Characteristics that differentiate criminals from non-criminals.

Focus on biological approaches to understanding crime and behavior. In particular, early biological theories attempted to identifyphysical characteristics that differentiate criminals from non-criminals. Differences in physical appearance, biological make-up, moral disposition, and individual characteristics were thought to be associated with certain behaviors (e.g., criminal) that biological theories attempt to explain ascontrary to societal expectations. Biological theories can be classified into three types: (1) those that attempt to differentiate among individuals on the basis of certain innate (i.e., those with which you are born) outward physical traits or characteristics; (2) those that attempt to trace the source of differences to genetic or hereditary characteristics; and (3) those that attempt to distinguish among individuals on the basis of structural, functional, or chemical differences in the brain or body.

It’s important to note, contemporary biological researchers and theorists are careful to acknowledge that certain traits do not cause crime by themselves. Rather, the environment in which an individual lives has a significant impact through various processes (discussed in subsequent chapters). That is, contemporary biological theorists recognize the interactive relationship between internal biological events and external sociological events.

Your discussion board asks you to examine the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Buck v. Bell, and understand its influence and implications. In addition, you are asked to consider the connection between forced sterilization of repeat sex offenders, and the implications of eugenic practices on certain groups.


Apply biological theories to the explanation of crime and criminal behavior.
Provide an overview of of the historical development of thought regarding biological factors and criminal behavior.
Identify a number of physical characteristics associated with criminality that were advanced by early biological approaches.
Analyze why the eugenics movement took root in the United States.
Explore how eugenical thinking influenced the Supreme Court’s decision in Buck v. Bell.

In 1924, Virginia adopted a statute authorizing the compulsory sterilization (i.e., a procedure that renders persons unable to have children) of persons with intellectual disabilities for the purpose of eugenics. Carrie Buck, an 18-year-old, was described by the superintendent of the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded as “feebleminded” (an archaic term used to label individuals who had intellectual disabilities or who had certain cognitive impairments) and a genetic threat to society. Carrie was housed at the same institution as her mother, who was also labeled as feebleminded. In addition, Carrie was the mother of a child born outside of marriage who was classified as feebleminded.

The superintendent requested that Carrie be sexually sterilized so she would be unable to have additional children, arguing that it was for the betterment of society. The Supreme Court agreed. In an 8 to 1 decision, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated:

It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…Three generations of imbeciles are enough. (274 U.S. 200, P. 208).

Eugenics sterilization programs were eventually abolished. In fact, in 2002, Virginia Governor Mark Warner formally apologized for Virginia’s sterilization program (Virginia governor apologizes, 2002). In 2015, the Virginia General Assembly approved payments of up to $25,000 to persons sterilized under Virginia’s eugenics program (Virginia to compensate, 2015). Is this sufficient recourse for Virginia’s prior practice of sterilization? Why or why not? Explain.
Choose one of the following:

Today, debate continues about castration (usually through the administration of drugs) of sex offenders. Arguments for the practice suggests it reduces recidivism and increases the safety of citizens (e.g., namely children). Arguments against the practice highlight moral and medical concerns about implementing compulsory sterilization, and indicate possible due process and and cruel and unusual punishment issues (Runckel, 1997). In light of what you’ve learned, which side of the argument do you find more persuasive? Why or why not? Explain. *Note–California was the first U.S. state to specify the use of chemical castration for repeat child molesters as a condition of their parole.
There was no sound scientific basis for eugenics, and yet categories such as “feebleminded” were created for classifying individuals. Eugenicists also believed that qualities such as poverty, criminality, and good or bad work ethic were passed down through genes. The majority of people targeted for sterilization were deemed of inferior intelligence, particularly poor people and eventually people of color (Black, 2003). Why do you think these ideas took hold? What do you think was appealing to some people (e.g., scientists, politicians, social reformers, etc.) about these ideas? Explain.
Your post should be a minimum of 400 words each, answer all parts of the prompt, use proper APA citation style, and
Demonstrate written communication skills by using complete paragraphs, accurate grammar, and proper mechanics.
Draw from the readings and other course content to answer the questions.
Review APA in-text and reference citations

Sample Solution