Criminological Theories Essay

This essay has a total of 1547 words and 7 pages.

Criminological Theories


There are many different aspects of criminal justice policy. One in particular is the
different theories of crime and how they affect the criminal justice system. The Classical
School of criminology is a theory about evolving from a capital punishment type of view to
more humane ways of punishing people. Positivist criminology is maintaining the control of
human behavior and criminal behavior. They did this through three different categories of
Biological studies, which are five methodologies of crime that were mainly focused on
biological theories, Psychological theories, which contains four separate theories, and
the Sociological theories, which also includes four different methods of explaining why
crime exists. The last theory is about Critical criminology. Their goal was to transform
society in a way that would liberate and empower subordinate groups of individuals.


The Classical School of criminology was founded by "European legal authorities that
thought crime was caused by supernatural forces" (DeKeseredy & Schwartz, 1996, p.155)
preceding the 1700's. The catch phrase "The devil made him do it" was very popular because
of the thought that people who committed crimes were sinners or people who didn't follow
God. Those who didn't follow God were known as heretics and this following led to the
connection of church and state where torture or execution could happen to anyone that the
government thought to be evil or a part of witchcraft. Since the Middle Ages didn't have
equal rights for all, women and the poor were usually the ones being prosecuted. With all
of the problems of the times, the government found and made scapegoats out of these
people, and blamed them of the troubles that were occurring. As DeKeseredy and Schwartz
(1996, p.156) stated, "the most common way of determining guilt was through torture. It
was a simple system: if you confessed, you were executed: is you did not confess, the
torture continued until you died." This system of killing people was a well-respected way
of running the criminal justice system. As time passed, the punishments turned away from
inflicting pain on the body and turned more towards inflicting pain on the soul. This
meant that imprisonment of long periods of time was going to take place of executions.


A very important theorist in the Classical School of thought is Cesare Beccarria. He was a
modest man who wrote an essay called On Crimes and Punishment. It was published as an
anonymous essay at first that was so successful, that a second printing was done and he
then put his name on it and it became an even greater success. It was so great that the
publisher translated it into many different languages, and was distributed to top public
officials and government throughout Europe, Asia, and America. It became very influential
in the fight to reform and develop new laws. Another theorist, Jeremy Bentham, had a major
effect on criminal law through his writings and design features. Some of the ideas for the
designing of prisons that he did were adapted to some of the American prisons being built
later on.


The Classical School of the modern times still plays a major role in the criminal justice
system. The "Get tough on crime" policy is still around today because of theorists view to
keep punishments to the least amount of punishment as possible to try and prevent crime.
Yet today, critiques still exist with this theory as with any other theories. The first is
that of the cost/reward analysis and deterrence. In a study done by Ken Tunnell, he
concluded that criminals do not evaluate the negative consequences of their actions. The
act of getting caught never crosses their mind because the threat of committing the crime
is enough to keep them from thinking about the consequences. Therefore, those criminals
that commit crimes that are under the influence of drugs or any other substance are even
less rational about the consequences than those who commit crimes. Another critique is
that of the punishment and deterrence theory. These theorists feel that being imprisoned
for a crime can and will deter more crimes of the like. Prisons for example, are a
dominant sense of making the country feel safer because the criminals are being locked up.
Also, the death penalty can be a form of deterrence towards other criminals because they
are able to see what is happening to other criminals that commit the same types of crimes.
Whether or not this does deter criminals from committing crimes is another story.


The Positivist School of criminology began in the late 19th century and is still a part of
society today. The Positivist School suggests that in order to control crime, you have to
use scientific methods to look for the causes of crime. Some important developments the
theory included were controlling human behavior, controlling criminal behavior, industrial
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