And, does that matter?
There is a study looking at murderers with antisocial personality disorder that were either brought up in psychosocially deprived situations, or in benign environments. Deprived murderers showed fairly normal prefrontal functioning, while non-deprived murderers show reduced prefrontal functioning. This points to the possibility that some antisocial murderers are made biologically (i.e. 'my damaged brain made me do it') and some are made psychosocially (i.e. 'my poor environment and upbringing made me do it') (Raine et al., 1998). A question that the current legal system may have to deal with is, who's more to blame? Do one of these two populations deserve prison while the other should be given lighter sentencing in a forensic mental hospital? Or what about targeted sentencing? What if a drug were discovered that would almost completely reduce recidivism in those with poorly functioning prefrontal cortices? Should we then let them back on the streets as long as we can be certain they are taking their medications (e.g. through regular drug tests or possibly a surgically-implanted internal pump). Or what if it was found that those with bad upbringings, but properly functioning prefrontal cortices responded very well to cognitive therapy and group sessions, which greatly reduced their rate of recidivism? Could we then allow this group to go free, with strict parole and oversight by their psychologist? As of right now, there is no great treatment for antisocial personality disorders, either pharmacological or psychotherapeutic. But we do know that prison is not effective in reducing the rate of recidivism in those with antisocial personality disorders (Williams, 2006). In a population of criminals, all of which committed the same crime, all of which have the same psychological disorder, should we allow some to go free because they respond well to treatment, and continue to incarcerate the others just because they don't?
Raine A, Phil D, Stoddard J, Bihrle S, Buchsbaum M. Prefrontal glucose deficits in murderers lacking psychosocial deprivation. Neuropsychiatry Neuropsychol Behav Neurol. 1998 Jan;11(1):1-7.
Williams, D. Antisocial Personality Disorder. Peace and Healing. 2006. viewed 10Nov08 http://www.peaceandhealing.com/personality/antisocial.asp