>The following report was originally published in: >Journal of African American Men 1:No. 3, 3-22. Winter 1995/96 >Campaigns Against Racist Federal Programs by the Center for >the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology > >by Peter R. Breggin, M.D. > >The Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology was founded in the >early 1970s to organize my international campaign to stop the resurgence of >lobotomy and other forms of psychosurgery or psychiatric brain surgery. >Initially, I had no idea that my campaign would end up focusing on the >racist intentions of federally funded biological psychiatrists and >neurosurgeons. I certainly could not have anticipated that twenty years >later, the Center would once again be fighting a government-sponsored racist >psychiatric program. This report tells the story of the first and second >violence initiatives and the Center's efforts to counter them. > >THE FIRST VIOLENCE INITIATIVE >In 1971 I discovered that psychiatrists and neurosurgeons were planning and >implementing a worldwide revival of psychosurgery. At the time I was not an >activist, but I was aware that no one had publicly opposed the first round >of lobotomies in the 1940s and 1950s. I decided to take a stand. >My medical training convinced me that improving the techniques of >psychiatric surgery-for example, by replacing the scalpel with hot >electrodes--would not make the interventions any less damaging. Without >harming the brain, there could be no "therapeutic" effect. The surgery must >destroy enough function to flatten the patient's emotions. There is no way >to accomplish that without creating more widespread mental devastation, >including the relative loss of essential human qualities such as creativity, >spontaneity, personal responsibility, self-insight, social sensitivity and >awareness, and judgment. Research and my personal experiences would confirm >this initial impression.2 >Psychosurgery, Individual Vulnerability, and Public Health >Shortly after beginning my opposition to psychosurgery, I came under attack >in the national media from an unexpected source, three Harvard >professors-psychiatrist Frank Ervin and neurosurgeons Vernon Mark and >William Sweet. Sweet was director of neurosurgery at perhaps the most >respected hospital in the world, the Massachusetts General. Mark was head of >the department of neurosurgery at Boston City Hospital. >As the controversy heated up, a physician who asked for anonymity directed >me to published remarks made by the three doctors concerning the use of >brain surgery to suppress black urban rioters. Soon after, in 1973, I >received a brown envelope from an unidentified source in the Department of >Justice (DOJ). It contained an in-house memo documenting that Mark and Ervin >were receiving funds from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for >experiments in psychosurgery for violence control. Meanwhile, Ervin was also >receiving money from the Department of Justice for research on genetic >factors in violent crime. Sweet was involved as a supporter, co-author, and >a member of the private foundation that funneled the government funds to >Mark and Ervin. >In a 1967 letter entitled "Role of Brain Disease in Riots and Urban >Violence" in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Mark, >Sweet and Ervin, much like current violence-initiative advocates, focused on >individual vulnerability rather than upon larger social, economic or >political factors. They asked, "if slum conditions alone determined and >initiated riots, why are the vast majority of slum dwellers able to resist >the temptations of unrestrained violence? Is there something peculiar about >the violent slum dweller that differentiates him from his peaceful >neighbor?" >Mark, Sweet and Ervin went on to suggest that this "peculiarity" was "brain >dysfunction." They called for large-scale studies of the inner city to >"pinpoint, diagnose, and treat those people with low violence thresholds >before they contribute to further tragedies." In a supportive "Medical News" >report a few weeks later, JAMA lauded Mark and Ervin's psychosurgery as a >"public health" measure. >Mark and Ervin must have felt they were on a heroic, Nobel Prize-winning >endeavor-providing a solution to worldwide mayhem, and especially to >America's urban uprisings. In 1968, a year in which they were aggressively >experimenting on patients, they wrote in Psychiatric Opinion that "brain >dysfunction" was "equally important" to "poverty, unemployment and >substandard housing" as a cause of urban violence. They estimated that tens >of millions of Americans might be violence prone as a result of brain >damage. >In testimony on civil disorders before a New York State legislative >committee in 1968 (Bird, 1968), William Sweet "said mass violence might be >touched off by leaders suffering from temporal seizures of the brain." Sweet >made a pitch for the electrical stimulation of surgically implanted >electrodes as a method of calming violent people. >Mark, Ervin and Sweet had their greatest PR coup when their work made the >cover of Life on June 21, 1968 (Rosenfeld, 1968). Life observed, "The >psychobiology approach, new as it is, is gaining adherents so fast that it >might almost be called a movement." Life seemed to endorse their efforts >toward biomedical social control: >In a slum neighborhood, everyone may live under the same frustrating set of >pressures and tensions, but only a small minority will engage in rioting, >and even among the rioters only a handful will actually burn down a building >or assault another person. Thus psychobiology proceeds on the premise that >violent acts are carried out by violent individuals, even if the individuals >are part of a mob. >The article gave a big spread to Mark and Ervin's psychosurgery for >violence. > >The fate of Thomas R >In their book, Violence and the Brain (1970), and elsewhere, Mark and Ervin >described Thomas R (sometimes called Leonard K) as a young white man largely >saved from epilepsy and completely saved from violence