The Positivist School has attempted to find scientific objectivity for the measurement and quantification of criminal behavior. As thescientific method became the major paradigm in the search for all knowledge, the Classical School's social philosophy was replaced by the quest for scientific laws that would be discovered by experts. It is divided into Biological, Psychological and Social.

  • Biological positivism

If Charles Darwin's Theory of evolution was scientific as applied to animals, the same approach should be applied to "man" as an "animal".

  • Physical Characteristics

Historically, medicine became interested in the problem of crime, producing studies of physiognomy and the science ofphrenology which linked attributes of the mind to the shape of the brain as reveal through the skull. These theories were popular because society and any failures of its government were not the causes of crime. The problem lay in the propensities of individual offenders who were biologically distinguishable from law-abiding citizens. This theme was amplified by the Italian School and through the writings of Cesare Lombroso (see L'Uomo DelinquenteThe Criminal Man and Anthropological criminology) which identified physical characteristics associated with degeneracy demonstrating that criminals were atavistic throwbacks to an earlier evolutionary form. Charles Goring (1913) failed to corroborate the characteristics but did find criminals shorter, lighter and less intelligent, i.e. he found criminality to be "normal" rather than "pathological" (cf the work of Hooton found evidence of biological inferiority). William Sheldon identified three basic body or somatotypes (i.e. endomorphs, mesomorphs, and ectomorphs), and introduced a scale to measure where each individual was placed. He concluded that delinquents tended to mesomorphy. Modern research might link physical size and athleticism and aggression because physically stronger people have the capacity to use violence with less chance of being hurt in any retaliation. Otherwise, such early research is no longer considered valid. The development of genetics has produced another potential inherent cause of criminality, with chromosome and other genetic factors variously identified as significant to select heredity rather than environment as the cause of crime (see: nature versus nurture). However, the evidence from family, twin, and adoption studies shows no conclusive empirical evidence to prefer either cause.

With the advance of behavioral sciences, the monogenetic explanation of human conduct lost its validity and a new trend to adopt an eclectic view about the genesis of crime gradually developed. By the nineteenth century, certain French doctors were successful in establishing that it was neither ‘free will’ of the offender nor his innate depravity which actuated him to commit crime but the real cause of criminality lay in anthropological features of the criminal. Some phrenologists also tried to demonstrate the organic functioning of brain and enthusiastically established a co-relationship between criminality and the structure and functioning of brain. This led to the emergence of the positive school of criminology.

The main exponents of this school were three eminent Italian criminologists namely: Cesare Lombroso, Raffaele Garofalo andEnrico Ferri. It is for this reason that this school is also called the Italian School of Criminology.

  • Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909)

The first attempt to understand the personality of offenders in physical terms was made by Lombroso of the Italian School of criminological thought, who is regarded as the originator of modern criminology. He was a doctor and a specialist in psychiatry. He worked in military for sometime handling the mentally afflicted soldiers but later he was associated with the University of Turin. His first published work was L’Umo Delequente which meant “the Criminal Man” (1876). He was the first to employ scientific methods in explaining criminal behavior and shifted the emphasis from crime to criminal.

Lombroso adopted an objective and empirical approach to the study of criminals through his anthropological experiments. After an intensive study of physical characteristics of his patients and later on of criminals, he came to a definite conclusion that criminals were physically inferior in the standard of growth and therefore, developed a tendency for inferior acts. He further generalized that criminals are less sensitive to pain and therefore they have little regard for the sufferings of others. Thus through his biological and anthropological researches on criminals Lombroso justified the involvement of Darwin’s theory of biological determinism in criminal behavior. He classified criminals into three main categories:

1. The Atavists or Hereditary Criminals Lombroso also termed them as born-criminals. In his opinion born-criminals were of a distinct type who could not refrain from indulging in criminality and environment had no relevance whatsoever to the crimes committed by the Atavists. He, therefore, considered these criminals as incorrigibles, i.e., beyond reformation. In his view, the criminal reflected a reversion to an early and more primitive being that was both mentally and physically inferior. He resembled those of apes and had ape-like characteristics. Lombroso’s theory used physical characteristics as indicators of criminality. He enumerated as many as sixteen physical abnormalities of a criminal some of which were peculiar size and shape of head, eye, enlarged jaw and cheek bones, fleshy lips, abnormal teeth, long or flat chin, retreating forehead, dark skin, twisted nose and so on. Though he moderated his theory of physical anomaly in later years but his emphasis throughout his work was on human physical traits which also included biology, psychology and environment. He revised his theory of atavism in 1906 and held that only one-third of criminals were born criminals and not all the criminals. Finally, he conceded that his theory of atavism was ill-founded and held that they were in fact occasional criminals.

