Judge Charles Burns Briefly Discusses Why People Commit Crimes


Every year FBI records thousands of violent crimes and property crimes in the United States. Crimes in all forms are an unfortunate part of the society. However, most of the people are not criminals, so it becomes vital to understand what drives certain people to commit criminal acts. As per Judge Charles Burns, this question has plagued humanity since the beginnings of civilization, and today the study of criminology has taken a scientific approach to finding answers. Even though each person who commits a crime would have their distinctive life situation and reasons, there are certain factors that may contribute to criminal behavior.

Judge Charles Burns lists certain factors that may contribute to criminal behavior

People have tried to explain what causes abnormal social behavior throughout history, including crime. Efforts for controlling "bad" behavior go back to ancient Babylon's Code of Hammurabi, around 3,700 years ago. By the 21st century, criminologists had explored a variety of factors to understand why people commit crimes. These factors include:

  • Biological risk factors: Much like people can choose their eye color, they cannot select the chemical makeup of their brains. This may predispose people to a range of complications, starting from epilepsy to clinical depression. Certain criminologists think that biology can even predispose people to criminality. This does not imply that criminals are born that way; rather, biological factors have been shown to increase the odds of a person committing a crime. These factors may include variances in autonomic arousal, neurobiology, and neuro-endocrine functioning.
  • Adverse childhood experiences: How people are raised majorly impacts their personality and life choices. Some people may experience an idyllic and pleasant childhood, while others might be less fortunate. Kids who grow up in a bad situation and environment tend to be at a greater risk for criminal behavior in both their juvenile and adult years.
  • Negative social environment: People surrounding an individual does influence who they are. Simply being in a high crime neighborhood for too long can increases the chances of a person becoming a criminal themselves. However, just being in the presence of criminals is not the only way the surrounding environment of a person can affect their behavior. As per research, just living in poverty increases the likelihood of a person being incarcerated. In case a person is facing trouble making ends meet, they would be under intense stress and have greater odds of resorting to crime.
  • Substance abuse: A high percentage of the American prison population has abused drugs or alcohol. Moreover, a large number of people who get arrested test positive for illegal drugs at the time of their arrest. Intoxicants like alcohol lower inhibitions, while drugs like cocaine overexcite the nervous system of a person. The physiological and psychological changes caused by intoxicants impact the decision making and self control capabilities of a person to a good extent. In fact, an altered state can lead directly to committing a criminal act. A lot of addicts even turn to crime to pay for drugs.

In the opinion of, Judge Charles Burns, criminal behavior is quite a multifaceted issue, and is largely influenced by a combination of individual, social, economic, and psychological element.

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