by psychosurgery. >When describing his outcome, they mention no serious side effects. He was >their star patient. >The patient's mother, Mrs. G., read my criticism of Mark and Ervin in the >Boston Globe and realized for the first time what had been done to her son. >She wrote to me that in reality he had been reduced almost to a "vegetable." >Thomas's tragic story is retold in detail in Breggin and Breggin, The War >Against Children. >Mark and Ervin Lose Their Funding >As a result of the antipsychosurgery campaign, all of Mark, Ervin and >Sweet's federal funding for genetic and psychosurgical experimentation was >cut off. As a long-delayed satisfaction to us, we learned this year that the >Center's campaign against the DOJ's Law Enforcement Assistance >Administration (LEAA) funding for Ervin had brought about a dramatic >reversal in official government policy. A guideline entitled "Use of LEAA >funds for Psychosurgery and Medical Research" was signed by the LEAA >administrator, Donald E. Santarelli, on June 19, 1974. The guideline >declared that any future grant applications for psychosurgery would be >denied. It further stipulated that all "medical research," unless risk-free, >would be denied and referred instead to the Department of Health, Education >and Welfare (DHEW, now DHHS). It forbid states to use LEAA block grants to >do psychosurgery or medical experimentation. >OPERATING ON LITTLE BLACK CHILDREN >As far as we know, Mark and Ervin did not perform their psychosurgery >experiments on any African Americans. With more limited political aims, >perhaps, another surgeon was operating on numerous black children. When I >began researching the return of psychosurgery in the early 1970s, I quickly >came upon the work of O.J. Andy, director of neurosurgery at the University >of Mississippi-Ole Miss-in Jackson. He was publishing reports on multiple >surgical interventions into the brains of small children, ages five to >twelve, who were diagnosed as aggressive and hyperactive. Of his 30-40 >patients, he wrote me in 1971, most were children. >Before the controversy hit the press, l phoned Andy, who told me he could >not recall the race of any of the children. Later I contacted a civil rights >attorney in Mississippi who was able to determine that most of them were >housed in a segregated black institution for the developmentally disabled. >The attorney got onto the wards, where the nurses told him with frustration >that Andy had a completely free hand in picking children for psychosurgery. >In 1966 Andy described J. M., age nine, who was "hyperactive, aggressive, >combative, explosive, destructive, sadistic." Over a three-year period Andy >performed four separate mutilating operations involving at least six lesions >with implanted electrodes. The youngster was at first said to be doing well. >In a subsequent 1970 article, Andy again claimed that J. M. is no longer so >combative and negative. Then he added, "lntellectually, however, the patient >is deteriorating." >While Andy did not take an activist political position like Mark, Ervin and >Sweet-he did tell B. J. Mason, a reporter for Ebony, that black urban >rioters "could have abnormal pathologic brains" and "should undergo tests >with whatever capacity we have now." Following world-wide publicity about >his operations during the antipsychosurgery campaign, in 1973 a committee of >his peers at the university declared his research experimental. When Andy >did not establish appropriate experimental protocols, he was prohibited from >operating. Andy himself declared in 1980 that he had been forced to stop >operating due to "sociological pressures" in his home community. > >VIOLENCE CENTERS THROUGHOUT URBAN AMERICA >In his 1973 State of the State message, California governor Ronald Reagan >announced plans for the establishment of a biomedical facility, the Center >for the Study of the Reduction of Violence. Supported by state and federal >funds, the first center was planned for the psychiatry department at UCLA, >headed by Louis Jolyn "Jolly" West, a flamboyant psychiatrist known for his >ability to hitch himself to hot topics. An early draft of West's proposed >UCLA center described using schools in Chicano and African American >neighborhoods to screen for possible genetic defects. It also mentioned the >possibility of psychosurgery. The suggestion of psychosurgery for control of >violence was especially menacing in California because Santa Monica >neurosurgeon M. H. Brown was strongly advocating it. In a January 22, 1972 >letter to the Los Angeles Times, he wrote "It is either this [psychosurgery] >or a further escalation of violence and chaos in society that does not serve >the best interests of the United States." >Meanwhile, Frank Ervin left the collapsing Boston project and came to join >West at UCLA. Ervin's arrival at this critical juncture alerted people to >the center's potential dangers. Despite denials from psychiatrists West and >Ervin, the discovery of references to genetics and psychosurgery in the >original proposal proved politically fatal. Opposed by the Center and a >coalition of west coast reformers,3 the planned string of federal violence >centers never got off the ground. >The Kaimowitz Trial >In 1972 the State of Michigan and the Lafayette Clinic of Wayne State >University began planning an experimental psychosurgery program for the >control of violence, using "voluntary" inmates of the state hospital system. >Gabe Kaimowitz, at the time a Michigan Legal Services lawyer, heard about >the upcoming medical event, and intervened in the court on behalf of "John >Doe" and two dozen other state psychiatric inmates scheduled for eventual >enrollment in the experimental program. >Comparing Blacks to Bulls >Ernst Rodin was the chief neurologist and the moving force behind the >Lafayette Clinic's psychosurgery project. In 1972, Rodin wrote a lengthy >speech describing psychosurgery and castration as fitting treatment for some >of the violent behavior displayed in the riots that had raged in his city of >Detroit. Rodin voiced doubts