Enrico Ferri subsequently challenged Lombroso’s theory of atavism and demonstrated that it was erroneous to think that criminals were incorrigibles. He believed that just as non-criminals could commit crimes if placed in conducive circumstances so also the criminals could refrain from criminality in healthy surroundings.

Insane Criminals: The second category of criminals according to Lombroso consisted of insane criminals who resorted to criminality on account of certain mental depravity or disorder.

Criminoids: The third category of criminals, according to him, was those of criminoids who were physical criminal type and had a tendency to commit crime in order to overcome their inferiority in order to meet the needs of survival.

Lombroso was the first criminologist who made an attempt to understand the personality of offenders in physical terms. He employed scientific methods in explaining criminal behavior and shifted the emphasis from crime to criminal. His theory was that criminals were physically different from normal persons and possessed few physical characteristics of inferior animal world. The contribution of Lombroso to the development of the science of criminology may briefly be summed up in the following points:

1. Lombroso laid consistent emphasis over the individual personality of the criminal in the incidence of crime. This view gained favour in subsequent years and modern criminological measures are devised to attain the aim of individualization in the treatment of criminals. It has been rightly commented that the sociologists’ emphasis on the external factors, psychologists on the internal factors, while Lombroso held that both had a common denominator__ the “individual”.

2. While analyzing causes of crime, Lombroso laid greater emphasis on the biological nature of human behavior and thus indirectly drew attention of criminologists to the impact of environment on crime causation.

3. At a later stage Lombroso himself was convinced about the futility of his theory of atavism and therefore extended his theory of determinism to social as well as economic situations of criminals. Thus he was positive in method and objective in approach which subsequently paved way to formulation of multiple-causation theory of crime by the propounders of sociological school of criminology.

  • Criticism on Lombroso’s Theory

Gabriel de Tarde, the eminent French criminologist and social psychologist, criticized Lombroso’s theory of criminal behavior, and offered a social explanation of crime. He asserted that criminal behavior is the result of a learning process, therefore, any speculation regarding direct relationship between physical appearance and criminal propensities of criminals would mean overlooking the real cause of criminality. He also denounced the proposition of phrenologists who tried to establish a correlation between the skull, the brain and the social behavior of a person.

By the time of Lombroso’s demise, in 1909, it became abundantly clear that his theories were over-implication of facts and rather naïve, hence the notion that criminal is physically atavistic-type lost all credence. The assumption that there is some nexus between atavism and criminal behavior had no scientific basis. The modern positivism in criminology has developed its own systematic views in which there is little scope for Lombroso’s atavism. Some modern writers even speak of it as “Lombrosian myth” in criminology.

Criticizing  Lombroisian views, Prof. Sutherland observed that by shifting attention from crime as a social phenomenon to crime as an individual phenomenon, Lombroso delayed for fifty years the work which was in progress at the time of its origin and in addition, made no lasting contribution of his own.

Be that as it may, it hardly needs to be reiterated that contribution of Lombroso to the development of criminology is by no means less significant. Commenting on this point Donald Taft observed, “the importance of Lombroso’s work lies in the great influence it had upon criminology and also upon penal practice”. The importance of Lombroso’s work lies in its scientific methodology and his rejection of free-will theory.

  • Enrico Ferri (1856-1928)

Another chief exponent of the positive school of criminology was Enrico Ferri. He challenged Lombrosian view of criminality. Through his scholarly researches, Ferri proved that mere biological reasons were not enough to account for criminality. He firmly believed that other factors such as emotional reaction, social infirmity or geographical conditions also play a vital role in determining criminal tendencies in men. It is for this reason that he is sometimes called the founder of ‘criminal sociology’.

The major contribution of Ferri to the field of criminology is his “Law of Criminal Saturation”. This theory presupposes that the crime is the synthetic product of three main factors:

  1. Physical or geographical;
  2. Anthropological; and
  3. Psychological or social.

Thus Ferri emphasized that criminal behavior is an outcome of a variety of factors having their combined effect on the individual. According to him social change, which is inevitable in a dynamic society, results in disharmony, conflict and cultural variations. As a result of this, social disorganization takes place and a traditional pattern of social control mechanism totally breaks down. In the wake of such rapid social changes, the incidence of crime is bound to increase tremendously. The heterogeneity of social conditions destroys the congenial social relationship, creating a social vacuum which proves to be a fertile ground for criminality.

