Cover image for Creating born criminals
Creating born criminals
Rafter, Nicole Hahn, 1939-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [1997]

Physical Description:
xi, 284 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Introduction : born criminals, eugenics, and biological theories of crime -- Before eugenics : idiots and idiocy in the mid-nineteenth century -- Feeble-minded women and the advent of eugenic criminology -- Criminalizing the mentally retarded -- The rise of the moral imbecile -- Degenerates appear in the prison system -- The anthropological born criminal -- The criminal imbecile -- Defective delinquents -- Psychopaths and the decline of eugenic criminology -- Defective delinquent legislation -- The aftermath of eugenic criminology.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV6047 .R33 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Northeastern University criminal justice professor Rafter draws on institutional archives and multidisciplinary studies "to reconstruct eugenic theories of crime." She traces such concepts as "innate criminality" and "feeblemindedness" from 1875 through the 1920s and explores application of these ideas (nationally, but especially in New York State) in asylums for the mentally retarded and prisons for "defective delinquents" and other "born criminals." Though psychology's "psychopathology" eventually replaced eugenic criminology, Rafter sees the reemergence of "born criminal" concepts in recent theories; e.g., "the XYY, or extra male chromosome, explanation of criminal behavior; research on hereditary factors in aggression; family studies that attempt to isolate a genetic component; and . . . studies that, like The Bell Curve, find a relationship between low intelligence and criminal offending." This eugenic direction is disturbing, Rafter urges, since the "born criminal" metaphor separates "the world into two camps, the fit versus the unfit, the intelligent versus the mentally subnormal, the worthy versus the undeserving, Us versus Them." --Mary Carroll

Choice Review

Rafter's book is a comprehensive historical review of biological theories of crime, with an emphasis on eugenics and the defective delinquent movements. Contemporary developments in these movements are not covered. Rafter is well regarded for the excellent quality of her work on biological theories of crime. The book is well written, with extensive citations to the relevant literature; plates, illustrations, and tables are generally effectively integrated with the text. Extensive index and bibliography. Recommended for libraries serving departments of anthropology, criminal justice, criminology, psychology, and sociology. Upper-division undergraduates and above. R. T. Sigler; University of Alabama