about doing psychosurgery without >sterilization, because with psychosurgery alone "the now hopefully more >placid dullard can inseminate other equally dull young females to produce >further dull and aggressive offspring." >Rodin argued that children of limited intelligence tend to become violent >when they are treated as equals. He wanted them brought up in an >"authoritarian life style," and declared that many of them, like aggressive >bulls, should be turned into docile oxen by means of castration. In the >neurologist's own words, it was time to "get down to cold-blooded medical >research dealing with individuals rather than masses." >The Verdict >Kaimowitz invited me to testify as his medical expert and during two days on >the stand, I gave a history of state mental hospitals and psychosurgery. I >wanted the three judges to understand that state mental hospitals are >similar to Nazi concentration camps in how they suppress and humiliate their >involuntary inmates; and I wanted to suggest the applicability of the >Nuremberg Code. >The Nuremberg Code was originally written into the final opinion of the >judges at the first War Crimes Tribunals in postwar Germany. It consists of >ten principles for "permissible medical experiments." The first principle >states in part that the human subject "should be so situated as to be able >to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of >force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of >constraint or coercion" (Trials of War Criminals, 1946-1949, pp. 181-182). >The Nuremberg Code meant that Jewish inmates of concentration camps were not >actually volunteers when they seemingly agreed to participate in medical >experiments, such as being frozen in ice water. If they did acquiesce to >these experiments, their consent was coerced by fear of other worse >alternatives, such as torture or death in the gas chambers. >After hearing a spectrum of witnesses, the three judges agreed with the >substance of my testimony, including the devastating effects of the most >modern psychosurgery.4 Their official opinion cited the Nuremberg Code and >used it as one reason for prohibiting consent to psychosurgery in the state >mental hospitals of Michigan. The judges found that "involuntarily confined >patients cannot reason as equals with doctors and administrators over >whether they should undergo psychosurgery." They declared that under First >Amendment freedoms the "government has no power or right to control men's >minds, thoughts, and expressions. If the First Amendment protects the >freedom to express ideas, it necessarily follows that it must protect the >freedom to generate ideas." >The opinion was never appealed and stands to this day. It continues to >inhibit the performance of psychosurgery throughout the country, especially >in state mental hospitals and prisons. >As described in The War Against Children, there are contemporary attempts to >revive lobotomy and other forms of psychosurgery, although none of the >advocates now dare tie their work to political aims. What keeps advocates of >psychosurgery from proceeding ahead full-throttle? Is it their own >scientific caution or ethical concerns? In Psychosurgery, (1992), Rodgers >quotes Donlin Long, the Johns Hopkins director of neurosurgery: >``You'd also need an institutional commitment to absolutely pristine science >and the guts to tell the Peter Breggins of the world to stuff it,' he [Long] >added, referring to psychiatrist Peter Breggin's lifelong battle to ban >psychiatric surgery. >RESULTS FOR THE FIRST VIOLENCE INITIATIVE >Overall, the Center's activities-supported by other activists and >organizations around the country-resulted in victory over the first violence >initiative. The most effective activists were found in the black community, >especially the Black Congressional Caucus. Louis Stokes (D-OH) and Ronald V. >Dellums (D-CA) became founding members of the Center's board of directors, >and have remained with the Center for the past twenty years. The single most >important media event was probably an article in Ebony written by B. J. >Mason (1973) in which he exposed the whole racist agenda. >In a surprising coalition, white conservatives in the U.S. Senate were also >instrumental in opposing some aspects of the first violence initiative, >especially the resurgence of psychiatric brain surgery. Their chief concern >was not racial justice but morality. To many of them, tampering with the >brain for emotional or behavioral control robbed individuals of personal >responsibility and was therefore unethical. >After the debacle of the late 1970s, leaders of biological psychiatry >avoided linking their efforts to anything that might be construed as a >racist political agenda. Unhappily, they could not be silenced or held in >check indefinitely. The rise of violent crime, renewed racism, and economic >stresses in the early 1990s provided them fertile ground. The polarization >in the country was symbolized, this second time around, by a tragic >political reality: Unlike their position in the first round, conservatives >would support the new biological racism. >THE SECOND VIOLENCE INITIATIVE >Rhesus Monkeys and Inner-City Youth >At the head of now disbanded Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health >Administration (ADAMHA), psychiatrist Frederick Goodwin was the federal >government's highest ranking psychiatrist and one of the world's leading >biological psychiatrists. He was thrust into the hot lights of national >media attention in early 1992 after he allegedly made remarks that compared >inner city youth to monkeys who live in a jungle, and who just want to kill >each other, have sex and reproduce. The statements in question were made at >a February 11 meeting of the prestigious National Advisory Mental Health >Council. One person in attendance, an African American government employee, >was offended enough to phone the Washington Post.5 >Ten days of escalating media debate and criticism ensued, at the end of >which Goodwin issued an apology. On February 21, 1992 he said