Many critics, however, opposed Ferri’s law of criminal saturation stating that it is nothing more than a statement that the law of cause and effect equally applies to criminal behavior as well.

Ferri emphasized that a criminal should be treated as a product of the conditions which played his life. Therefore, the basic purpose of crime prevention programme should be to remove conditions making for crime.

Ferri worked out a five-fold classification of criminals, namely:

  1. Born criminals;
  2. Occasional criminals
  3. Passionate criminals
  4. Insane criminal and
  5. Habitual criminals.

He suggested an intensive programme of crime prevention and recommended a series of measures for treatment of offenders. He asserted that punishment could be one of the possible methods of reforming the criminal. He favored indeterminate sentence keeping in view the possible chances of inmate’s re-adjustment in the community.

In his ‘Penal Project” Ferri denied moral responsibility and denounced punishment for retribution and moral culpability.

Raffaele Garofalo (1852-1934)

Raffaele Garofalo was one of the three main exponents of positive school of criminology. Born in Naples in 1852, Garafalo started his career as a Magistrate in Italian courts and rose to the position of Minister of Justice in 1903. He stressed the need for a closer study of the circumstances and living condition of criminals. He firmly believed that a criminal is a creature of his own environment. He was the only positivist who had varied experience as an eminent jurist, a senator and a professor of criminal law. He, therefore, approached the problem of crime and criminals in an altogether different manner than those of his contemporaries. Rejecting the classical theory of free-will as a cause of crime, Garofalo defined crime as an act which offends the sentiments of pity and probity possessed by an average person and which are injurious to the society. He emphasized that lack of pity generates crimes against person while lack of probity leads to crimes against property. As to the classification of criminals, he rejected Ferri’s classification and placed offenders into four main categories, namely:

  1. Murders whom he called “endemic” criminals;
  2. Violent criminals who are affected by environmental influences such as prejudices of honour, politics and religion

3. Criminals lacking in sentiment of probity; and

4. Lascivious or lustful criminals who commit crimes against sex and chastity.

As a member of the Italian ‘judiciary’ Garofalo was well acquainted with the then existing criminal law and procedure in the administration of criminal justice and recommended death, imprisonment for life or transportation and reparation as three modes of punishment for criminals. Out of his experience as a Judge and having witnessed total failure of correctional measures in France, Garofalo was not very optimistic about reformation of offenders. He therefore, strongly pleaded for elimination of habitual offenders who were incapable of social adaptation as a measure of social defense.

Gabriel Tarde (1843-94)

Gabriel Tarde was a critic of positive school of criminology. He asserted that influence of social environment was most emphatic on the criminal behaviour out that law of insertion and imitation was responsible for the incidence of crime. The members of society are prone to imitate the behaviour of their associates. Likewise, the subordinate or inferior members have a tendency to imitate the ways of their superiors just as the children imitate their parents and elder members of the family. Consequently, as regards crimes, the beginners have a tendency to imitate the acts of habitual criminals and thus they lend into criminality. The effect of imitation is still worse on youngsters who are prone to fall an easy prey to criminality. Particularly, the impact of movie, cinema and television is so great on teenagers that it perverts their mind and actions which eventually makes them delinquents. Thus there is considerable truth in Tarde’s assertion that, “crime, like other social phenomenon starts as a fashion and becomes a custom”. He classified criminals into urban and rural types and expressed a view that crimes in urban areas are far more serious in nature than those of rural places. Despite the fact that the views of Tarde were logical and nearer to truth, they were discarded as over simplification of facts.

Major Contributions of Positive School of Criminology

It would be seen that the positive school of criminology emerged essentially out of the reaction against earlier classical and neo-classical theories. The merits of this school were:

1. The advocates of this school completely discarded the theories of omnipotence of spirit and free will on the ground that they were hypothetical and irrational. Alternatively, they attributed criminality to anthropological, physical and social environment.

