauma, and maltreatment. Haney had interviewed many death row inmates and noticed trauma patterns in them. His colleagues were skeptical about his findings, because there was not much research not the idea and few studies. Haney wrote about his findings in a new book, Criminality in Context: The Psychological Foundations of Criminal Justice Reform. In his new book, Haney discusses forty years of research and what believes to be the root causes of criminal behavior, how it differs from accepted conventions, and what reforms are needed in the criminal justice system. Haney stated:

‘“The nation’s dominant narrative about crime is that it is committed by bad people who freely choose to make bad decisions, persons who are fundamentally different from the rest of us,’ said Haney, who holds psychology and law degrees. “The only thing that is fundamentally different about them is the lives they’ve lived and the structural impediments they’ve faced.’”

Haney found that the people most at risk to commit crimes were those exposed to childhood trauma and often experienced even more maltreatment in places meant to protect them: school, foster care systems, and juvenile justice systems.

He also argues that poverty and racism are key contributors to criminal behaviors. Poverty is a gateway to criminal behavior, because it leads to trauma, unmet needs, and less opportunities. Unfortunately ethnic minorities who experience poverty and trauma are more likely to end up imprisoned. By proxy ethnic minorities receive differential treatment and represent the largest criminal populations.

Haney’s research exposes bigger holes in the already broken criminal justice system. He points that bigger reforms need to be made than simple criminal justice. Crime prevention strategies need to start at the cradle, most importantly combating social inequality and and poverty.

While Haney’s research may sound new, it only augments what other mental health professionals have been spouting for years. Everything is connected when it comes to mental health, but humans usually are not taught how to properly care for their minds.

Whitney Grace, April 8, 2020

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