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This essay explores how violent offenders develop and evolve. It shows that violent crime and offenders are complex matters. Various factors, including biological, environmental, social, and psychological all interact to develop and evolve offenders. Additionally, exploring a single factor, for instance, biological, may only yield partial outcomes. It also appears that the legal system has not given the intended results in controlling violent crimes, as many cases are still reported. While exceptional research exists that looks at violent offenders from various perspectives, solutions to the problem appear elusive and existing ones are not effective.
By natural design, some aspects of violence in humans emanate from certain violent human groupings where violence appears to have been ancestrally widespread. In other words, human have acquired their propensity for violence from their ancestors. This claim of inherited violent nature has been largely supported by scientific findings, specifically on the genetic composition and neurocriminology research, which support genetic studies.
Historically, violent crimes (homicide and serious assault, including sexual) are relatively lower in the percentage of occurrence when compared to other forms of crime, yet they make up the largest number of cases with higher psychological, social, and financial impacts and implications. Throughout history, it has been established that no single approach or practice can be applied to eliminate the challenge of violent crimes. As this essay shows, violent crimes could be a factor influenced by individual, family, peer group, community, institutional, cultural, and societal general factors. These influencing factors are broadly classified under genetic, social, behavioral, and environmental factors.
The above-mentioned factors are intricate and, thus, they present a complex situation for researchers who wish to understand how violent offenders develop and evolve. In this essay, the focus is on the development and evolution of violent offenders and on implications and/or impacts on society, individuals, communities, and legal systems. Additionally, it also highlights the role of Saint Leo University core value of respect or the lack of it thereof as it relates to victimization.
The Violent Offender
Violent crime is a function of individual, local situations, and broader environmental factors. The view on psychiatric and psychological studies has largely centered on individual specific factors related to violent crime and criminality (Adams, 2013). In most cases, significant attention has been focused on determining specific factors that differentiate offenders from other law-abiding individuals. As evidence of violent crime continues to grow, it has become progressively obvious that whereas some individuals could have a greater propensity to engage in criminal acts, other factors also importantly influence the incidence of violence and crime.
Useful information can be derived to understand how offenders who engage in violent crimes develop and evolve. This requires a careful analysis of some individual-level factors associated with violent crimes. Researchers have gained useful insights about individual-level factors, such as aggression, responsible for violent crimes. In addition, family and peer associations also influence personality and traits in significant ways that enhance the possibility of compounding already existing individual-level factors.
Literature now clearly demonstrates that violent offenders have some common characteristics. For example, they tend to be male and young (usually aged between 17 and 29) (Arbach-Lucioni, Redondo-Illescas, Singh, & Andre, 2014). Additionally, such individuals also tend to have been exposed to poor parenting and minimum parental supervision. These are risk factors, which are linked to other important predictive personality traits, including aggression, minimum autonomy, impulsivity, low self-esteem, and the need to seek recognition. They also experience attitudinal challenges, which are associated with delinquent acts.
Evolutionary psychologists are concerned with the functional accounts for observed behaviors (Roach & Pease, 2011). For instance, psychologists explore why certain behaviors, traits, or abilities have changed within a specific environment in which such evolutions take place. In this regard, from a criminology perspective, distant past experiences, environments, and traits are the primary focus, as attempts are made to determine origins and functions of specific actions. Distal factors, such as aggression associated with fierce competitions for sex or fitness among young people tend to interrelate with proximal factors, such as unruly behaviors among young men found in social places like bars and associated with violent actions (DeLisi & Conis, 2017). In this case, the focus is on the interaction between genetic and environmental factors to shape traits of individuals.
Offenders are also linked to weapons, drugs, and alcohol. For example, crimes involving guns and knives continue to be reported across the globe, whereas drugs are seen as lethal substances, which have real or imagined relationships with violent crimes. In addition, many cases of violent crimes are also associated with alcohol. Excess consumption of alcohol is often linked to violent criminal offenders, and in most instances, cases of violence and homicide take place within or near social drinking establishments.
As such, the environment is responsible for shaping criminal acts, as many offenders engage in illegal drug use, alcoholism, and possess illegal weapons, which may only increase propensity to commit a crime. However, it is also important to assess other underlying factors associated with criminality and drug abuse. These are mainly poverty and inequality in society. It is, therefore, necessary for researchers to explore other such factors that drive individuals to engage in violent actions. In fact, these underlying factors could be significant in their specific associations and contexts in which they are experienced, leading to violent crimes.