2. The greatest contribution of positive school to the development of criminal science lies in the fact that the attention of criminologists was drawn for the first time towards the individual, that is, the personality of criminal rather than his act (crime) or punishment. This certainly paved way for the modern penologists to formulate a criminal policy embodying the principle of individualization as a method and reformation. Thus positivists introduced the methodology and logic of natural science in the field of criminology.

3. With the predominance of positive school, the emphasis was shifted from penology to criminology and the objects of punishment were radically changed in as much as retributory methods were abandoned. Criminals were now to be treated rather than punished. Protection of society from criminals was to be the primary object which could be achieved by utilizing reformatory methods for different classes of criminals in varying degrees. It is in this context that positive school is said to have given birth to modern sociological or clinical school which regards criminal as a by-product of his conditions and experience of life.

4. The positivists suggested elimination of only those criminals who did not respond favorably to extra-institutional methods. The exponents of this school accepted that there could be extenuating circumstances under which an individual might be forced to commit crime. Therefore, besides looking to the crime strictly from the legal standpoint, the judicial authorities should not lose sight of the circumstantial conditions of the accused while determining his guilt and awarding punishment.

Main Distinctions between Classical School and Positive School

The positive school differed from the classical school of criminology in the following manner:

1. Defining Crime: Classical school defined crime in legal terms. Where as, the positive school rejected legal definition of crime and preferred sociological definition.

2. Explanation of Crime: Classical school placed reliance on free-will theory as an explanation of crime.  Positive school explained crime in terms of biological determination.

3. Nature of Punishment: Classical school believed in deterrent and definite punishment for each offence and equal punishment for all criminals committing the same offence. Positive school advocated treatment methods for criminals instead of punishment and held that criminal be punished not according to gravity of his crime but according to the circumstances associated with it.

4. The Focus of the School: Classical school focused greater attention on crime, namely, the act rather than the criminal. Whereas, the positivists laid greater emphasis on personality of the offender rather than his criminal act.

5. The Founders of the School: The main exponents of classical school were Beccaria and Bentham. The main exponents of positive school were Lombroso, Ferri and Garofalo.

6. Contribution to the Field: The classical school was an 18th century dogma which attempted to reform the criminal justice system in order to protect criminals against arbitrary discretion of judges. The positive school was a 19th century doctrine which emphasized on scientific method of study and shifted emphasis from crime to criminal and from retribution to corrective methods of treatment.


Clinical School of Criminology

More recently, with the development of human psychology, there is greater emphasis on the study of emotional aspect of human nature. This branch of knowledge has enabled modern criminologists to understand the criminal behavior of offenders in its proper perspective. Prof. Gillin, therefore, rightly remarked that the theory of modern clinical school on the side of criminologists presupposes offender as a product of his biological inheritance conditioned in his development by experiences of life to which he has been exposed from infancy up to the time of the commission of crime. Thus, clinical school takes into account variety of factors. It further suggests that the criminals who do not respond favorably to correctional methods must be punished with imprisonment or transportation for life while those who are merely victims of social conditions should be subjected to correctional methods such as probation, parole, reformatories, open-air camps etc. Thus, briefly speaking, individualization has become the cardinal principle of penal policy in modern penology. The main theme of clinical school is that personality of man is a combination of internal and external factors; therefore, punishment should depend on personality of the accused. This is known as correctional trend of reformation through individualization.

Sociological School of Criminology

The Modern Criminology

In recent years, there seems to have been a transformation of criminological views regarding somewhat skeptical question of criminal accountability. Modern critics attack the traditional criminological view on the ground that their search for characteristic differences between the class of criminals and the class of non-criminals rests upon erroneous assumption. This false dichotomy has been based on a misconceived characterization of criminals as ‘criminal type’. As Michael Phillipson aptly observes that to take crime out of its social context and to try to explain it as a product of physical

characteristics or mental deficiencies is a myth. He summarizes his criticism of traditional

criminology by suggesting that it contains four false assumptions, namely,

  1. That there are universal causes of crime;
    1. That the human population can be divided into two groups, criminals and non-criminals;
    2. That crime can  be located by the study of individual criminals; and
    3. That the official statics are indices of trends in crime.

The proponents of modern criminology attempt to explain criminality in terms of social conflict. Engels (1971) pointed out that resentment among the deprived class of society due to their exploitation and demoralization was one of the reasons for growing criminality. Therefore, there was need to change the whole of the social and economic structure of society. Thus modern criminology attributes societal reasons for general criminality and suggests a pragmatic approach to the resolution of the problem.

