Crime in America Chapter 2 Part 1
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•The scientific study of crime and the causes of criminal behavior.
A specialist in the field of crime and the causes of criminal behavior
•One of the major issues of interest to criminologists is to explain:
–“Why do we have crime?”
–To criminologists, this the problem of the “etiology” of crime.
•the study of causes
an explanation of a happening or circumstance that is based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning
It is also important to understand that modern criminological theory tries to be
For something to be scientific, it must meet at least three minimum criteria:
- –must be empirical = based on observable data.
- –must be testable = open to experiment, capable of being disproved
- –must be objective = free from bias and unscrutinized influence
In criminology, there are at least three major schools of thought
- •Classical Criminology
- • Positivist Criminology
- • Critical Criminology
- •This title is used to refer to a school of thought on crime which first developed near the end of the 1700’s.
- •The original version is based primarily on the writings of two men:
- –Cesare Beccaria
- –Jeremy Bentham
•Human beings were seen as being:
- –Rational – capable of creative thought
- –Hedonistic – inclined to seek pleasure and to avoid pain
- –Self-determining – choose behavior based on a hedonistic evaluation of the pains and pleasures
- –Thus, human beings were seen as having total free will.
Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794)
- •An Italian nobleman trained as a mathematician and economist
- •Visitor to the courts and prisons of his day
- –He was horrified by the illogic of the criminal justice system of his day
- –He thought a discretionary system conflicted with the prevailing free will view of human nature.
Beccaria proposed new principles of justice, which included:
- –Law should originate in the legislature not in judges
- –There should be a scale of crimes and punishments.
- –Penalties should be as harsh as necessary to make crime more painful than conformity.
- –The effectiveness of penalties lies in:
- •The certainty of the punishment
- •The immediacy of the punishment
- •NOT in the harshness of the punishment.
•French and Americans soon discovered that there were some problems with Beccaria’s kind of strict system:
- –No two offenses are ever exactly the same.
- –First offenders and repeat offenders were to be treated the same way, but we know they are very different.
- –Children, mentally challenged, the insane and other incompetents were treated as if they were rational, intelligent and capable of free will.
- •This is because the basis of the judgment in a Beccarian system is the act – not the actor.
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