Chapter 3 the early schools of criminology and modern counterparts
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Chapter 3 The Early Schools of Criminology and Modern Counterparts. Chapter Summary. Chapter Three is an overview of classical, positivist, and neoclassical theories of crime.

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Chapter 3 The Early Schools of Criminology and Modern Counterparts


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Chapter Summary

  • Chapter Three is an overview of classical, positivist, and neoclassical theories of crime.

  • The Chapter begins by outlining the main assumptions of classical theory, and follows with an analysis of the theoretical framework.

  • The Chapter continues with an evaluation of the positivist approach as well as a comparison of the classical theories and the positivist theories.


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Chapter Summary

  • In the third section of the Chapter, the author discusses the neoclassical theories that emerged in the 1970’s, as well as an analysis of these theories.

  • In the concluding section of the Chapter, the author discusses the policy implications that arise out of the discussed theoretical frameworks.

  • Understand the Enlightenment’s affect on criminology.


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Chapter Summary

  • Understand Beccaria’s impact on modern punishment

  • Compare Bentham with modern rational choice theories

  • Analyze and critique positivism

  • Understand neo-classicalism and how this theory relates to modern criminology

  • Understand the implications of theory on public policy


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The Classical Scholars

  • Modern criminology is the product of two main schools of thought: The classical school originating in the 18th century, and the positivist school originating in the 19th century.


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Pre-Classical Notions of Crime & Criminals

  • Prior to the eighteenth century, explanations

    of a wide variety of phenomena tended to be

    of a religious or spiritual nature.


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Pre-Classical Notions of Crime & Criminals

  • Demonological explanations of crime began to wane in the 18th century with the beginning of a period of historians call The Enlightenment, which was essentially a major shift in the way people began to view the world and their place.


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Pre-Classical Notions of Crime & Criminals

  • Enlightenment thinkers focused on the dignity and worth of the individual.

  • A view that would eventually find expression in the law & the treatment of criminal offenders.


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The Classical School: Cesare Beccaria and Reform

  • The father of classical criminology is generally considered to be Cesare Bonesana, Marchese di Beccaria.

  • Dei Delitti e della Pene (On Crimes and Punishment) (1764): This book is an impassioned plea to humanize and rationalize the law and to make punishment more just and reasonable.


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The Classical School: Cesare Beccaria and Reform

  • Beccaria did not question the need for punishment, but he believed that laws should be designed to preserve public safety and order, not to avenge crime.

  • To ensure a rational and fair penal structure, punishments for specific crimes must be decreed by written criminal codes, and the discretionary powers of judges severely curtailed.


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Jeremy Bentham and Human Nature

  • Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) is a philosophy of social control based on the principle of utility, which prescribed “the greatest happiness for the greatest number.”

  • Any human action at all should be judged moral or immoral by its effect on the happiness of the community.

  • Hedonism: A doctrine with the central tenet that the achievement of pleasure or happiness is the main goal of life.


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Jeremy Bentham and Human Nature

  • Rational behavior is behavior that is consistent with logic.

  • Hedonism and rationality are combined in concept of the hedonistic calculus, a method by which individuals are assumed to logically weigh the anticipated benefits of a given course of action against its possible costs.


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Jeremy Bentham and Human Nature

  • Free will enables human beings to purposely and deliberately choose to follow a calculated course of action.

  • If crime is to be deterred, punishment (pain) must exceed the pleasures gained from the fruits of crime.


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The Legacy of the Classical School

  • All modern criminal justice systems in the world assume the classical position that persons are free agents who deserve to be punished when they transgress the law.


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The Legacy of the Classical School

  • Many of the ideas championed by Beccaria in such rights as freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, the right to a speedy trial, as freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, the right to a speedy trial, the prohibition of ex post facto laws, the right to confront one’s accusers, and equality under law, contained in the Bill of Rights and other documents at the heart of Western legal systems today.


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What is Positivism

  • In the 19th century criminologists began to move away from the classical assumptions, especially the assumption of free will as it is commonly understood, and toward a more scientific view of human behavior.

  • The increasingly popular view among criminologists of this period was that crime resulted from internal and/or external forces impinging on individuals, biasing, or even completely determining, their behavior choices.


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What is Positivism

  • This position became known as determinism, and its adherents were known as positivists.

    • The term positivism is used to designate the extension of the scientific method to social life.

    • Positivistic criminologists were more concerned with discovering the biological, psychological, or social determinants of criminal behavior than with the classical concerns of legal and penal reforms.

    • Enrico Ferro: “We are empirical scientists; you lot are armchair speculators.”


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A Bridge between the Classical and Positivist School

  • Bentham: the fact that he recognized internal and external constraints on free will and rationality leads us to believe that Bentham may have been both the last of the old classical criminologists and the first of the positivist criminologists


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Biological Positivism: Cesare Lombroso and the Born Criminal

  • Cesare Lombroso’s Criminal Man (1876) is considered the first book devoted solely to the causes of criminality.

