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NIJ To Study Roots of Crime

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has announced its support for a vast study of the ways in which criminal offenders differ from law-abiding people, and what leads certain people into criminal behavior. Directors of the "Roots of Crime" project said it will be "the most sophisticated, broad-based, and ambitious study ever undertaken of the factors that lead to crime, delinquency, and antisocial behavior."

The study, which also is being sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation, will follow 11,000 randomly selected individuals in approximately 60 communities over a period of eight years, searching for the "roots and natural history of criminal behavior." The researchers said they will focus on a variety of factors that might be related to criminal behavior, including: prenatal drug exposure, adolescent growth patterns, temperament and self-image, poor parenting, school influences, peer influences, differences between girls and boys who begin a criminal career, predictions of dangerousness, and community influences.

Because of the breadth and depth of the project, a small army of researchers will be needed. The subjects will be interviewed and given physical examinations; parents, school teachers, and others with information about the subjects will also be interviewed. The study will track individuals from the time before they are born to age 31.

For the past several years there have been dozens of academic researchers at work planning the project. Pilot studies already have been conducted on specific techniques that will be part of the project, such as the best way to track fathers of subjects. A core group of scientists currently is choosing the precise variables that will be measured, the two major metropolitan areas that will be targeted for the study, and other issues. The study itself is expected to begin early this year. For details about the Program on Human Development and Criminal Behavior, contact Dr. Fenton Earls, Harvard School of Public Health, 667 Huntington Avenue, Boston MA 02115.
Criminal Justice Newsletter

[Editorial Note: The link between unemployment and crime and imprisonment rates is well established. It has been the subject of numerous studies. These date back to the 1800s in England, including a congressional investigation conducted as recently as 1978. It does not take tens of millions of dollars and 31 years of study to figure out that poor and exploited people are the most likely to resort to extra-legal means to deal with their situations. We need jobs, not jails!]

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