Minority Report or plain old eugenics?

The latest victim of pixie dust is ACPO’s spokesman on DNA, who opines that small children should be put on NDNAD if they show signs of becoming criminals in later life. Quite rightly, Shami Chakrabarti recommends that he:

“go back to the business of policing or the pastime of science fiction novels”.

So how, exactly, do our public masters predict that a child will grow up to be a criminal? We’ve already outlined the research that Blair seized upon to justify his “menaces to society” outburst and, rather than repeating that, recommend a quick refresher before reading any further.

It’s also important to know that Feinstein (author of the research) wasn’t just talking about the likelihood of committing crime. Included in the list of ‘poor outcomes’ that he believed could be predicted were obesity, smoking and not voting, although you have to trawl the full, lengthy research document to discover that. The heavily-spun summary version implies it’s all about crime.

Tomorrow’s Fish and Chips Paper asks exactly how ACPO’s spokesman proposes to determine who is exhibiting potentially criminal behaviour. For that, we need to turn to the ‘predictive’ tools in use.

The most obvious example comes from RYOGENS -‘Reducing Youth Offending Generic National Solution’. This also has the advantage that its ‘checklist’ is available on the web, albeit in archives. It used to be on the RYOGENS website but vanished shortly after we referred to it in the FIPR Report on children’s databases.

As an aside, RYOGENS was developed by Deloittes with ODPM funding (the same Deloittes that carried out the recent independent research on behalf of the government into the security of Contactpoint). It has since been handed over to Esprit Soutron.

So, here’s that RYOGENS checklist, derived from tools such as ONSET, a Youth Justice Board system also designed to ‘predict’ offending behaviour. It makes sobering reading. While one or two of the items on the list would undoubtedly be worrying signs, what about the clear bias against those who are poor? We have, for instance:

– Living in high crime area
– Lack of facilities / equipment
– Financial and/or housing difficulties
– Substance availability
– Frequently moving house

These are problems of poverty. Yes, we already know that there is a clear link between poverty and crime. We also know that putting resources into deprived areas has a beneficial effect. But that’s one hell of a long way from being able to say that a child growing up in poverty will become a criminal. The idea that criminality can be predicted is not just insulting to families struggling on the breadline; it is repulsively eugenic.

Is ACPO really saying that children living in poverty on abysmal estates should automatically be entered on to the National DNA Database? Because if they really want to use ‘predictive’ tools to decide which children should be on it, that is the inevitable result.

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One Response to Minority Report or plain old eugenics?

  1. […] ARCHrights on the infants on DNA database proposal March 18, 2008 Read it! […]

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