The advocates of modern criminology firmly believe that distinction between criminals and non-criminals is the direct outcome of a mistaken notion of labelling certain individual offenders as ‘criminal types’. Modern criminologists prefer to identify the criminal with a particular social type who has been a victim of well known inequalities between social classes, private wealth, private property, social power, and life chances. Thus there is nothing like ‘criminal type’ as suggested by traditional criminologists. The modern criminologists have succeeded in substituting the traditional belief regarding crime causation by social deviance as a cause of criminal behavior.

It has been generally accepted that a systematic study of criminology was first taken up by the Italian scholar, Ceasare Bonesana Marchese de Becaria (1938-94) who is known as the founder of modern criminology. His greatest contribution to the science of criminology was that he, for the first time, proceeded with the study of criminals on a scientific basis and reached certain conclusions from which definite methods of handling crime and criminals could be worked out. Thus the ‘theories of criminology’ or ‘the schools of criminology’ are of a later origin.

Meaning of the ‘School of Criminology’

Edwin Sutherland pointed out that a school of criminology connotes

“the system of thought which consists of an integrated theory of causation of crime and of policies of control implied in the theory of causation”.

Therefore, a school of criminology implies the following three important points:

1. The adherents of each school try to explain the causation of crime and criminal behavior in their own way relying on the theory propounded by the exponent of that particular school.

2. Each school of criminology suggests punishment and preventive measures to suit its ideology.

3. And, each of the school represents the social attitude of people towards crime and criminal in a given time.

In an attempt to find a rational explanation of crime, a large number of theories have been propounded. Various factors such as evil spirit, sin, disease, heredity, economic maladjustment etc. have been put forward either singly or together to explain criminality. With the advance of behavioral sciences, monogenetic explanation of human conduct is no longer valid and the modern trend is to adopt an eclectic view about the genesis of crime. However, some criminologists still tend to lay greater emphasis on physical traits in order to justify exclusive resort to correctional methods for the treatment of offender.

Pre-Classical School of Criminology

The period of seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe was dominated by the scholasticism of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The dominance of religion in State activities was the chief characteristic of that time. In political sphere, thinkers such as Hobbes and Locke were concentrating on social contract as the basis of social evolution. The concept of Divine right of king advocating supremacy of monarch was held in great esteem. As scientific knowledge was yet unknown the concept of crime was rather vague and obscure. There was a general belief that man by nature is simple and his actions are controlled by some super power. It was generally believed that a man commits crime due to the influence of some external spirit called ‘demon’ or ‘devil’. Thus an offender commits a wrongful act not because of his own free will but due to the influence of some external super power. No attempt was, however, made to probe into the real causes of crime. This demonological theory of criminality propounded by the exponents of pre-classical school acknowledged the omnipotence of spirit, which they regarded as a great power.

The pre-classicals considered crime and criminals as an evidence of the fact that the individual was possessed of devil or demon the only cure for which was testimony of the effectiveness of the spirit. Worships, sacrifices and ordeals by water and fire were usually prescribed to specify the spirit and relieve the victim from its evil influence.  An ordeal is an ancient manner of trial in criminal cases. When an offender pleaded “not guilty”, he might choose whether he would put himself for trial upon God and the country, by 12 men or upon God only, and then it was called ‘the judgment of God’, presuming that God would deliver the innocent. Examples of such ordeals are, throwing into fire, throwing into water after tying a stone to his neck, administration of oath by calling up God’s wrath, trial by battle, etc.

Trial by battle was common mode of deciding the fate of criminal. The oaths and ordeals played a very important role in the ancient judicial system in determining the guilt of the offender. The justification advanced for these rituals was the familiar belief that “when the human agency fails, recourse to divine means of proof becomes most inevitable”. Though these practices appear to be most irrational and barbarous to the modern mind, they were universally accepted and were in existence in most Christian countries till thirteenth century. The Roman law completely ignored the system of ordeals and it was forbidden in Quran.

The right of society to punish the offender was, however, well recognized. The offender was regarded as an innately depraved person who could be cured only by torture and pain. The evolution of criminal law was yet at a rudimentary stage. Hobbes suggested that fear of punishment at the hands of monarch was a sufficient deterrent for the members of early society to keep them away from sinful acts which were synonymous to crimes. Thus the theosophists, notably St. Thomas Aquinas and the social contract writers such as Donte Alighieri, Machiavelli, Martin Luther and Jean Bodin provided immediate background for Beccaria’s classical school at a later stage. The pre-classical thinking, however, withered away with the lapse of time and advancement of knowledge.