Poverty and inequality have been largely identified by sociologists as significantly positively related to high rates of violent crimes. It is, however, observed that countries in which relatively high levels of poverty alongside large gaps between the haves and the have-nots tend to have elevated rates of violent crimes. Much of the literature on social factors shaping characteristics of violent offenders presents relative deprivation on issues discussed under the gap between the rich and the poor.
In this case, relative deprivation reflects poverty as compared to others, not absolute poverty. Evidence suggests that there is a positive correlation between violent crime or homicide, poverty, and inequality shows a positive correlation on rates of violent crimes (DeLisi & Conis, 2017). In fact, when the rate of inequality increases, the rate of violent crime also increases.
In communities, peer interactions are critical aspects that influence people’s adherence to social norms, morality, and perceptions of acceptable actions. It is already observed that individuals most likely to commit crimes do not always adhere to societal moral codes of tolerable actions (DeLisi & Conis, 2017). In some instances, different groups may emerge based on common sets of other beliefs, or they may develop a group context that provides some protection or support in society. Such groups, of which criminal gangs are the major examples, often apply violence as a way of resolving conflicts and realizing recognition and status, as individual members gain acceptance. Therefore, gangs are exemplary cases that reflect regular peer interactions, which are often linked to violence and deaths.
Studies focused on cases of violent crimes and offenders, as well as other forms social issues have highlighted relevant factors associated with the neighborhood. From the evidence, inequality, deprivation, teen pregnancy and births, drugs and alcohol abuse, prostitution, and other forms of social challenges usually co-exist. These environmental and social factors develop and evolve criminal traits. Research goes further to attempt to scientifically explain and measure core factors that are responsible for or cause such challenges in at-risk communities (DeLisi & Conis, 2017).
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More importantly, studies investigating causes of higher rates of violent crimes in deprived societies show some common features. For example, concentrated deprivation, elevated residential instability, family breakdown, high residential turnover, ethnically uniform populations and other social problems, including low school enrolment and high attrition rates from schools, and child deaths among others are common features of neighborhoods with high rates of violent crimes. These factors show that such neighborhoods lack social support and social cohesion, leading to high violent crime rates (DeLisi & Conis, 2017)
. That is, in such varied and unstable populations, a lack of common understanding of social moral and collective expectations for behaviors is observed. Social integration and support, a focus on a community’s collective beliefs in its capability to realize common goals or to bring about change, are seen as collective efficacy, which is generally associated with reduced violent crime rates. Conversely, societies in which individuals lack strong social cohesion and support or are not bound together through these shared goals and practices, tend to have unwanted implications for high rates of violent crimes, as well as fear of crime by members. Feeling unsafe increases as individuals become more secluded in their neighborhoods, and such feelings extend to homes and other dwelling places.
Factors Associated With Violent Offenders and Crime
Factors that are associated with violent crime have been linked to individuals, drug and substance abuse, prevailing situations, social interactions, society, and other general social factors. These factors may act in isolation or collective to increase rates of violent crimes in society. Furthermore, it is thought that crime spreads from specific hot spots to other regions. In societies with relatively high rates of inequality, anonymity, and a general lack of shared values, people with traits of aggression and low self-esteem may find themselves in situations in which they have to compete for resources, space, respect, and control of certain opportunities among others.
As they interact, perhaps in the presence of other triggers, such as drugs, alcohol, and weapons, resolving any form of dispute is most likely achieved through violence (DeLisi & Conis, 2017). In addition, it is also shown that as crime rates increase, other problems begin to emerge. For instance, cases of weapon prevalence escalate could ultimately increase the possibility of more violence, overloaded and overburdened criminal justice systems, the loss of social capital and moral norms, while enhancing the prominence and even tolerability of a culture of crime.
It is imperative to recognize outcomes when assessing factors responsible for violent crimes in neighborhoods. That is, many factors responsible for violent crimes tend to co-occur, and an individual criminal may exhibit some or most of these features. This implies that systems that have been in place to address violent crime should approach the problem from various dimensions at once to realize meaningful results. Interventions targeted at individuals could be necessary, but if the underlying factors remain unresolved, then other would-be violent criminal offenders could soon rise up and fill the vacuum left by the reformed offenders.
