Some criminals cannot be educated out of their crimes.

In the “abolish the police” thread, someone linked to a New York Times article: “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police.” I didn’t want to hijack the thread so started a separate one to focus on one quote from it: (post has been edited for brevity)

I don’t mean this thread to be about abolishing the police, but rather, about criminology. (I am not a criminologist by any stretch, so I defer to any Dopers who are or do have education/knowledge in that regard.)

There seems to be this strain of thought, particularly among progressives, that crimes arise because of poverty or ignorance or lack of education or some form of circumstantial handicap. And I don’t dispute that that is the case for many if not most crimes. But ISTM that there are some criminals, too, who simply are born with a bent towards crime, and/or simply cannot be reasoned or educated out of their sociopathic/psychopathic behavior.

In other words, people like that NYT author could lecture such psychopaths/sociopaths all day long about “we need to have a society based off of cooperation and mutual aid” and it would fall on totally deaf ears. Some people simply have no interest in playing by the rules. What is a “society based off of mutual aid and cooperation” supposed to do about those who willfully refuse to cooperate, and indeed, actively seek to kill because that’s what they want to do?

Oh, absolutely, and I’m a progressive. There are definitely incurable elements of society, psychopaths being a good example (sociopaths can control their impulses, and so you shouldn’t conflate the two). But the overwhelming majority of criminals are not incurable - it’s just that our system is perfectly designed to leave someone who started in a simply unfortunate situation with no option but to spiral downhill into worse crimes, reincarceration, and general failure.

“Abolish the police” (really, the correct phrase is “Defund the police” - “Abolish the police” is what detractors claim about the BLM’s demands) doesn’t mean no prison at all. But it does often mean no prison for being addicted to a chemical substance.

Starting with your premise - speaking as a softie liberal, yes there would be some people who are incorrigible when it comes to crime. Say what you will about circumstances and upbringing, or even brain topography, etc., these individuals will take advantage of others in unlawful ways. I will add that IMHO it’s not just petty crime, I feel many of these types engage in criminal activity that is generally outside of the purview of municipal police forces (scamming grandma, cybercrime, international drug and sex traffic, corporate executives, etc.)

Moving on to respond directly to the quote you provide, this seems to be a knuckleheaded lefty radical speaking who envisions kumbaya drum circles as the solution society’s ills. I would suspect the publication likes highlighting this quote because it is so out there. Eyes rolls all around.

(And before anyone impinges all liberals from this one example, be careful lest we impinge all right-wingers based on the worst of those.)

For most of them its just a case of time, lots and lots of it until they get fed up.

They tend to give it up in their mid to late 30’s - a few go on to their middle 40’s - anyone else inside after this age will be because they were awarded a very long sentence.

With persistent offenders it would be a lot less hassle just to keep them in until they get to around 40.

I have seen all the stuff from probation (parole) services that mention successful integration ack into society relies heavily on maintaining family ties - my experience is that you just put them back into a social grouping where they can infect others with their criminality - and yes criminality is very virus like in that it spreads among individuals.

Offenders largely have two properties that move them toward crime, the lack of either one would stop their crime developing - they are lazy, and they are greedy.

This is what leads to drug dealing, burglary, property crime and robbery.

I have a lot of practical experience in criminology. And I think it’s unrealistic to think we can create a society in which crime doesn’t exist. (I’ll note I haven’t read the article because it’s behind the NYT paywall. I’ll be happy to read it if somebody can provide a link to an open site.)

Some people choose to place their own self-interest above the interests of society in general. They do things like stealing because the benefits to them outweighs their concern for the harm they’re causing others.

How are you supposed to address that? If somebody doesn’t care about other people he doesn’t know, it’s almost impossible to force empathy upon them. And if you don’t care about the consequences that happen to other people, stealing from them and benefiting yourself is a reasonable act; you won’t convince somebody by logic that they shouldn’t steal. The only restraint imposed by reason against stealing is that the consequences of getting caught and punished may outweigh the benefits of committing the theft; but that’s what the article is apparently proposing we remove.

Many of them do mean exactly that. They want a future in which prisons and police literally do not exist.

I haven’t read anything from him in a long time, but Shaun King always seemed like a good middle ground between ‘police brutality? no such thing’ and ‘ACAB’.