The Classical School

The Classical School in criminology is usually a reference to the eighteenth-century work during the Enlightenment by the utilitarian and social contract philosophers Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Beccaria. Their interests lay in the system of criminal justice and penology and, indirectly through the proposition that "man is a calculating animal", in the causes of criminal behaviour. The Classical school of thought was premised on the idea that people have free will in making decisions, and that punishment can be a deterrent for crime, so long as the punishment is proportional, fits the crime, and is carried out promptly.

Beccaria, the pioneer of modern criminology expounded his naturalistic theory of criminality by rejecting the omnipotence of evil spirit. He laid greater emphasis on mental phenomenon of the individual and attributed crime to ‘free will’ of the individual. Thus he was much influenced by the utilitarian philosophy of his time which placed reliance on hedonism, namely, the “pain and pleasure theory”. As Donald Taft rightly put it, this doctrine implied the notion of causation in terms of free choice to commit crime by rational man seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

Main Reforms Advocated by the Classical School

The system of law, its mechanisms of enforcement and the forms of punishment used in the eighteenth century were primitive and inconsistent. Judges were not professionally trained so many of their decisions were unsatisfactory being the product of incompetence, capriciousness, corruption or political manipulation. The use of torture to extract confessions and a wide range of cruel punishments such as whipping, mutilation and public executions were commonplace. A need for legal rationality and fairness was identified and found an audience among the emerging middle classes whose economic interests lay in providing better systems for supporting national and international trade.

John Locke

John Locke considered the mechanism that had allowed monarchies to become the primary form of government. He concluded that monarchs had asserted the right to rule and enforced it either through an exercise in raw power, or through a form of contract, e.g. the feudal system had depended on the grants of estates in land as a return for services provided to the sovereign. Locke proposed that all citizens are equal, and that there is an unwritten but voluntary contract between the state and its citizens, giving power to those in government and defining a framework of mutual rights and duties. In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes wrote, "the right of all sovereigns is derived from the consent of every one of those who are to be governed." This is a shift from authoritarianism to an early model of European and North American democracy where police powers and the system of punishment are means to a more just end.

Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794)

In 1764, Beccaria published Dei Deliti e Delle Pene ("On Crimes and Punishments") arguing for the need to reform the criminal justice system by referring not to the harm caused to the victim, but to the harm caused to society. In this, he posited that the greatest deterrent was the certainty of detection: the more swift and certain the punishment, the more effective it would be. It would also allow a less serious punishment to be effective if shame and an acknowledgement of wrongdoing was a guaranteed response to society's judgment. Thus, the prevention of crime was achieved through a proportional system that was clear and simple to understand, and if the entire nation united in their own defence. His approach influenced the codification movement which set sentencing tariffs to ensure equality of treatment among offenders. Later, it was acknowledged that not all offenders are alike and greater sentencing discretion was allowed to judges. Thus, punishment works at two levels. Because it punishes individuals, it operates as a specific deterrence to those convicted not to reoffend. But the publicity surrounding the trial and the judgment of society represented by the decision of a jury of peers, offers a general example to the public of the consequences of committing a crime. If they are afraid of similarly swift justice, they will not offend.

In his book "On Crimes and Punishments" Beccaria presented a coherent, comprehensive design for an enlightened criminal justice system that was to serve the people rather than the monarchy. According to Beccaria, the crime problem could be traced not to bad people but to bad laws. A modern criminal justice system should guarantee all people equal treatment before the law. Beccaria’s book supplied the blue print. That blue print was based on the assumption that people freely choose what they do and are responsible for the consequences of their behavior. Beccaria proposed the following principles:

Laws Should Be Used To Maintain Social Contract: “Laws are the conditions under which men, naturally independent, united themselves in society. Weary of living in a continual state of war, and of enjoying a liberty, which became a little value, from the uncertainty of its duration, they sacrificed one part of it, to enjoy the rest in peace and security.”

Only Legislators Should Create Laws: “The authority of making penal laws can only reside with the legislator, who represents the whole society united by the social compact.”

Judges Should Impose Punishment only in Accordance with the Law: “[N]o magistrate then, (as he is one of the society), can, with justice inflict on any other member of the same society punishment that is not ordained by the laws.”

