Minnesota Youth Charged With Murdering Father Term Paper

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Minnesota Youth Charged With Murder

Analysis of Ratzlaff case according to principles of Psychology of Mind (POM) theory

In April 2006 Jeremiah Ratzlaff, a 16-year-old youth from Minnesota, was charged with murdering his father. Psychology of Mind (POM) theory, which proposes that all people have innate wellness and the potential for healthy functioning, is used to investigate the etiology of this offence, predictive factors and prevention strategies to prevent this type of crime, as well as possible criminal justice responses to this offence.

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Criminal behavior is described and understood using theoretical models. These models are based in concepts that attempt to explain the root causes of deviance and how they are further expressed through certain actions. It's difficult to understand or gain perspective on what could drive a person to commit a crime as heinous as murder. In spring of 2006, a 16-year-old youth, Jeremiah Ratzlaff, was charged with murder. Allegedly, Ratzlaff shot his own father in the back of the head, hid his body and further spoke to a friend regarding plans of burning the body (Stodghill, 2006; Stodghill, 2006). The youth expressed to a friend that he and his father got into and argument which escalated to his father pushing him around. Ratzlaff then went and retrieved a sawed-off shotgun from inside the house and shot his father in the head. He then placed the body in a brush pile close to the family's property and intended to return later and burn the body. How can behavior like this be explained? How is it possible for a person to reasonably believe that this sort of deviant behavior is a right, justified response to any situation?

Theorists utilize several different approaches to understand criminal behavior, and many are based in the fundamental principle that humans are either a) innately good or b) innately bad. Although this may seem over simplified, most theories uses this as a basis to explain behavior and its possible causes, the role of environmental factor, as well as predictive factors and possible treatments and interventions to curb problem behaviors.

Term Paper on Minnesota Youth Charged With Murdering Father Assignment

Psychology of Mind (POM) theory can be used to explain all forms of criminal and delinquent behavior through the logic of certain principles, and an accurate advanced understanding of these principles could contribute immensely to the field of criminology (Kelley, 1996). POM encompasses the three major principles of mind, consciousness and thought.

Mind, according to POM, is the ultimate source of experience. It is the source of the offender's thoughts, the offender's emotions and perceptions, as well as ability to have sensual experiences of the outside world (Kelley, 1996). Kelley (1996) offered the analogy of a movie projector to describe how an offender's thoughts are essentially projected from within to create an experience of life. Mind creates how we think about things, and it operates before thought. Therefore, it is conceptually impossible to have an intellectually complete or accurate model of mind. In regards to criminality, POM defines the mind of an offender as a neutral projector of all thoughts, which in its natural state is designed to function in a way that promotes health, intelligence, wisdom, and high self-esteem (Kelley, 1996).

Consciousness, the second major principle involved in POM, is defined as an offender's ability to be fully aware of an external reality (Kelley, 1996). This is the principle that uses the senses to bring thoughts to life, where thoughts are converted into experience. In the movie projector analogy offered by Kelley (1996), consciousness would be the light in the way that it is the power that makes images created by thought appear as a reality to the senses. The mind orchestrates thought and consciousness for the production of an experienced reality.

The third and final principle involved in POM theory is thought. Since mind and consciousness are both constants according to POM theory, thought is the only variable in psychological functioning (Kelley, 1996). In regards to the movie projector analogy, thought would be the film whose images come into existence when light (consciousness) is shone through it (Kelley, 1996). Moreover, POM sees thought as a natural life function, the ability of an offender to create images within his own being. Thought is a continuous process that is the source of moment to moment, changing life experience (Kelley, 1996).

There are two distinct, observable modes of thinking that dictate how thoughts are generated and used by offenders (Kelley, 1996). The first mode is called original or unconditioned thought, which is a rational, innate, insightful thought process. This is the source of common sense, psychological health, positive change and perspective (Kelley, 1996). This is the thought process which seems to be natural and unnoticed by most people, whereby people experience practical ideas and insights about their lives and gain greater understanding and perspective (Kelley, 1996). This represents the way the mind was intended to function, and learning occurs mostly through a process of realization and insight. Furthermore, original thought allows unconditioned modes of learning through insight to dominate (Kelley, 1996).

The second mode of thinking recognized by POM is conditioned or reactive thought (Kelley, 1996). This process involves the application of conditioned learning to circumstances, and it is a noticeable process that requires deliberate effort. The main goal in the utilization of this process is to forcefully find solutions and understandings based on a familiar personal frame of reference. Objectivity, creative ideas, and clarity do not come into play with this thought process, which is conditioned and results in experiences that are redundant and predictable (Kelley, 1996). This mode of thinking is what is generally considered by most to be "thought" since it is how we learned to deliberately use our mind (Kelley, 1996). The understandings gained through conditioned thought are based more on the apparent and interpretation rather than objectivity and insight (Kelley, 1996). The forms in which this mode of thinking takes are series of preconceptions, fixed attitudes, prejudices and expectations. The thought system of an offender predictably takes external events and circumstances and organizes them into specific perceptual patterns that fit with a predetermined personal reference frame (Kelley, 1996).

According to POM, the reason offenders commit crimes is because they are completely unaware of the screening and translating functions involved in thought systems (Kelley, 1996). This causes offenders to truly believe that their experienced beliefs, thoughts, and prejudices are in fact accurate representations of reality and not the subjective conditioned interpretations of circumstances that they actually are (Kelley, 1996). However, every offender is capable of the health unconditioned thinking that promotes understanding, perspective and psychological health, and prevention and treatment initiatives based on the principles of POM address these factors.

POM theory can be used to interpret and explain the murder case in which 16-year-old Jeremiah Ratzlaff killed his father with a gunshot to the head. The main principles of POM can give clarity to why this crime occurred and to what measures may be employed to predict and prevent the likelihood of crimes of this nature in the future. In addition POM theory may provide a foundational basis for treatment and criminal justice interventions for this crime.


What factors led to Jeremiah killing his own father? Several different approaches could be use in attempts to understand the details of this case. Theories of criminology that postulate the causation of deviant behavior often blend philosophical underpinnings with political ideology (Gregory, 2004). POM theory, which focuses on the inherent existence of wellness and potential within all people, could be used to identify factors involved in the Ratzlaff case that caused this youth to murder his father. At the root of all deviant behavior, according to POM, are feelings of insecurity and certain mood states (Kelley, 1996). Insecurity predisposes offenders toward unhealthy conditioned or reactive thinking. The degree to which an offender engages in conditioned or reactive thinking is directly correlated with the experience of insecure feelings. This relationship is the root cause of all delinquent behavior according to POM. Furthermore, the more insecure that an offender feels, the more likely he is to respond to situations using maladaptive insights and information based on past experience. This response is most likely the expression of an urge for deviant behavior in order to somehow relieve insecure feelings, even if it is temporary. Feelings of insecurity and subsequent conditioned thinking are the main components underlying criminality, and when an offender is entrenched in this state, he feels that it is necessary to take whatever measures in order to validate or prove his own personal warped view of reality. This often results in a continuous cycle of deviant, criminal behavior (Kelley, 1996).

One could postulate that Jeremiah Ratzlaff was plagued with feelings of insecurity when he committed the crime of murder against his father. The insecurities he felt caused him to resort to reactive, conditioned thinking, which is generally maladaptive. This type of thinking would cause him to make decisions to behave in certain desperate ways that would validate his worldview. His worldview probably included the idea… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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