he had >"learned all too painfully that the absence of malice or bad intentions does >not excuse the insensitivity" of his comments, adding, "In an effort to shed >light on the violence problem, I juxtaposed primate research to the problems >in our cities in a careless way. I regret this insensitivity." >Media controversy continued, but as yet no one had seen the actual >transcript of Goodwin's speech to the National Advisory Mental Health >Council. Meanwhile, Goodwin resigned as head of ADAMHA; but Louis Sullivan >immediately appointed him to a post he was already scheduled to assume, >director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Goodwin remained >well-placed to lead the violence initiative. >Defending Goodwin >The media coverage of Goodwin's apparently racist remarks was considerable, >and Congressman John Conyers, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, >demanded Goodwin's resignation. But then Conyers came under fire from the >Wall Street Journal in a March 9 editorial titled "The Speech Police." The >Washington Post followed with an editorial on March 21, "The Fred Goodwin >Case," stating that an otherwise great scientist and psychiatrist had made >an unfortunate slip. The newspaper commented, "this is the political high >season. When the going got tough, Dr. Fred Goodwin was out." > >DISCOVERING THE SECOND VIOLENCE INITIATIVE >In an effort to lend support to Congressman John Conyers, Ginger Ross >Breggin and I visited his office on March 17, 1992. There we read the newly >arrived verbatim transcript of Goodwin's remarks to the National Advisory >Mental Health Council. The transcript not only confirmed Goodwin's >comparison between monkeys and inner-city youth, it contained something far >more threatening. The government was indeed planning a program of urban >biomedical social control aimed at identifying and treating children with >presumed genetic and biological "vulnerabilities" that might make them prone >to violence in later years. >Goodwin described this inner city psychiatric intervention as "one of the >planning initiatives that is the top priority of the agency now for its >planning for the future-and what we mean here is the 1994 budget." >Goodwin emphasized NlMH's unique expertise and role in identifying the >vulnerable individual-the youngster who might grow up to be violent. He >spoke of "early detection" and "preventive interventions." While he >acknowledged that "psychosocial variables" do contribute to crime, he >focused on psychiatric concepts of "impulsivity," "biological correlates" >and "genetic factors." He said that genetic factors in violence and crime >"are very strong." >He discussed the need to identify specific populations for "extensive and >expensive productive interventions." Because the interventions would be >costly, it would be necessary to "narrow your focus on your population that >you are going to intervene in" to "hone down to something under 100,000." >Goodwin noted the public's concern over violent crime, and suggested that >there would be more political support or "leverage" for focusing on >individuals rather than on social reform or "large social engineering of >society." He cited gun control as an example of social engineering that >would draw less support than focusing on individual criminals. It was in >this overall context that Goodwin had made his comparison between inner-city >youth and monkeys in a jungle: >If you look, for example, at male monkeys, especially in the wild, roughly >half of them survive to adulthood. The other half die by violence. That is >the natural way of it for males, to knock each other off and, in fact, there >are some interesting evolutionary implications of that because the same >hyperaggressive monkeys who kill each other are also hypersexual, so they >copulate more and therefore they reproduce more to offset the fact that half >of them are dying. Now, one could say that if some of the loss of structure >in this society, and particularly in the high impact inner city areas, has >removed some of the civilizing evolutionary things that we have built up and >that maybe it isn't t just careless use of the word when people call certain >areas of certain cities jungles, that we may have gone back to what might be >more natural, without all of the social controls that we have imposed upon >ourselves as a civilization over thousands of years in our own evolution. >In March 1992, immediately after we obtained the transcript of Goodwin's >remarks to the National Advisory Mental Health Council, we began to organize >a national campaign against the government's plans. We started by sending >out hundreds and eventually thousands of reports from the Center for the >Study of Psychiatry and Psychology and by attempting to arouse media >interest. >Goodwin at the American Psychiatric Association >By the spring of 1992, the government was trying to evade the flak that >Goodwin had drawn over his comparison between monkeys and urban youth living >in a jungle. Our efforts to interest the media and the nation in the even >more ominous concrete plans for the violence initiative met with little >initial success. Then on May 5 Goodwin spoke to the annual convention of the >American Psychiatric Association on the subject of "Conduct Disorder as a >Precursor to Adult Violence and Substance Abuse." It would be the last time >he elaborated in a public forum on his views about violence prevention. >After carefully couching his remarks, Goodwin reached his main interest, >"focus on the violent-prone individual." He brought up the genetic question >and stated, as if it were a proven fact, "There is a genetic contribution to >antisocial personality disorder." According to Goodwin, while the genetic >factor in crime and violence is not "overwhelming," it is a prerequisite.6 >Without directly saying so, he was making clear that violent inner city men >have a predisposing genetic makeup. >Finding the Preliminary Plan >Under the Freedom of Information Act, we submitted requests to the >government for all documents pertaining