Psychological Factors in Criminal Justice – Literature review Example

The paper "Psychological Factors in Criminal Justice" is an excellent example of a literature review on psychology. The motivation behind criminal behaviours has been baffling investigators and doctors for centuries. The repetitive and ritualistic manner of their offences is something that society has been trying to answer, particularly the lack of total absence of remorse of the perpetrator committing it. Understanding criminal behaviours are often been based on various theories as well as the biases and assumptions involved in assessing serial killers. This literature review will examine the life and crimes of Peter Kürten, the ‘Dusseldorf Vampire’ who murdered at least nine people and performed other violent assaults on unsuspecting victims. Criminal behaviour is a phenomenon that is difficult to underLiterary Review: Peter KürtenCriminal behaviours have been recorded for centuries. They consist of antisocial acts that are sexually motivated and may include homicide, arson, voyeurism, exhibitionism, rape, and child molestation as explained in Schlesinger’s (2008) study. These crimes are also committed in a repetitive manner and ritualistic fashion against victims of similar characteristics. Yet despite the repetitive nature of these offences, it is quite baffling that some criminals are difficult to apprehend. This was the case of German serial killer Peter Kürten, the so-called "Dusseldorf Vampire" who murdered at least nine people from 1913 until his surrender in the year 1931 (Biography.com Editors, 2016). This literature review will discuss the case of Peter Kürten and its relation to understanding two important elements: the theories of criminal behaviour, and how biases and assumptions influence our assessment of individuals. It is crucial to conduct studies that will help further the knowledge on how to protect society from becoming victims of compulsive-repetitive crime offenders. Theories of Criminal Behavior The childhood of Peter Kürten was that of extreme deprivation and poverty. Born to an alcoholic father, Peter, his mother and his siblings were often subjected to physical abuse and sexual violence. His unhealthy relationship with a dog-catcher at the age of 9 also influenced Kurten to practice bestiality which extended to gaining pleasure from stabbing animals while having intercourse with them (Crime+Investigation, 2018). Petherick (2009) explained this trait through the theory of interpersonal coherence where an offender who manifests anger at the crime scene is regarded as generally angry in his or her daily life. Associating crime behaviours with the offender’s characteristics has been used in profiling, especially in predicting if an individual may, in time, pose a threat of violence. Scott’s (2001) study provided that serial killers are both rational and calculating which make them even more dangerous. They tend to have a number of excuses for their behaviour like cultural conditioning, hormones, genetics, brain injuries, etc. According to Scotts, statistics provide that an average serial killer in western countries is a white male from lower to the middle-class background. Many were either adopted or had to endure physical or emotional abuse from parents. Red flags may also appear during childhood stage which consists of behaviours like setting fires, torturing animals, and bed wetting. They also use certain skills to their advantage in order to gain access to their victims, such as those with highly intelligent individuals with promising professional careers, or those with fascination into becoming police, security guards or serving in the military. When it comes to choosing their victims, serial killers tend to choose weaker stereotypes or those with symbolic meaning, such as murderer who would kill college women with long, brown hair as they reminded him of his fiancée who broke off their engagement.The Influence of Biases and Assumptions Kürten’s unspeakable crimes and insatiable sexual bloodlust left many people bewildered. Doctors even cut open his head to find any brain abnormalities that will explain why the Vampire of Dusseldorf found pleasure in murdering at least nine people and drinking their blood (White, 2018). The criminal even mocked them by returning to the crime scene and speaking to unsuspecting police investigators. One survivor, Gertrude Schulte, described Kürten as a ‘pleasant-looking’ male (Finbow, 2014). Wallace’s (2016) study provided the concept of confirmation basis which states that people tend to selectively pay attention to information that is consistent to their prior convictions. Base upon this premise, Kürten’s crime investigators may have been subjected to the psychological phenomenon of cognition error which affected their information processing and decision making as to the suspect’s real identity. As demonstrated by Walsh and Hemmens (2010), some perpetrators of anti-social crimes do not fit the demographic profile of usual crime suspects. In fact, there are many traits that psychologists and psychiatrists provide in explaining individual criminality, and these go beyond the components of age, race, gender, and socioeconomic status. What is even spine-chilling is the fact that they can go on with their lives so casually and emotionlessly, leaving potential victims caught in an off-guard moment during an assault. Kürten’s antisocial behaviour was the outcome of his hostile background and upbringing but despite his criminal records, the police struggled in piecing together the conflicting parts of his life as he portrayed himself as a good-natured individual. Apparently, the likes of Kürten swindle the community with their double lives by appearing as a devoted family member to his spouse or children. It would only take a skilled profiler to suggest about a criminal’s true identity after analyzing the latter’s earlier encounters which may be sexual, violent, etc. (Hughes, 2011).        Conclusion Criminal behaviour is a cycle of gruesome acts stemming from the perpetrator’s inner pain and turmoil that is difficult to understand. One of the common questions about serial killers like Peter Kürten is the difficulty of catching them until they are caught or killed. It is easy to avoid a mentally ill individual who is physically unkempt. But the case is different from serial killers who lure their victims with their misleading normalcy and politeness. Criminal behaviour is comparable to an illness with no cure and a manner with no sole reason for justification. It would be best for those who are capable of reason to always remain vigilant for their protection.     

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