“Moderncriminology is the product of two main schools of thought: the classical schooloriginating in the 18th century and the positivist school originating in the19th century. The early contributors to criminology were amateur dabbler amixed bag of philosophers, physicians, lawyers, judges, theologians, andanthropologists whose primary interests lay in penology (prison management andthe treatment of offenders) rather than criminology per-se. The study of crimeand criminal behavior arose as a secondary consequence of the interest shown bythese pioneers in penal reform” (Walsh and Ellis, 2006). One of the majorcontributors was Cesare de Beccaria the father of Classical criminology, whobelieved that the offenders know right from wrong. While the other majorcontributor was Cesar Lombroso, the founding father of Positivist school ofcriminology and father of modern criminology.
“This school of thoughtbrought scientific evidence into the foreground as a requirement forconviction. More important, however, was that the Positivist view saw humanbehavior as central to the study of criminology” (UOC, 2017). The Classical School of Criminology wasdeveloped by scholars Jeremy Bentham and Cesare de Beccaria. Bentham was anEnglish philosopher who focused on utilitarianism, (Crimmins, 2015). Benthamwas alive from 1748 to 1832, he was believer of utilitarianism, and he feltthat people have to right to happiness and as a result should lead happy lives.
This philosophy set the rules to help deter punishment and create punishmentthat is appropriate to the crime committed. This is the beginnings of theClassical School of Thought. Beccaria was an Italian philosopher and attorneyof law who lived between 1798 and 1894, (Biography, 2016). Bentham and Beccariawere moved by the climate of crime and punishment prevalent throughout 18th centuryEurope. During this era Europeansutilized capital punishment in consequence of crime and deviant behavior. Criminalswould be punished excessively and harshly, unmatched by America’s humanepractice of thedeath penalty, boot camps, or hard labor. As a result, “classical thinkingemerged in response to the cruel forms of punishment that dominated the timesas enlightened approaches to be taken towards crime and punishment”, (Roufa,2011). Bentham and Beccaria’s ClassicalSchool of Criminology is based upon thetheory that people have free will in formulating their choice to do something,and that punishment is capable of deterring crime, so long as it is carried outwithout delay and is appropriate and in proportion to the crime committed.
TheClassical School claimed that even though people are hedonistic, they are alsovery rational. Additionally, humans generally act on their own selfishness,they are equally capable of judging and using the more appropriate approach ina given situation. Thus, people are deemed by the Classical School as moralbeings with absolute freedom to choose between right andwrong.
Furthermore, the Classical School believes that when humans commita criminal act, the act is assumed to have been done of their own free will.Therefore, this school of thought believes that people should be held oradjudged accountable for their wrongful acts. Which the Classical Schooldeclares that a balanced government should enforce punishments and laws thatallow people to properly evaluate their actions they can take in any givensituation. Ever since the creation of the ClassicalSchool of Criminology byBentham and Beccaria, thetheory has had its strengths and weaknesses. The strengths this theory has arethat it has proven success in reducing crime rates and in providing adeterrent and a way in which to successfully contain individuals who rebelagainst the system.
As well as the classical school shows criminals that theycannot behave in certain ways in order to maximize their pleasure and minimizepain if it involves breaking the law, it does this successfully because thepunishment that is given is more than that of the pleasure that they wouldreceive. Consequently, as rational thinkers, individuals contemplating criminalbehaviors would not do so due to the laws set in place to deter the behavior. Along with strengths the theory had its weaknesses, a major one was the idea that stemmed from Classical thinkingthat all criminals are rational, but this is a hasty generalization to thewhole population. Nor is it entirely avalid idea, due to the fact that there may be biological factors stopping anindividual from being able to think and behave rationally. Thus it may not bethe particular choice of the individual as they may have been born that way.
Although, they may not have the abilityto make a rational decision due to a mental illness such as schizophrenia. Theymay be disorientated or possibly drugged which can affect the properfunctioning of their brains and therefore any behaviors. Which results in anindividual becoming irrational. Furthermore, if people act due to principles ofrationality and free will.
If the idea was valid then fact that the poor arethe predominating population in the criminal justice system, classical thoughtdoesn’t include factors of necessity in order to survive. “The rich get richerand the poor get prison” (Reiman & Leighton, 1979). The classical school of criminology has 3 main challengesto it. Firstly; how to make such ideas serve the interests of justice andequality when faced with a particular defendant in court.
