Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Biology, Psychopathy, and the Kingdom of God
I work with criminals. To be more specific I work with people negatively involved with the criminal justice system that have documented mental health issues. An interesting and frustrating group of people. The team I'm part of tries to tailor a specialized treatment plan to help them achieve a better quality of life and integrate into society in a way that isn't destructive to them or those around them.
Well, sometimes we run into someone that doesn't respond to treatment and they continue to move through the world violating the rights and persons of others.
I've got someone on my caseload who may be a psychopath. Now that's actually not quite as scary as it sounds. "Psychopath" as a category has gotten a bad rap due to it's misuse in modern media (TV and movies). The quick and dirty of it is someone that doesn't have a innate sense of morality like most of us. They understand the rules, but they don't find themselves invested in playing by them. The know the song, but they can't hear the music. That doesn't mean they are going to kill anyone. It does however mean you might not want afford them the same level of trust you would most people.
Now back to this fellow. We sent him away for evaluation and the report that was returned to us has all three evaluating parties recommending a prison sentence. Based on this report our team has to make a recommendation to a judge as to what should be done with him.
Is sending him to prison at all redemptive? Yes, I know he won't be victimizing regular citizens for the time he's behind bars. And I know that it will make some people feel better that he will be "paying for his sins" as it were. But is this working towards a solution to the issue?
It appears that his brain doesn't work in the same way as the rest of us, and quite possibly never will. Will a prison sentence profit him or anyone around him in the long run? Is this simply deferring a debt at a high interest rate? We send away a baby shark and in a couple of years the community gets a great white shark instead. Rather than helping anyone, victims or perpetrator, are we just continuing to aid in solidifying his character as a predator? If we're not going to gloss over issues like this and respond in an intelligent and redemptive way, what are we to do?