I’m pretty sure it would be more accurate to have these the other way around. Anti-social personality disorder has a stronger association with factor 2 psychopathy, aka sociopathy. A person with sociopathy has less control, not more, compared to other psychopaths. Link

Yup. Surprising though it may be, my Facebook feed has a lot of far left folks on it, and some of the more radical anarchists are PISSED that “defund the police” is being interpreted as “cut certain parts of the police budget.” They’ve been advocating for years to abolish police and prisons, and they want the current momentum to be toward their goals, not toward some middle ground.

But they are definitely a minority of folks on the left.

I can’t help but think that their phone ring tone is “Imagine”.

How would you classify members of organized crime rings like the mafia?

I’d definitely be considered liberal or progressive (the distinction between the two terms seems to have gotten muddled), but the idea of totally abolishing the police strikes me as ridiculous.

The idea of restructuring departments and replacing many police functions with social workers and health professionals makes a lot of sense.

At least according to this article, Camden NJ seems to have had some success with this.

And I completely understand the idea of aiming high or asking for more than you actually need/want to give you some wiggle room for negotiations, but in some of these cases people need to go up to them and say ‘look, that’s an unrealistic goal and the idea isn’t even going to be entertained by the powers that be, you’re making us all look like assholes and giving them the power not only to dismiss you, but they’ll be able to do it with the support of their entire side’.

IOW, the people that want every cop and every jail to disappear make it easy for the right and moderate lefts to dismiss any talk of defunding the police. Just like the far right that feel the need to walk around the mall with AR-15s make it really easy for the left and moderate right to say ‘yeah, we need to reign this in’.

Both sides need to talk to their respective fringe groups explain that we’re all going for something similar, find a middle ground and present that. Maybe the right would be okay with smaller police departments and putting the rest of the money into other community resources. Maybe the left would be okay with concealed carry with some realistic restrictions.

I always feel like this is due to the internet/social media. It’s so much easier for far right/left people to find each other and get a lot of momentum going for their causes, yet still have blinders on for the problems it’s going to create.

If I may junior-mod a bit, before the thread gets derailed:

The thread is not about abolishing the police (although that is tangential,) but rather, whether or not there are some criminals who are simply incorrigible and bent on killing and burning and destroying no matter what - and, in a society without police, what should be done about these crooks.

You’re right. I think we got off to a messy start since the article is paywalled so a lot of us couldn’t read it.

There is a small number of people like this, and a much larger number of run-of-the-mill selfish jerks who are willing to hurt other people if it benefits them. The latter make up the vast majority of criminals.

People are assholes. Haven’t you noticed?

For those of us who really are saying disband the police. . .
The idea of basing an entire criminal justice system on the fact that there are a small amount of incorrigibles is the more absurd idea. Add to that the fact that these same incorrigilbles are not dealt with in any efficient manner under the current system.

Someone in that other thread brought up Ted Bundy. Well, under the current system he was able to kill at least 20 young women before the police even knew his name. In fact the police had evidence of ten of the killings before they even put together that it was possibly one offender. Then the police had to arrest him on 4 separate occasions, all the while he continued his spree killing at least 3 more. So while you’re wondering how the new system will deal with these types of people, ask yourself how the current system is dealing with them.

There is no doubt that no system is perfect. there will be problems to deal with in the new system. But the benefits to society will be multitude and we can work on improving it from there.


Ted Bundy was captured in 1978. That’s not “the current system” at all. Criminal profiling and forensic science has become far more advanced. When was the last time we had a serial killer like Bundy?

I’m not sure what that has to do with anything. So 40 years ago, it took the cops a while to catch one guy, so screw it, lets get rid of them.

ISTM, whatever point you’re trying to make, falls apart when the alternate that you’re suggesting is to just let him continue killing people.

But lets look at something more recent. You leave your house in the morning to see someone getting raped in a nearby alley. You…what do you do? There’s no police to call.
Lets pretend there are police…what do they do? They show up, arrest the guy and a few hours later they cut him loose.

I understand the need and want for a new system, but at the same time I have just about zero interest in a system that allows violent criminals to do whatever they want. If there’s no repercussions, there’s going to be very little to keep people from doing whatever they want.

What makes you think a system without police allows criminals to do whatever they want. Are you so unimaginative that the only way you can think of to deal with criminals is to have a standing army of militarily equipt goons with the authority to kill at their discretion.

Why don’t you try that again without the strawman?

So, you walk out of your house and see someone getting raped…what do you do?