Police and prison, punishment and rehabilitation are the watchwords of crime control and prevention that have prevailed in most of the developed industrial world. None of these goes to the underlying roots of the problem of crime, however, and eventually, any world-state will need to address root causes if the issue of crime is to realistically come under control. It is not the case that the root causes have not been explored or are unknown. Sri Aurobindo takes up the question and sets forth the various directions that were current at the time of his writing. Some of the causative factors posited included possible links to genetics, and not long after he wrote about this, it became clear that this theory would play a major role in the direction taken toward “racial purity” in the Third Reich, and that elimination of breeding potential, including both mass extermination and sterilization, was attempted there. The focus on eugenics was not limited to Nazi Germany however, and various experiments with sterilization among specific groups of people were adopted in places in the United States, among other nations. The question of genetic factors as causative of crime has also been inextricably linked by those with a clearly racist agenda attempting to subjugate people based on skin color. This experiment shows that care must be taken in the examination of root causes and possible cures to ensure there is no hidden agenda or bias in the review. Today more attention is being paid to the role of systematic oppression and limitation of opportunities and access to resources by a small group of elite “owners” and “controllers” in the world, and the impact this has on the impetus to violence, theft and other measures that may be termed “criminal” but seen from a causative light, may be looked upon as desperate self-preservation responses in an imbalanced system. This illustrates that there are many potential causative factors to be looked at in order to find a comprehensive approach to the problem of crime.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “For the second necessity it would feel would be the need to deal with crime at its roots and in its inception. It may attempt this, first, by a more enlightened method of education and moral and temperamental training which would render the growth of criminal propensities more difficult; secondly, by scientific or eugenic methods of observation, treatment, isolation, perhaps sterilisation of corrupt human material; thirdly, by a humane and enlightened gaol system and penological method which would have for its aim not the punishment but the reform of the incipient and the formed criminal. It would insist on a certain uniformity of principle so that there might not be countries that would persevere in backward and old-world or inferior or erratic systems and so defeat the general object. For this end centralisation of control would be necessary or at least strongly advisable. So too with the judicial method. The present system is still considered as enlightened and civilised, and it is so comparatively with th mediaeval methods; but a time will surely come when it will be condemned as grotesque, inefficient, irrational and in many of its principal features semi-barbaric, a half-conversion at most of the more confused and arbitrary methods of an earlier state of social thought and feeling and social life.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 26, The Need of Administrative Unity, pg. 230