Likewise, prevailing circumstances, drugs and alcohol are factors associated with increased violent crimes and, thus, if people who lack common norms and values and with low self-esteem operate in a broader social context in which cases of low social cohesion and support and inequality are noted, then eliminating the underlying factors, such as drugs, designed to curtail crime could only result in partial achievements.
The legal system appears to have failed to control the increasing cases of violent crimes. In fact, the systemic failure of the legal system is put on practices that strive to transform courts from the delivery of justice to forgiveness. Traditionally, when faced with an offense that is serious and usually results into deaths and physical and psychological trauma, the best approach is always to deliver a verdict for capital punishment as a means of seeking justice and striving to reform violent offenders (Lacey & Pickard, 2015). However, some recent practices show that the application of the law in violent crimes could only make the courts to act as ‘forgiveness’ agents rather than focusing on the crime (Lacey & Pickard, 2015).
Cases involving mental health and drug have often been viewed from the perspective of deprivation and marginalization in society, which result in offending actions and behaviors. In such cases, courts become a means of solving offenders’ problems and providing solutions. In fact, some defense lawyers argue that some cases need social solutions rather than legal ones.
According to Roach and Pease (2011), crime reduction methods are classified as primary, secondary, and tertiary. The primary crime prevention approach focuses on lessening crime opportunities with no reference to criminals and their traits. The secondary prevention strategy aims to transform individuals, generally people identified as at-risk of taking a criminal career, while the tertiary method focuses on crime truncation based on length, severity, and/or frequencies of offending. The primary prevention approach looks at proximal factors, but neglect distal ones. However, this primary approach is based on convenience and functional capabilities. Factors that motivate offenders are assessed and then managed. For example, changes may be implemented in hot spots. In addition, distal factors, such as childhood experiences, dependency, and other general prior events are explored.
On this note, one may also evaluate how institutions apply their core values to control offending behaviors and actions. For instance, Saint Leo University seeks to instill the core value of respect in its students to minimize victimization.
The core value of respect was derived from the spirit of Jesus Christ, and the University applies it to ensure that every person is valued, their dignity respected, and it always aims to develop excellent practices. Members find strength in their unity and diversity, interactions, knowledge sharing, learning, and harmonious relations (Saint Leo University, 2017). From this core value, one can conclude that it captures factors, which are not found in neighborhoods associated with violent crimes and offenders. For example, social support and cohesion, respect for others, dignity, and recognition of individual values are nearly all missing in broken societies where violent offenders thrive.
Summary of the Findings
It has been established that some behaviors, such as aggression, common among violent offenders are genetic and, thus, have high rates of heritability. In this regard, evolution plays a critical role in shaping violence. Hence, biological risk factors cannot be dismissed when one evaluates how violent offenders develop and evolve. In addition, it has also been demonstrated that environmental, sociological and psychological factors are also responsible for shaping behaviors of violent offenders.
One must pay attention to other underlying factors associated with violent crimes. These include socio-demographic risk factors, including joblessness, poverty, broken families, inequality, and other social challenges in neighborhoods. Some of these factors also constitute aspects of environmental elements responsible for shaping violent crime. More importantly, biological, environmental, social, and psychological factors co-exist, and they are intricate. Consequently, any attempts to understand violent crimes fully remain elusive.
The current legal system proves that society is yet to figure out the best ways to control violent crimes and to manage violent offenders. So far, harsh capital punishments have failed to deter cases of violent crimes. Unless, the underlying factors are addressed, some of which may be impossible, then cases of violent crimes will continue to rise as causes increase.
Violent crime is an intricate issue when viewed from perspectives of biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors. This complexity can be understood when all underlying factors are broken down. All these responsible factors interact to influence individuals’ possibilities of engaging in violent crimes. Therefore, all factors should be explored, including the underlying ones in attempts to address the development and evolution of offenders.
Adams, T. (2013). How to spot a murderer’s brain. The Guardian. Web.
Arbach-Lucioni, K., Redondo-Illescas, S., Singh, J. P., & Andre, A. (2014). Violent crimes in native and foreign national offenders. International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 20(2014), 1-12. Web.
DeLisi, M., & Conis, P. J. (2017). Violent Offenders. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Lacey, N., & Pickard, H. (2015). To blame or to forgive? Reconciling punishment and forgiveness in criminal justice. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 35(4), 665–696. Web.
Roach, J., & Pease, K. (2011). Evolution and the prevention of violent crime. Psychology, 2(4), 393-404. Web.
Saint Leo University. (2017). Mission and values. Web.