In casual conversations, homicidal thoughts aren’t taken seriously.
However, for few, those thoughts may transpire to dangerous violence. And it’s those people, according to researchers, that may hold the key to reducing the crime rate.
In a new study, published in the American Journal of Criminal Justice, identifying criminal offenders with homicidal idealization, regardless of real intent to harm, could result in changes to sentences.
Matt DeLisi, an ISU professor of criminal justice, found that criminals who displayed signs of homicidal thoughts were more likely to commit a series of serious crimes.
Although homicidal thoughts are mere fantasies, in which a 1993 study suggested as much as 79 percent of men have these thoughts, there are very few exceptions where those thoughts progress to an act of killing, given the right circumstances.
For most people, homicidal idealization is short-lived, and once the individual cools down, so do the thoughts too, said DeLisi.
However, certain people carry life-long anger, psychopathological traits, and hostility, which fuels the need to commit such horrendous crimes.
According to DeLisi, out of all the offenders who participated in the study, only 12 percent had homicidal thoughts.
While the number is small, it does indicate the possibility of more severe crimes such as kidnapping, murder, assault and armed robbery, the study suggested.
On average, based on the findings, the offenders who committed their first crime at the age of 14, which proceeded to nearly three dozen arrests and 20 convictions, were five times more likely to be imprisoned or violate probation persistently.
“It’s important to understand these offenders because they commit so many more severe crimes, which allows you to do more from a policy perspective,” DeLisi stated.
“Many of these offenders should probably never be released from confinement, and we may need to rethink sentencing guidelines for these individuals.”