to biological and medical research >into violence and Goodwin's proposed inner-city interventions. Stuffed >within one large batch of papers was an unsigned, three-page document dated >March 9, 1992 that bears a striking resemblance to Goodwin's May 1992 speech >at APA. It may have been a draft that was prepared prior to the outbreak of >the controversy. This document indicates that as of March 1992 someone at >NIMH-very possibly Goodwin himself-was relating the violence initiative to >pharmacological interventions, specifically including Prozac. >Was There a Written Plan ? >We always suspected that Goodwin's speeches-with their emphasis on >individual vulnerability, biology and genetics-reflected a formal written >plan for the 1994 budget. It was not until later in our campaign that a >source who wishes to remain anonymous provided us with a nine-page >single-spaced typewritten manuscript entitled "Violent Behavior: Etiology >and Early Intervention." The heading identifies it as a section from "ADAMHA >1994 Planning Documents" and Secretary of DHHS Louis Sullivan confirmed its >authenticity as ADAMHA's proposed violence initiative for the 1994 budget. >It probably dates from the first months of 1992 or earlier. >The plan's one-paragraph abstract summarizes that "minority populations are >disproportionately affected" and then points to "An emerging scientific >capacity to identify the individual determinants of behavior-at the >biochemical, psychological, and social/environmental levels." The proposal >further states, "Although the problem is societal in scope, our solutions >must reflect increasing scientific and clinical capacities to isolate and >target the individual determinants of violence." It emphasizes, "ADAMHA will >focus on individual vulnerability factors." >The 1994 budget planning document maintains that "the precursors of violent >behavior are evident at an early age." As the "precursors of future violent >behavior," it lists a broad spectrum of childhood behaviors: "physical >aggression, deviant behavior, attention deficits and hyperactivity-manifest >early on." >The goal is to develop new treatment approaches for the targeted >children-"to tailor clinical as well as population-based interventions to >[these] behavioral risk factors." ADAMHA will stress "the importance of >individual risk factors... in identifying and treating those who are likely >to engage in violent behavior." These treatments are linked to genetic >abnormalities in brain chemistry.7 Perhaps most potentially menacing, the >plan proposes research centers for "the testing of a variety of >interventions aimed at the individual, family and community." >THE CONTROVERSY HEIGHTENS >In the spring of 1992, talk radio and TV shows with large African American >audiences began responding to our educational campaign, beginning with WPFW >(Radio Pacifica Network) in Washington, DC and culminating in the summer >with news stories and two interview shows on Black Entertainment Television >(BET). The government seemed most affected by the response to two talk >shows, "Lead Story" and "Our Voices." Extensive mainstream media coverage >would follow; but African American show hosts began the process. >Beyond our personal network of friends and colleagues associated with the >Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology, most of our initial >support again came from African American activists, starting in Washington, >D.C. and then Harlem, Chicago, and Watts. Eventually, public support, like >the media interest, broadened to include many individuals, organizations, >and cities. The 26 members of the Congressional Black Caucus sought >Goodwin's ouster from ADAMHA and they also protested his appointment as NIMH >Director. The Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi), Blacks in >Government (BIG), the Black Business Alliance, the American Counseling >Association (the largest in the world), and the National Association for >Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA) also took strong stands against >Goodwin and the proposals for biopsychiatric interventions into the inner >city. >The "Crime Gene" Conference >After we had begun our initial efforts to publicize the violence initiative, >Ginger Ross Breggin and I received information that the University of >Maryland had received funds from the Human Genome Project to hold a >conference on "Genetic Factors in Crime." Developed by University of >Maryland professor David Wasserman, the conference was scheduled for October >9, 1992 at the university. After we obtained the conference brochure, we met >with three African Americans: Ron Walters, Director of the Department of >Political Science at Howard University; Lorne Cress-Love, a WPFW radio >columnist; and Sam Yette, former professor of journalism at Howard and >author of The Choice. We decided together to call for a halt to the >conference. >We based our initial opposition to the conference on its brochure, which >promoted research on the "genetic regulation of violent and impulsive >behavior." The supposed discovery of genetic factors in psychiatric >conditions was put forth as an encouraging precedent. The alleged failure of >psychosocial approaches was also cited: >But genetic research also gains impetus from the apparent failure of >environmental approaches to crime deterrence, diversion, and >rehabilitation-to affect the dramatic increases in crime, especially violent >crime, that this country has experienced in the past 30 years. >The conference brochure anticipated the possibility of treating genetically >"predisposed" individuals by means of "drugs," as well as unnamed less >intrusive therapies. To obtain federal funding for his proposed conference, >Wasserman had applied to NIH and the lengthy application read like an >elaboration of Goodwin's plans: >Genetic and neurobiological research holds out the prospect of identifying >individuals who may be predisposed to certain kinds of criminal conduct. .. >and of treating some predispositions with drugs and unintrusive >therapies.... Such