Physiological causes of crime have been an object of search for a long time, and every criminal justice student will remember the Lombroso approach.
The belief of this apostolate, based on the teachings of the Catholic Church, is that criminals largely choose to become criminal and though certain social and psychological situations can play a role—though many others in the same situation will choose not to become criminals—it is largely a matter of individual choice as the Catechism teaches:
"Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
-by partcipating directly and voluntarily in them;
-by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
-by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
-by protecting evil-doers.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1868).
But the search continues for the magic bullet, as this article from the New York Times remarks.
“It was less than 20 years ago that the National Institutes of Health abruptly withdrew funds for a conference on genetics and crime after outraged complaints that the idea smacked of eugenics. The president of the Association of Black Psychologists at the time declared that such research was in itself “a blatant form of stereotyping and racism.”
“The tainted history of using biology to explain criminal behavior has pushed criminologists to reject or ignore genetics and concentrate on social causes: miserable poverty, corrosive addictions, guns. Now that the human genome has been sequenced, and scientists are studying the genetics of areas as varied as alcoholism and party affiliation, criminologists are cautiously returning to the subject. A small cadre of experts is exploring how genes might heighten the risk of committing a crime and whether such a trait can be inherited.
“The turnabout will be evident on Monday at the annual National Institute of Justice conference in Arlington, Va. On the opening day criminologists from around the country can attend a panel on creating databases for information about DNA and “new genetic markers” that forensic scientists are discovering.
“Throughout the past 30 or 40 years most criminologists couldn’t say the word ‘genetics’ without spitting,” Terrie E. Moffitt, a behavioral scientist at Duke University, said. “Today the most compelling modern theories of crime and violence weave social and biological themes together.”
“Researchers estimate that at least 100 studies have shown that genes play a role in crimes. “Very good methodological advances have meant that a wide range of genetic work is being done,” said John H. Laub, the director of the justice institute, who won the Stockholm Prize in Criminology last week. He and others take pains to emphasize, however, that genes are ruled by the environment, which can either mute or aggravate violent impulses. Many people with the same genetic tendency for aggressiveness will never throw a punch, while others without it could be career criminals.
“The subject still raises thorny ethical and policy questions. Should a genetic predisposition influence sentencing? Could genetic tests be used to tailor rehabilitation programs to individual criminals? Should adults or children with a biological marker for violence be identified?
“Everyone in the field agrees there is no “crime gene.” What most researchers are looking for are inherited traits that are linked to aggression and antisocial behaviors, which may in turn lead to violent crime. Don’t expect anyone to discover how someone’s DNA might identify the next Bernard L. Madoff.”