Neurocriminologist Raine: Violent Recidivism Has a Biological Basis

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Twenty years ago, when brain imaging made it possible for researchers to study the minds of violent criminals and compare them to the brain imaging of “normal” people, a whole new field of research – neurocriminology – opened up, says NPR. Adrian Raine of the University of Pennsylvania was the first to conduct a brain imaging study on murderers and has since continued to study the brains of violent criminals and psychopaths. He is convinced that while there is a social and environmental element to violent behavior, there’s another side of the coin, and that side is biology. “Just as there’s a biological basis for schizophrenia and anxiety disorders and depression, I’m saying here there’s a biological basis also to recidivistic violent offending,” says Raine, author of the new book The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime. He says this re-visioning of violent criminals could potentially help direct how we approach crime prevention and rehabilitation. “I think prisoners [are] not motivated to change, really,” he says, “because they just think they’re a bad, evil person. If we reconceptualized recidivistic crime as a criminal disorder, would we make them more amenable to treatment?”

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