  • Lombroso’s basic idea was that many criminals are born criminal, and they are evolutionary throwbacks to an earlier form of life.

  • Atavism: The term used to describe the appearance of organisms resembling ancestral forms of life.


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Biological Positivism: Cesare Lombroso and the Born Criminal

  • Lombroso was influenced by Ernst Haeckel’s famous biogenic law, which stated that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

  • Insane criminal: Not born criminal, but rather become criminals as a result of an alteration of their brain.

  • Criminaloids: Categorized as habitual criminals, who become so by contact with other criminals.


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Raffael Garofalo: Natural Crime and Offender Peculiarities

  • Peculiarities: Particular characteristics that place offenders at risk for criminal behavior

  • Extreme criminals: Execution for punishment

  • Impulsive criminals: Imprisonment for punishment

  • Professional criminals: Punishment is “elimination,” either by life imprisonment or transportation to a penal colony overseas

  • Endemic criminals: Controlled through changes in the law


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Enrico Ferri and Social Defense

  • Ferri’s concern was social preservation, not the nature of criminal behavior

  • Ferri was instrumental in formulating a concept of social defense the rational for punishment. This theory of punishment asserts that its purpose is not to deter or to rehabilitate but to defend society from criminal predation


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Charles Goring’s Assault on Lombroso

  • Charles Goring, who in 1913 published a book entitled The English Convict: A Statistical Study concluded that there si no such thing as a physical criminal type.

  • Goring’s book was the first to adopt the position that criminality is probably the result of the interaction of a variety of hereditary and environmental factors at a time when theorists thought in terms of either/or, and a bridge between early biological positivism and the less deterministic psychological and psychiatric schools.


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The Legacy of Positivism

  • The legacy of the positivist school was the shift from the armchair philosophizing about human behavior to utilizing the concepts and methods of science.

  • Positivism did not disprove or destroy classical principles; it simply shifted emphasis from crime and penology to the individual offender.


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Neoclassicism: Rational Choice Theory

  • Rational choice theorists believe that factors such as poverty, IQ, impulsiveness, or broken homes are not required to explain crime.

  • The choice is made in context of personal and situational constraints and the availability of opportunities.

  • Criminal acts are specific examples of the general principle that all human behavior reflects the rational pursuit of maximizing utility, which is the modern economists version of Bentham’s principle of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.


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Neoclassicism: Rational Choice Theory

  • Rational choice theory assumes a criminally motivated offender and focuses on the process of the choice to offend.

  • Choice structuring: The constellation of opportunities, costs, and benefits attaching to particular kinds of crimes.

  • Explanations of criminal events must be crime specific because offenses have properties of their own.


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Deterrence and Choice: Pain versus Gain

  • Deterrence: The prevention of criminal acts by the use or threat of punishment.

  • Specific deterrence refers to the effect of punishment on the future behavior of the person who experiences the punishment.

  • Recidivism: Committing another crime after previously being punished for one.


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Deterrence and Choice: Pain versus Gain

  • There must be a relatively high degree of certainty that punishment will follow a criminal act, the punishment will be administered very soon after the act, and it must be quite harsh.

  • The affect of punishment on future behavior depends on the contrast effect, which is the distinction between the circumstances of punishment and the usual life experience of the person being punished.


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Deterrence and Choice: Pain versus Gain

  • General deterrence: the preventive effect of the threat of punishment on the general population; it is aimed at potential offenders.

  • Deterrence theorists tend to assume a more rational human being than rational choice theorists, their models being full of complicated mathematical models defining cost/benefit ratios.


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Figure 3.1

Summary and Comparisons of the Classical and Positivist Schools Pertaining to Certain Issues


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Figure 3.1

Summary and Comparisons of the Classical and Positivist Schools Pertaining to Certain Issues


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Connecting Criminological Theory & Social Policy

  • Theories of crime causation imply that changing the conditions the theory holds responsible for causing crime can reduce it and even prevent it.

  • Policy: A course of action designed to solve some problem that has been selected from among alternative courses of action.

  • Every theory has policy implications deducible from its primary assumptions and propositions

  • A good theory should offer useful practical recommendations.


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Policy and Prevention: Implications of Neoclassical Theories

  • Rational choice and routine activities theories shift the policy focus from large and costly social programs to target hardening and environmental designs that might dissuade a motivated offender from offending.

  • The policy recommendations of deterrence theory increase the costs of committing crimes and there will be less of it.


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Policy and Prevention: Implications of Neoclassical Theories

  • Lombroso believed that punishment should be only determined after a thorough assessment of offenders and their needs.

  • As a social defense, Lombroso recommended death or life imprisonment for congenital offenders.


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