Understanding Crime

Tracing the steps of the criminal justice system through history one discovers that the main goal is to detain the suspected criminal(s) and restore security to society in general. Since the beginning of the criminal justice system attempts to understand the inner workings of a criminal mind and behavior which cause these deviations from normal thinking or acting have been a complex issue of comprehension. What causes people to exhibit certain behaviors that make them criminals? Why are the minds of criminals so hard to understand?

What makes criminals act maliciously towards any aspect of society; whether it is towards people or just ideas upheld by people within society? No one really has a concrete answer to any of these questions. Certainly psychiatrists and psychologist would argue that criminal activity is developed through certain exposure and beliefs or simply the idea that someone is “crazy. ” The Criminal Justice system says that people choose to commit crimes but what makes people want to perform these crimes. It all comes down to behavior of an individual and beliefs of that individual.

Looking at a more recent case in the criminal justice system, the Unabomber, one needs to understand Theodore Kaczynski for childhood, through schooling, and up to his capture; made possible only by his brother’s aide to the F. B. I. Theodore John Kaczynski was born in a Chicago suburb to Wanda and Theodore Kaczynski on May 22, 1942. Kaczynski’s father taught him how to live and survive outdoors while his mother, Wanda, brought him up reading Scientific American. At a young age Kaczynski became very withdrawn and unresponsive to human contact.

Kaczynski skipped two grades and graduated high school in 1958 at the age of 16 where he showed an aptitude for math and making small explosives; the early sings of what he was to become. He later earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in mathematics. After Kaczynski graduated from Harvard he attended the University of Michigan earning a master’s and a Ph. D. in mathematics. Kaczynski life was looking good when he received a job at the University of California-Berkeley as a math professor but after only two years of working there he resigned without an explanation.

Kaczynski decides to go back to his roots and live with nature in a shack in the woods of Montana. This is the time where Kaczynski life begins to take a turn to a darker side. Kaczynski begins to write letters expressing his feelings against technology in the early 70’s which would be his motivation for all the bombings. Kaczynski’s main goal was to wipe out technology or anyone who believed that technology was the way of the future. Kaczynski’s main targets were professors at technological schools or people involved with computers or computer science teachers. Initially, the bombs were of amateur quality and did not cause much harm.

The bombs were all hand crafted and carried the inscription “FC” at one point was reported to stand for “F*@k Computers,” but it was later found to mean simply “Freedom Club. ” A majority of Kaczynski’s attacks were against computer stores, computer science professors, and programming specialists. What was Kaczynski trying to gain freedom from; all signs and motivation for Kaczynski’s attacks point to his desire for freedom from technology? In 1995, Kaczynski mailed several letters outlining his goals and demanding that his paper Industrial Society and Its Future which has been commonly called the “Unabomber Manifesto.

The main argument of Industrial Society and Its Future is that technological progress is undesirable, can be stopped, and in fact should be stopped in order to free people from the unnatural demands of technology, so that they could return to a happier, simpler life close to nature. Kaczynski argued that it was necessary to cause a social crash, before society became any worse. He believes a collapse of civilization is likely to occur at some point in the future. If this collapse doesn’t occur that humans will have the same freedoms that our house pets have today, but roles will be reversed.

Society as we know it will be dominated by machines. The writing of this “manifesto” resulted in Kaczynski’s capture due to the fact that his brother, David Kaczynski, recognized the style of writing and the anger against technology and the desire to live with nature. Kaczynski is arrested in April of 1996 at his remote cabin in the mountains of Montana and the trial doesn’t begin until two years after his arrest due to delays brought upon by Kaczynski himself. There was a constant fight over Kaczynski mental state which inevitable also lead to delays.

Kaczynski’s lawyers attempted an insanity defense, which he rejected, however a court appointed psychiatrist diagnosed Kaczynski as a paranoid schizophrenia and declared him competent to stand trial. It could be said that Kaczynski was insane because to save his own life a plea of insanity would do just that; but such a plea was rejected. Kaczynski was eccentric, unhygienic, anti-social, and not to mention abnormally given to blowing people up and therefore points to insanity. However, a person is responsible for his actions unless they are a pure reflex or the result of a delusional state utterly beyond rational control.

The writing of the “Unabomber Manifesto” demonstrated Kaczynski sanity while proclaiming a political motive for murder. The Unabomber’s seventeen year course of mail-bombings reiterates the notion that Kaczynski was in-fact sane because he obviously knew the nature and quality of his actions; otherwise what was the need for his secretiveness in a remote cabin. Kaczynski avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty on January 22, 1998. He later attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing it was involuntary. However, the judge upheld his guilty plea and Kaczynski is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility or parole.

The criminal justice system involves many aspects to assessing and understanding a criminal act but the system also tries to understand the behavior of a criminal. What is the driving force behind criminal behavior? To understand completely why a criminal behaves the way they do a set of theories has been developed to gain insight into the elusive mind of a criminal. Kaczynski’s behavior is applied to the Social Learning Theory developed by Ronald Akers which states that behavior is shaped by what are know as “behavioral reinforcers” which can be either good or bad.

Akers states that those behavioral reinforcers “usually come from social sources such as family or peer groups. ” Kaczynski’s criminal behavior was learned through the notion that he believed technology was the eventual downfall of mankind and it was his duty to harm those who disagreed. Kaczynski was very gifted in mathematics and science and at an early age learned how to construct explosive devices. Kaczynski behavior is easily inked to the fact that he despised technology as believed everyone should be one with nature.

Kaczynski behavior can be tied to the five modes of adaptation; more specifically to retreatism and rebellion. The first mode of adaptation which Kaczynski suffered from, which is retreatism, can be seen from the time he was young until his eventual capture. Growing up Kaczynski was always someone who kept to himself as described by neighbors. Dr. LeRoy Weinberg, a neighbor to the Kaczynski’s, said “I would see him coming in the alley. He’d always walk by without saying hello. Just nothing. Ted was a brilliant boy, but he was most unsociable.

This mode of adaptation can also be seen in where the Unabomber lived. After quitting his job for no apparent reason, a retreatist behavior, he moved out into the Montana woods, where his brother and he had purchased a cabin. Kaczynski would spend close to twenty years alone, isolated, and away from civilization which is the main issue for a retreatist. Another mode of adaptation which can be applied to Kaczynski is the idea of rebellion. Someone who is rebelling is someone who doesn’t conform to the goals of society and therefore believes he or she is in the right to create new social goals.

This mode of adaptation fit Kaczynski to a “T. ” Kaczynski believed that technology was not the savior of mankind but would eventually belittle mankind to the roles of house pets in today’s world. If the technology birth wasn’t ended and people didn’t return to living as one with nature, than mankind would be doomed to be controlled by technology. That was the whole motive behind all the mail bombs in Kaczynski’s mind, that is why most of his targets where related to computers; a relatively new technological advancement.

Kaczynski’s choice to rebel against technology and harm those who embraced it helps criminal profilers understand Kaczynski’s mindset and his behavior. The criminal justice system has been evolving throughout the course of history and has learned from its mistakes, but the one thing the system is improving on is understanding a criminal’s behavior and the psychoanalysis of that behavior i. e. why the person committed the crime and what could have caused the criminal to act the way they did. A set of theories has been developed to help people understand the criminal mind but I believe a criminal mind will never be completely understood.


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