Judges Should not Interpret the Laws: “Judges, in criminal cases, have no right to interpret the penal laws, because they are not legislators….Everyman has  his own particular point of view and, at different times, sees the same objects in very different lights. The spirit of the laws will then be the result of the good or bad logic of the judge; and this will depend on his good or bad digestion.”

Punishment Should be Based on the Pleasure/Pain Principle: “Pleasure and pain are the only springs of actions in beings endowed with sensibility….If an equal punishment be ordained for two crimes that injure society in different degrees, there is nothing to deter men from committing the greater as often as it is attended with greater advantage.”

Punishment Should be Based on the Act, not on the Actor: “Crimes are only to be measured by the injuries done to the society they err, therefore, who imagine that a crime is greater or less according to the intention of the person by whom it is committed.”

The Punishment Should be Determined by the Crime: “If mathematical calculation could be applied to the obscure and infinite combinations of human actions, there might be a corresponding scale of punishment descending from the greatest to the least.”

Punishment Should be Prompt and Effective: “The more immediate after the commission of a crime a punishment is inflicted the more just and useful it will be….An immediate punishment is more useful; because the smaller the interval of time between the punishment and the crime, the stronger and more lasting will be the association of the two ideas of crime and punishment.”

All People Should be Treated Equally: “I assert that the punishment of a noble man should in no wise differ from that of the lowest member of the society.”

Capital Punishment Should be Abolished: “The punishment of death is not authorized by any right; for….no such right exists….The terrors of death make so slight an impression, that it has not force enough to withstand forgetfulness natural to mankind.”

The Use of Torture to Gain Confessions Should be Abolished: “It is confounding all relations to expect…that pain should be the test of truth, as if truth resided in the muscles and fibers a wretch in torture. By this method the robust will escape, and the feeble be condemned.”

It is Better to Prevent Crime than to Punish Them: “Would you prevent crimes? Let the laws be clear and simple, let the entire force of the nation be united in their defence, let them be intended rather to favour every individual than any particular classes…. Finally, the most certain method of preventing crimes to perfect the system of education.”

Perhaps no other book in the history in the history of criminology has had so great an impact. After the French Revolution, Beccaria’s basic tenets served as a guide for the drafting of the French Penal Code, which was adopted in 1791.

Jeremy Bentham(1748-1832)

Legal scholars and reformers throughout Europe proclaimed their indebtedness to Beccaria, but none owed more to him than the English legal philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Bentham had long and productive career. He inspired many of his contemporaries, as well as criminologists of future generations, with his approach to rational crime control.

Bentham devoted his life to developing a scientific approach to the making and breaking of laws. Like Beccaria he was concerned with achieving “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” His work was governed by utilitarian principles. Utilitarianism assumes that all human actions are calculated in accordance with their likelihood of bringing happiness (pleasure) or unhappiness (pain). People weigh the probabilities of present future pleasures against those of present and future pain.

Bentham proposed a precise pseudo-mathematical formula for this process, which he called “felicific calculus.” According to his reasoning individuals are “human calculators” who out all the factors into an equation in order to decide whether or not a particular crime is worth committing. This notion may seem rather whimsical today, but at a time when there were over 200 capital offences, it provided a rationale for reform of the legal system. Bentham reasoned that if prevention was the purpose of punishment, and if punishment became too costly by creating more harm than good, then penalties need to be set just a bit an excess of the pleasure one might derive from committing a crime, and no higher. The law exists in order to create happiness for the community. Since punishment creates unhappiness, it can be justified only if it prevents a greater evil than it produces. Thus, Bentham suggested if a hanging a man’s effigy produced the same preventive effect as hanging the man himself there would be no reason to hang the man.

In this context, the most relevant idea was known as the "felicitation principle", i.e. that whatever is done should aim to give the greatest happiness to the largest possible number of people in society. Bentham argued that there had been "punishment creep", i.e. that the severity of punishments had slowly increased so that the death penalty was then imposed for more than two hundred offences in England (Landau, Norma, 2002). For example, if rape and homicide were both punished by death, then a rapist would be more likely to kill the victim (as a witness) to reduce the risk of arrest.