research will enhance our ability to treat genetic >predispositions pharmacologically.... >The Human Genome Project >The "Genetic Factors in Crime" conference was funded by NlH's controversial, >highly publicized Human Genome Project.8 The Human Genome Project is a large >federal program aimed at mobilizing international science to map the >complete set of human hereditary factors. Supporters of the Human Genome >Project had gone as far as to suggest that homelessness and crime might be >solved as a result of its discoveries. >The idea of a conference linking crime and genetics caught the attention of >the media and the public. That critics were trying to stop the conference >from taking place heightened the drama. Concern spread to England and >Germany, countries in which the eugenics8 movement had thrived prior to >Hitler taking power. Comparisons were made between the theme of the >conference and similar discussions in Nazi Germany. Heated debate was >generated in major newspapers and magazines, and in scientific and academic >journals. It resulted in panels at political and scientific meetings, as >well as dozens of radio interviews and TV coverage. >The Cowering Inferno >A month before the conference, NIH withdrew its grant and the University of >Maryland cancelled the conference for lack of funds. But the university did >not reject or abandon the idea, continued to seek funding, and set in motion >a formal protest over NlH's withdrawal of support. Some defenders of >biomedical research into violence accused NIH of backing down out of >cowardice. In November 1992, The Journal of NIH Research called NIH the >"cowering inferno": >Curiously, however, NIH, NIMH, and HHS cowered from Breggin's criticism and >only recently have begun to respond to his accusations.' In addition to >NlH's halting the genetics and crime meeting, NIMH in early September >abruptly canceled a workshop on "Clinical Factors in Aggression slated for >Sept. 21-22. Goodwin . . was ordered by HHS officials to cancel [media] >interviews. >Academic freedom or Political Irresponsibility? >The Human Genome Project has enormous prestige. We feared that its support >for the genetics conference legitimized a debate with no substance, making >it appear as if there must be something worth discussing. After all, why >would the Human Genome Project hold a conference with no scientific merit? >Why would it hold a conference that moved America one step closer to >biomedical social control? >Experience convinced us that whatever might actually be debated at the >conference, the press would play up the biological and genetic arguments. >Biopsychiatric claims regularly make newspaper headlines, while psychosocial >ones almost never do. While conference advocates claimed it would stir up >"healthy public controversy," we felt it would encourage the false >conclusion that violent criminals are genetically flawed. Opposition to the >conference, as it turned out, created a much larger and more searching >public discussion than the unopposed conference possibly could have done. >The Justice Department's Version of the Violence Initiative >While our initial focus was on the health agencies, we gradually put >together information showing that another part of the government was already >sponsoring a large-scale version of Goodwin's plans. Entitled the "Program >on Human Development and Criminal Behavior," it is funded by the Department >of Justice (DOJ) and the MacArthur Foundation, probably with money from NIH >as well. In the words of a 1992 brochure from the DOJ, "It represents an >unprecedented partnership between federal government and a private >foundation." >The director of the project, Felton Earls, as well as codirector Albert J. >Reiss, Jr., were key figures in developing the NRC's blueprint for the >violence initiative. Earls-himself an African American-is professor of child >psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and professor of human behavior and >development at the Harvard School of Public Health. Reiss is a professor of >sociology at Yale's Institute for Social and Police Studies, and lectures at >the law school. >Earl's vision, like Goodwin's, is based on "disease prevention" (Earls, >1991) and aims at screening and identifying individual children as potential >offenders in need of preventive treatment or control. According to the DOJ, >nine groups of subjects, "starting prenatally and at ages 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, >18, 21, and 24, will be followed for 8 years." A total of 11,000 people will >be studied. The project will "link key biological, psychological, and social >factors that may play a role in the development of criminal behavior" and >search for "biological" and "biomedical" markers for predicting criminality. >Again according to the DOJ, the first of the project's "Questions to be >answered" is: >Individual differences. What biological, biomedical, and psychological >characteristics, some of them present from the beginning of life, put >children at risk for delinquency and criminal behavior? >This is entirely consistent with Goodwin's plan. >While Earls also believes in the importance of the environment, he focuses >his project on the role of biological and genetic factors in predisposing >the individual and perhaps in driving him toward violence and crime. In a >1991 publication, "A Developmental Approach to Understanding and Controlling >Violence," he writes that "advances in the fields of behavior genetics, >neurobiology, and molecular biology are renewing the hope that the >biological determinants of delinquent and criminal behavior may yet be >discovered." In discussing "key developmental questions" that he wishes to >answer, Earls emphasizes genetic and biological factors. >Earls declares there is evidence for a genetic factor "in violent behavior >among individuals." But the Mednick, Brenna and Kandel (1988) study that he >cites as evidence comes to the opposite conclusion, stating definitively >that it could "find no evidence of hereditary transmission of violent >criminal behavior" and that "a genetic predisposition to violence was not >supported by this review of our data." (Interestingly, Frederick Goodwin had >also incorrectly cited Mednick studies). Earls believes that spinal taps are >intrusive and unwarranted by our current state of knowledge, but wants to >measure the brain's chemical activity through blood samples, and >testosterone levels through saliva.11 >The project is receiving an estimated $12 million per year for the eight >years from all sources, including some previously unidentified money from >NIH. The combining of Harvard and Yale, the Department of Justice, NIH, and >a prestigious private foundation raises the political specter of psychiatric >social control. It is truly Big Brother in scope. >We originally heard a rumor that the violence initiative controversy was >making it difficult for Earls to get communities to accept his project. >Eventually Earls himself declared that due to our campaign against his >project, he was forced to drop biologically intrusive elements, such as >spinal taps. > >THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE SECOND VIOLENCE INITIATIVE >The federal umbrella program called the violence initiative was withdrawn as >a result of the controversy initiated by the Center for the Study of >Psychiatry and Psychology. While individual programs continued to be >sponsored by the federal government, there would be no overall coordinated >policy. Frederick Goodwin, meanwhile, resigned from the federal government >to become a professor at George Washington University. >The overall result, however, is not nearly so positive. As documented in The >War Against Children, many biopsychiatric leaders in the federal government >continue to view violence as genetic and biological in origin, and many >federally funded projects investigating such views continued unabated. A >multimillion dollar program, for example, is promoting the use of Ritalin >for the control of disruptive behavior. Other projects continue to seek >genetic and biological causes for violence. >Earls's violence initiative project has finally located a welcoming >city-Chicago. At this moment, it has already begun implementation, although >leaders in that city are organizing to counter it. While it seemingly has >given up its original biological research aims, Earls's program remains >focused on the individual and the family, instead of on racist national >policies that create the problems in the inner city. >Finally, the "Genetic Factors in Crime" conference was held in 1995 by the >University of Maryland, although with a more balanced format. NIH decided >that the funds had been taken away improperly. >For Whom the Bell Tolls >As the controversy over the violence initiative simmered down, another >scientific assault was mounted on the African American community. This new >racist manifestation grows from the same political and social roots as the >violence initiative. It is spearheaded by the best-selling 1994 book, The >Bell Curve, authored by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. The book >purports to prove that Africans, including black Americans, are genetically >deficient in intelligence. It promotes programs that would ultimately cut >off aid to most black mothers and their children. The concept that African >American youth are both genetically violent and genetically stupid >resurrects the discredited King Kong image of black American males. > >VIOLENCE AS A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE >A public health approach to crime prevention sounds scientific and humane. >It gains authority from a respected tradition of life-saving interventions. >But is the violence initiative really in the tradition of public health? >In reality, public health moves beyond medicine's typical emphasis on >individual vulnerability. It focuses on the broader environmental and social >factors that affect human well-being and disease. >When public health officials realized that foul water can spread disease, >individuals were no longer blamed for getting physically ill. It wasn't the >"bad habits" or "weak heredity" of the poor, but deadly micro-organisms in >the city water. Instead of spinning wheels over why some people got sicker >than others, water quality and sanitation were improved, with dramatic >results. >Smog remains a serious public health threat. While there is considerable >individual variability in reaction to air pollution- some people hardly >notice it and others die from it-the public health strategy attacks the >source of the problem. When air quality improves, all individuals benefit >and severe reactions are minimized. >Recently there have been incidents of food poisoning at fast food >restaurants. Some people got sicker than others, and some may not have >gotten sick at all; but instead of focusing on these individual differences, >the public health approach led to tighter regulation of the safety of meat. >The government focus on vulnerable individuals actually abandons public >health in favor of traditional medicine. It obscures the reality that the >high rates of physical aggression cannot be understood outside the larger >environmental context. While it is important to hold individuals morally >responsible for their conduct, when the rate of crime seems to abruptly >escalate within an oppressed minority, it becomes critical to look for >causes beyond the individual and ultimately beyond the local community. >Why would the government pervert the concept of public health? The violence >initiative was timed with the election year to distract voters from larger >political factors impinging on the inner city, such as poverty, >unemployment, inadequate or absent health care, the unavailability of >housing, the decay of the schools, and racism. It supported the growing >political tendency to blame poverty, crime and other social phenomena on >individuals and their families rather than on public policy, economics, and >broader social issues, such as racism. It is time to unambiguously condemn >all pseudo-scientific