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The Born Criminal

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Below is a criminology report I did at the end of my freshman year. It is on avastic stigmatic and inherently criminalistic behaviors. Hope it's good :D

Section I - Are people inherently criminal?

Since the dawn of man, people have committed crimes against one another. People have killed, people have stolen, and people have been driven over the edge to cause harm to another human being. The question that has been asked for years is are people born this way? Are people genetically made with an “evil gene” or some other hereditary disorder? Looking into the case of Mary Bell, an English girl who murdered two young boys at the age of ten, society has questioned whether people are made evil and if there are “bad seeds” among us.

In the book Four Blind Mice by James Patterson, three ex-Vietnam soldiers are hired out as assassins basically, according to their leader Thomas Starkey, because they love to kill. The book describes in detail about how back in Vietnam, soldiers were hired by the US army to wage a total war among the Vietnamese, and in their pillaging of villages and slaughter of the Vietnamese, some discovered how they enjoyed harming others. Code name Three Blind Mice, which consisted of Thomas Starkey, Brownley Harris, and Warren Griffin, were sent in to clean up the mess and wipe out those who got out of hand. While there they realized the pleasure they imbued while killing others, and soon after the war were hired out as assassins to finish killing off those soldiers who humiliated and killed the Vietnamese people. This state of mind of having enjoyment of inflicting pain upon others and hurting their well-being can have its roots in childhood, as demonstrated by the aforementioned Mary Bell along with Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who kidnapped and killed two-year old James Bulger while being only ten themselves. So, are people born evil?

Section II – Cesare Lombroso and The Born Criminal Theory

In 1859, 24-year-old Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso enlisted in the Italian army while working as a physicist. While working he studied approximately 3000 soldiers in his four-year period. Lombroso studied the way the soldiers to find if past experiences or physical appearance contributed to criminal behavior. He noted the relationship between a variety of subjects with soldiers’ criminal behavior. Among the things he tested were tattoos on soldiers and those who committed criminal offences, soldiers who had violent parents and if they mimicked their parents actions in any way, and if physique and bodily format altered the way a person would act. He found that those with certain biological traits were far more likely to commit criminal acts then those who didn’t have these traits. This is called atavistic stigmata.

Atavistic stigmata is a trait in which instead of humans evolving over time into more complex creatures, the criminal had devolved and had prominent societal regressions. The characteristics of atavistic stigmata were not unlike those of the Neanderthals and more primitive people, even primates. The skulls and brains were shaped similarly to those of the prehistoric man, and among this had large jaws, high cheekbones, hawk-like noses, and large, fleshy lips. It was also common for these people to have had parents who engaged in criminal activity, whether the soldier knew about it at the time or not. Lombroso believed that the cause of this was hereditary disorders and that this was organic in nature and in the human soul.

Lombroso then studied the different types of crimes committed by soldiers and other men and women of the time and classified them into four groups- the Insane Criminal, the Criminal by Passion, the Occasional Criminal, and the Born Criminal.

The Insane Criminal category included kleptomaniacs, nymphomaniacs, drunks, and pederast males ( The criminally insane would not be able to differentiate between right and wrong, and would quickly resort to murder as the best way to resolve things. These people had no control over their actions, and were not held accountable for their actions.

The Criminal by Passion refers to the type of murder in which the victim does something to a loved object of another person, and in response the victim dies. Examples of this include a cheating boyfriend and his girlfriend finding out and murdering or severely injuring the other woman. According to the University of South Florida Criminology Department, women are more likely to commit these types of murders then men, not because of gender but “by the level of impetuousness and ferocity.” 91 percent of Criminal by Passion cases are homicide.

The Occasional Criminal can be described as the broadest of the groups and contains four subgroups. The Pseudocriminal, which contains those who kill in self-defense, describes those who kill by accidental terms. They are not subject to any type of deprived childhood, hereditary disorders, or anything of the sort, but merely through unintentional and unpremeditated circumstances. The Criminaloid, who can be described as those who are easily manipulated and influenced to do things they wouldn’t normally do. Epileptoid Criminals are those criminals who suffer from the disease epilepsy, which is characterized by violent, uncontrollable seizures. Finally, the Habitual Criminal, which is a criminal who commits crimes as a job in sorts, like Thomas Starkey, Brownley Harris, and Warren Griffin in the aforementioned James Patterson novel Four Blind Mice.

