Some of the items in the news that caught my eye over the last week or two:
PRISONS: The Observer (13 Aug), in Jail doesn’t work, say crime victims, highlights a new study from Smart Justice that suggests that:
The vast majority of crime victims do not believe that prison reduces levels of offending […]. The surprising findings of the first survey of those whose lives have been affected by crime suggest the public is losing faith in the penal system.
BEHAVIOURAL PROFILING: The New York Times (16 August) provides more on behavioural profiling at airports :
[…] after the reported liquid bomb plot in Britain, agency officials say they want to have hundreds of behavior detection officers trained by the end of next year and deployed at most of the nation’s biggest airports. “The observation of human behavior is probably the hardest thing to defeat,” said Waverly Cousin, a former police officer and checkpoint screener who is now the supervisor of the behavior detection unit at Dulles. “You just don’t know what I am going to see.”
Even in its infancy, the program has elicited some protests. […] concerns were raised this week by two of the foremost proponents of the techniques, a former Israeli security official and a behavioral psychologist who developed the system of observing involuntarily muscular reactions to gauge a person’s state of mind. They said in interviews that the agency’s approach puts too little emphasis on the follow-up interview and relies on a behavior-scoring system that is not necessarily applicable to airports.
DATING VIOLENCE: A Wake Forest University press release dated 10 August reports on a new study on dating violence by adolescents who have been watching wrestling on TV:
The frequency of adolescents viewing wrestling on TV was positively associated with date fighting and other violent behaviors, according to a study, published by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in the August issue of Pediatrics. […] Adolescents who watch wrestling on TV are exposed to a high frequency of violence between men and women, alcohol use and hearing women referred to in derogatory terms such as “bitch,” according to the study. In addition, the scenarios played out in the TV dramas often present violence as a solution to a problem.
MENTAL HEALTH: Hat tip to Psych Central (10 Aug) for a link to a piece on the BBC website on severe mental illness and criminal behaviour
UK experts studied 13 years of data from Sweden, where population data on mental health and crime is kept. It was found 18% of murders and attempted murders were committed by people with a mental illness. […] Dr Seena Fazel, the forensic psychiatrist who led the research, said: “The figure of one in 20 is probably lower than most people would imagine. […] In many ways the most interesting aspect of our findings is that 19 out of 20 people committing violent crimes do so without having any severe mental health problems.”
CRIMINAL BEHAVIOUR: Maori slam ‘warrior’ gene study (ABC News, Australia, 9 August):
A New Zealand scientist says the country’s indigenous Maori people have a ‘warrior’ gene which makes them more prone to violent and criminal behaviour. Dr Rod Lea revealed his theory […] at the 11th International Congress of Human Genetics in Brisbane, Australia, acknowledging that it is controversial to suggest an ethnic group is predisposed towards criminal behaviour. Maori leaders immediately panned his claims. Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia told The Press newspaper that while she had heard of Maori having a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism, it was a big leap to include violent tendencies.
POLICING: The Philadephia Inquirer (13 August) published a review of sexual misconduct by police officers:
Hundreds of police officers across the country have turned from protectors to predators, using the power of their badge to extort sex, an Inquirer review shows. Many of those cases fit a chilling pattern: Once abusers cross the line, they attack again and again before they are caught. Often, departments miss warning signs about the behavior.
[…] Sex abuse by police has received little of the attention or urgency given police brutality or shootings. A handful of studies suggest the magnitude of the problem. In one of the earliest, Roger L. Goldman and Steven Puro of St. Louis University examined Florida cases from the 1970s and 1980s in which officers lost their law-enforcement certifications. […] A 2003 analysis found that sexual misconduct was the leading reason that officers lost their badges in Utah. […] Another study – called “Driving While Female” because so many cases begin with traffic stops – argues that the problem “parallels the national problem of racial profiling.” […] Criminologist Timothy Maher, who has surveyed chiefs and rank-and-file officers about sexual abuse, said the profession recognizes the issue but has not done much about it.
ROBBERY / JUVENILE CRIME: The Enquirer (Cinncinnati, 15 Aug), reports on a growing trend towards the involvement of teens in aggravated robbery and muses on the involvement of women in such crimes:
Last week, the FBI sent a memo to state bank robbery coordinators saying the agency is seeing an emerging trend in the number of juvenile bank robbery suspects. The trend is consistent with overall crime, the memo said. […] “We’re seeing women really taking a more aggressive role in bank robberies than in years past,” [FBI bank robbery coordinator] Trombitas said. “Women are more involved in violent crimes and bank robbery goes hand in hand with that.”