research that distracts America from its fundamental >social and economic problems, including racism. >A PERSONAL CONCLUSION >Iam white and Jewish. It feels like a special honor to work in close >association with African Americans on behalf of human liberty and mutual >respect. As I look back on the fight against the first and second violence >initiatives, it strikes me that the victories would not have been won >without the vigorous participation of African Americans. Often the dominant >white society seems indifferent to the various psychiatric abuses, whether >they affected blacks or the entire society. For example, I had little >success in opposing the return of lobotomy until its effects on the blacks >aroused their concerns. Right now the drugging of children in general >escalates in America, with millions of school-boys and girls on Ritalin and >other psychiatric medications. Yet it is only among blacks that I have found >any concerted ethical or spiritual outrage over the medical diagnosing and >drugging of America's children. It is ironic indeed that the black community >remains a bulwark of ethics, social conscience, and empathy for children >within the very society that so oppresses it. >NOTES >Much of this article is adapted from The War Against Children (1994) by >Peter R. Breggin, M.D. and Ginger Ross Breggin by permission of St. Martin's >Press. The book contains additional details and citations. The author's >critique of biological psychiatry is further elaborated in Toxic Psychiatry >(1991 ) and Talking Back to Prozac (1994) (with Ginger Ross Breggin). >1. The Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology is a nonprofit >research and educational network founded in the early 1970s by Peter Breggin >and twenty other individuals, including reform minded mental health >professionals and members of the U.S. Congress and Senate. Its board of >directors and advisory council now have more than a hundred members. >2. For citations concerning psychosurgery, see Breggin and Breggin, The War >Against Children. >3. Opposition to the violence centers was broadbased: psychologist and >attorney Edward M. Opton, Jr., psychiatrists Lee Coleman and Phil Shapiro, >civil rights and women's groups, African American activists, and many >psychiatric survivors, including Leonard Frank and Wade Hudson. >4. The technique of psychosurgery has not changed since the Kaimowitz case. >5. None of the leading mental health professionals in attendance at the >meeting made any complaints about Goodwin's remarks. >6. The lack of evidence for these assertions is discussed in Breggin and >Breggin, The War Against Children. >7. As Elliot Currie commented on the ADAMHA document in the Journal of NIH >Research, "Most strikingly, it repeatedly affirms-without supporting >evidence-the importance of genetic predispositions in explaining inner-city >violence, as if the assertion of those connections were not controversial." >In the March 1993 issue, Sullivan rebutted Currie and Currie answered his >criticism. >8. NlH's National Center for Human Genome Research (the Human Genome >Project) funded the project through its Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues >Program (ELSI). >9. Eugenics, the use of coercive government policies to improve the genetic >stock of a society, is discussed further in Breggin and Breggin, The War >Against Children. >10. Did NIH and its giant parent agency, the Department of Health and Human >Services (DHHS), cave in before one person's-really one couple's-criticism? >While we started the ball roiling and worked hard to educate the public and >the professions, many organizations and individuals-especially from the >African-American community-joined the avalanche of criticism against both >the violence initiative and the conference. That opposition remains active >today. >11. Testosterone level differences among individual men are not correlated >with violence. The Earls study did carry out testosterone studies, but then >declared it was giving up all biologically intrusive interventions in >response to our campaign against them. >REFERENCES >Andy, O. J. (1966). Neurosurgical treatment of abnormal behavior. American >Journal of Medical Sciences 252:232-238. >Andy, O. J. (1970) Thalamotomy in hyperactive and aggressive behavior. >Confinia Neurologica 32, 322- 325. >Bird, D. (1968, August 4). More stress urged on causes of civil disorders. >New York Times, p. 19. >Breggin, P. (1991). Toxic psychiatry. New York: St. Martin's Press. >Breggin, P. and Breggin G. (1994). The War Against Children: How the drugs, >programs, and theories of the psychiatric establishment are threatening >America's children with a medical 'cure' for violence. New York: St. >Martin's Press. >Breggin, P. and Breggin G. (1994). Talking back to Prozac. New York: St. >Martin's Press. >Earls, E (1991). A developmental approach to understanding and controlling >pediatrics 5,61-88. New York: Plenum Press. >Kaimowitz v. Department of Mental Health. (1973, July 10). Civil Action No. >73-19434-AW (Wayne County, Michigan, Circuit Court). >Mark, V. and Ervin, F. (1970). Violence and the brain. New York: Harper & >Row. >Mason, B. J. (1973, February). Brain surgery to control behavior: >Controversial operations are coming back as violence curbs. Ebony, Vol. >XXVII, No. 4, p. 63. >Mednick, S. A., Brenna, P. and Kandel, E. (1988). Predisposition to >violence. Aggressive Behavior 14, 25- 33. >Rodgers, J. E. (1992). Psychosurgery: Damaging the brain to save the mind. >New York: HarperCollins. >Rodin, E. (1972, March 27). A neurological appraisal of some episodic >behavior disturbances with special emphasis on aggressive outbursts. Exhibit >AC-3 in Kaimowitz. Date is from the exhibit stamp. The document is undated. >Rosenfeld, A. (1968, June 21). The psychobiology of violence. Life, pp. >67-71. >Trials of war criminals before the Nuernberg military tnbunal, volumes / and >11 (October 1946-April 1949). Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing >Office.
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