The final criminal type is the Born Criminal, which is a criminal type that describes those who are born as criminals through hereditary. In a sense, the Born Criminal is inherently evil or a “bad seed.” Examples of the Born Criminal can be seen in many child murder cases or extortion cases in which children were the masterminds. They can be characterized by having no moral values within themselves. They may also harbor epilepsy. This branch also is where atavistic stigmata comes into play. Lombroso theorized that as criminal intent is passed on throughout generations, the criminal line becomes devolved instead of evolved like a species normally would. They would have Neanderthal-like characteristics and would be quick to anger and increasingly violent over the years with at least some degree of mental retardation and insanity. According to Lombroso’s student Enrico Ferri, this section accounted for one-third of all violent acts.

Real-life type cases of the Born Criminal include the case of eleven-year old Mary Bell, who killed toddlers Brian Howe and Martin Brown. She was reported as being a violent and irrational girl, but all the more in control and very manipulative and deceptive. She controlled her friend Norma Bell (no relation) into following her schemes and even lying to the police to cover for her. During the trial Norma said that she didn’t know why she did what she did and that Mary was controlling her. Norma would be an example of the Criminaloid-type murderer, while Mary being a real Born Criminal.

Section III – The Born Update

After publication of Lombroso’s theory on the Born Criminal, he became an advocate for humane treatment and against capital punishment. His theories were passed on and became partly the basis for the Argentinean criminal punishment regulations. He created an entire new field of pseudoscience in forensic psychology with understanding how the mind works and how physical characteristics and such of the criminal physique can be implemented to describe reasons why he or she committed their crimes. His pioneering effects on criminology was one of the basis for the eugenics movement in the early twentieth century.

Another way the Born Criminal was used in studying crimes within lineages was Henry Goddard’s 1912 study of two separate lines of the Kallikak family. One lineage had its roots with an American Revolution veteran and a weak-minded barmaid, while the other started with the same veteran and Quaker girl. The results? In the barmaid family lineage, over half of the descendants turned criminal in some way, but in the Quaker lineage, none were criminal and only three of the 495+ descendants were considered abnormal in any way.

Lombroso’s atavistic stigmata also gave way for forensic psychologists a broadened outlook on criminal archetypes and the way that certain physical and hereditary characteristics can influence the way that human beings act upon their later years. He also founded the Italian School of Positivist Criminology.

Section IV – All About Cesare Lombroso

Cesare Lombroso was born in Verona, Italy on November 6th, 1835 into a wealthy Jewish family. In 1852, he enrolled in the University of Pavia in the Faculty of Medicine and graduated in 1858. In 1859, he enrolled in the Military Medical Corps and there began his studies on criminal archetypes and physical forms. On April 10th, 1870 he married Nina de Benedetti and together they had five children.

From 1862-1876 he was a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pavia. Later he became a professor of hygiene, psychiatry, and criminal anthropology at the University of Turin. He was also the director of a medical asylum in Pesaro, Italy.

In 1876, he published L’Uomo Delinquente (The Criminal Man) and Le Crime, Causes et Remédes (Crime, Its Causes and Remedies). In 1889 he published The Man of Genius, which despite his somewhat unscientific approach to criminalistic archetypes, Lombroso was a highly influential figure in Europe. He died on October 19th, 1909 in Turin, Italy.


· “Theories of Criminal Behavior-Class Notes”. 1996. University of South Florida. October 13, 1999: <>

· Rhodes, Richard. Why They Kill. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1999

· Patterson, James. Four Blind Mice. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc., 2002

· Sereny, Gitta. Cries Unheard. New York: Owl Books., 2000

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That's very interesting DaKong! Well done!

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Terrific paper DaKong! Wow, you really invested alot of time and hard work into this. Thanks for sharing. Hope you got an A. :tu:

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great paper :tu:

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