Poverty & Programs

This article, A Home Remedy for Juvenile Offenders, strikes me as relevant to our earlier discussion on poverty and the brain.  While I think the emphasis on “therapy” places too much weight on psychology and the individual, nonetheless I admire the overall idea, as related here:

The basic idea is to reach and help borderline youths at a moment of crisis, and turn them away from a more serious criminal path. By treating them in the context of their families and environments rather than in isolation, officials found that recidivism was usually less than half that of residential correction programs. The city says that it hopes its program will be as successful, but that it will take many years before it can be sure. Still, at roughly $17,000 per child, such in-home therapy programs cost a fraction of the annual expense of keeping a child in secure detention, which can be $140,000 to $200,000. 

My hope is that anthropology can and will add to this sort of work.  Still, I am not sure anthropology has developed enough as an applied science where it can point to clear and specific ways to make a difference in these social and material environments (please comment if you do have some specific ideas or programs).  So the recognition of individual differences (including moments of crisis), the importance of life pathways, and the focus on social context strike me as quite a good start. 

2 thoughts on “Poverty & Programs

  1. “While I think the emphasis on “therapy” places too much weight on psychology and the individual”
    I think that certain types of “therapy” can be beneficial (CBT), but far too often “therapy” is not held up to the rigors of scientific validation.

    I am interested in transcranial magnetic therapy (TMS) and its use to manipulate brain functioning. I’m not sure if conventional TMS can activate the medial prefrontal cortex (perhaps the new “Deep TMS” will be able to do it). The medial prefrontal cortex is involved in empathy. People who have a dysfunction of this area of the brain have often lack empathy (asperger’s, narcissistic personality disorder, sociopaths). People with william’s syndrome have increased activation of the medial prefrontal cortex and are much more empathetic towards other human beings. So it would be interesting to use TMS to activate the medial prefrontal cortex to see if it could reduce criminality in certain individuals. I think that empathy deficits are often found in offenders, so activating this area of the brain might be beneficial. There is a considerable level of mental illnesses in both juvenile and adult offenders so TMS targeting deeper brain structures might also be able to reduce levels of psychoses, anxiety and depression depending on which brain area you hit.

  2. USA Today has an editoral, “A Path Out of Poverty,” documenting the ability of educational programs to work successfully with low-income students. The trick? Well, it’s a tall-order, but then again, it merely describes what happens at most upper-middle class schools: “[G]iven the proper instruction, low-income students can learn at the same level as their middle- and upper-income counterparts. I base that on hard data generated by the Niswonger Foundation, an educational foundation I run in some of the poorest counties in one of the nation’s poorest states: Tennessee… With high expectations, a challenging curriculum, well-trained teachers, involved parents and visionary school leaders, we can give students the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.”

    The link: http://news.yahoo.com/s/usatoday/20080303/cm_usatoday/apathoutofpoverty;_ylt=Ah7HcXqMcvJ8MOw0f0uIe8as0NUE

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