It began innocently enough: scholars coming together at a Maryland conference to discuss the possible genetic explanations for criminal behavior. Little did the researchers, professors, and other scholars in attendance know that their conference would be continually referred back to in future discussions and articles concerning the vicious debate over crime and its biological or social roots. During the infamous discussion, about thirty protestors burst into the building and using a bullhorn, lectured participants about the dangers of biological determinism and tried to shut down the conference resulting in threats, scuffles, and anger on both sides (Wheeler A10). It was only the beginning. .
What the protestors were mainly afraid of was that research in an effort to determine genetic causation of crime would be used for eugenic or racist purposes (Wasserman 107). Signs reading "Jobs not Prozac" and "This Conference Predisposes Me to Disruptive Behavior Disorder" were held up (Powledge 7), and as the protestors entered and were escorted out of the meeting room they chanted slogans such as "Maryland conference, you can't hide. We know you"re pushing genocide." Participants also reminded scholars about the eugenics movement in America and overseas in the 1900's that resulted in discrimination, genocide, and forced sterilization of immigrants and other possible "undesirables." Katheryn Russell, a criminologist at the University of Maryland pointed out that "a lot of well-meaning people espoused eugenics, and a lot of defenseless people were hurt as a result" (Powledge 9).
Genetic researchers and critics alike agree that criminal behavior is poorly defined and socially constructed, but the views of this problem are vastly different between the two. Whereas the critic sees this problem as "insurmountable," researchers see the problems as "real, but overstated"(Wasserman 107).