(Not all criminalsappear to be acting rationally and of free will) Secondly; that for criminaljustice bureaucracies such as the police, growing efficiency may not always becompatible with an emphasis on equal justice, as their gain is to decreasecrime rates. Thirdly a power issue, the rationalization of the legal systempotentially means some reduction in their power, which may backfire in terms ofbeing a deterrent (White and Haines, 2004). Up until the 19th century, Classicistideas dominated the way in which people looked at crime. However, during thelate 19th century a new form of “scientific criminology” emerged, calledPositivism (Newburn, 2007). AnItalian criminologist by the name of Cesare Lombroso, later to be known as “TheFather of Modern Criminology”.
Lombroso wrote The CriminalMan, published in 1876, in which he claimed that the dead bodies ofcriminals revealed that they were physically different than normal people.Specifically, he claimed that criminals have abnormal dimensions of the skulland jaw. Lombroso believed that criminals were born with these traits and didnot commit crimes according to free will, as the classical school ofcriminology had suggested.
He was the majorcontributor to the Positivist School of Criminology, where Modern criminologyis based upon. The major basis for the Positivist school was that individuals wereborn criminals, and not created into them. Within the theory they believed thatit was in the persons nature to commit the crime, instead of being nurtured.
Aswell as the did not believe the classical schools theory of that an individualhad the free will for their actions. Lombroso major contribution and set his legacy in stone when hewas the first man to pronounce the importance of testing the hypothesis inexperiments (Cullen, Agnew, , 2014). Which was the part of Positivistschool that made it different from the classical school of criminology. “Lombroso believed that some physicalfeatures, such as the shape of one’s head or the placement of their cheekbones,could predict a person’s propensity for criminal behavior. While moderncriminology does not judge people against physical features, it does take agreat deal of the Positivist theory into consideration” (UOC,2017). Lombroso’sthinking clashed with that of classical thinking, saying that criminals wereborn not made, and they are not rational as they reproduce thoughts similar tothat of inferior humanity.
Positivists oppose the classical school ofthinking, by stating that the object of study is the offender, and that thenature of the offender is driven by biological, psychological and pathologicalinfluences. In the Positivist school of Criminology,just like the Classical School it has its own strengths and weaknesses. Thestrengths that the Positivist school has is that It focuses on the offender,instead of the crime unlike classical that focuses on the crime and not theoffender. As well as the fact that it introduced scientific evidence to provethe basis of why the offender committed the crime. Another strength of the Positivistschool was the creation of Biological Positivism because it has changed the wayof criminological ideas and opened up new theories that werebased on scientific facts rather than philosophical ideas like in Classicism.It also highlighted the importance of looking into people’s genetic make-up asresearch such as H.G Brunner’s’ research into the extra ‘Y’ chromosome whichled to the idea that genetic defects in a family can cause abnormal behaviorsand also the Twin and Adoptions studies that showed a correlation betweengenetics and crime. In more modern approaches, researchers then started to lookmore into the brain and biochemical factors such as brain dysfunctions andimbalanced chemicals.
Another success that Positivist school of thought had is that provided opportunity forcriminals to get help and be rehabilitated (Siegal,2010). “With the huge success, Lombroso wasjoined by many critics, although his scientific investigations were notable andextended to various searches and to the institution of criminal asylums, thatthe illustrious thinker first proposed in Italy. His L’uomo delinquente isa valuable array of social and scientific problems to which he tried to give ananswer, but this work was considered often a collection of texts and articlespublished in a different time with a provision of heterogeneous elements andfrequent and inconsistencies repetitions. They were also criticized for thelack of a uniform method of research, the failure to control the used sources,and the poor material for an adequate comparison” (JLCJ,2015).
Lombroso’stheory of the physical features of a criminal was one of the other weaknessesof the theory because his associations were later shown to be highly inconsistent orinexistent, and Lombroso had not used a control group. Therefore, not having asubstantial nature to compare his results to. This became Lombroso’s biggestflaw in his research and theory. In deciding which of the two schoolsof Criminology has the most merit in defining criminal behavior.
The schoolthat best can explain the behavior is the Positivist school because the focusof the theory is on the criminal and not the crime. While Classical Criminologyfocused on the crime which is why Positivist has more merit in explainingbehavior. But with today’s criminology It also does include parts of classicalschool of criminology. So, it difficult to state that one of the two schools ofcriminology have more merit. But based off the theories the Positivist schoolwould be my choice of the school with more merit. ReferencesBiography.(2016, November 07).
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