Bentham posited that man is a calculating animal who will weigh potential gains against the pain likely to be imposed. If the pain outweighs the gains, he will be deterred and this produces maximal social utility. Therefore, in a rational system, the punishment system must be graduated so that the punishment more closely matches the crime. Punishment is not retribution or revenge because that is morally deficient: the hangman is paying the murder the compliment of imitation.

But the concept is problematic because it depends on two critical assumptions:

if deterrence is going to work, the potential offender must always act rationally whereas much crime is a spontaneous reaction to a situation or opportunity; and

if the system graduates a scale of punishment according to the seriousness of the offence, it is assuming that the more serious the harm likely to be caused, the more the criminal has to gain.

In this context, note Bentham's proposal for a prison design called the "panopticon" which, apart from its surveillance system included the right of the prison manager to use the prisoners as contract labor.

Spiritualistic understandings of crime stem from an understanding of life in general, that finds most things in life are destiny and cannot be controlled, we are born male or female, good or bad and all our actions are decided by a higher being. People have held such beliefs for all of recorded history, “primitive people regarded natural disasters such as famines, floods and plagues as punishments for wrongs they had done to the spiritual powers” (Vold, G. Bernard, T. and Snipes, J. 1998). These spiritual powers gained strength during the middle ages as they bonded with the feudal powers to create the criminal justice systems. Under a spiritualistic criminal justice system, crime was a private affair that was conducted between the offender and the victim’s family. However this method proved to be too revengeful, as the state took control of punishment. Spiritual explanations provided an understanding of crime when there was no other way of explaining crime. However, the problem with this understanding is it cannot be proven true, and so it was never accepted.

The main tenets of classical school of criminology why noted below

1.   Man’s emergence from the State’s religious fanaticism involved the application  of  his reason as a responsible individual.

1. It is the ‘act’ of an individual and ‘not his intent’ which forms the basis for determining criminality within him. In other words, criminologists are concerned with the ‘act’ of the criminal rather than his ‘intent’. Still, they could never think that there could be something like crime causation.

2. The classical writers accepted punishment as a principal method of infliction of pain, humiliation and disgrace to create ‘fear’ in man to control his behavior.

3. The propounders of this school, however, considered prevention of crime more important than the punishment for it. They therefore, stressed on the need for a Criminal Code in France, Germany and Italy to systematize punishment for forbidden acts. Thus the real contribution of classical school of criminology lies in the fact that it underlined the need for a well defined criminal justice system.

4. The advocates of classical school supported the right of the State to punish the offenders in the interest of public security. Relying on the hedonistic principle of pain and pleasure, they pointed out that individualization was to be awarded keeping in view the pleasure derived by the criminal from the crime and the pain caused to the victim from it. They, however, pleaded for equalization of justice which meant equal punishment for the same offence.

5. The exponents of classical school further believed that the criminal law primarily rests on positive sanctions. They were against the use of arbitrary powers of Judges. In their opinion the Judges should limit their verdicts strictly within the confines of law. They also abhorred torturous punishments.

Thus classical school propounded by Beccaria came into existence as a result of the influence of writings of Montesquieu, Hume, Bacon and Rousseau. His famous work ‘Essays on Crime and Punishment’ received wide acclamation all over Europe and gave a fillip to a new criminological thinking in the contemporary west. He sought to humanize the criminal law by insisting on natural rights of human beings. He raised his voice against severe punishment, torture and death penalty. Beccaria’s views on crime and punishment were also supported by Voltaire as a result of which a number of European countries redrafted their penal codes mitigating the rigorous barbaric punishments and some of them even went to the extent of abolishing capital punishment from their Penal Codes.

Major Shortcomings of the Classical School

The contribution of classical school to the development of rationalized criminological thinking was by no means less important, but it had its own pitfalls.

  1. The classical school proceeded on an abstract presumption of free will and relied solely on the act (i.e., the crime) without devoting any attention to the state of mind of the criminal.
  2. It erred in prescribing equal punishment for same offence thus making no distinction between first offenders and habitual criminals and varying degrees of gravity of the offence.

However, the greatest achievement of this school of criminology lies in the fact that it suggested a substantial criminal policy which was easy to administer without resort to the imposition of arbitrary punishment. It goes to the credit of Beccaria who denounced the earlier concepts of crime and criminals which were based on religious fallacies and myths and shifted emphasis on the need for concentrating on the personality of an offender in order to determine his guilt and punishment. Beccaria’s views provided a background for the subsequent criminologists to come out with a rationalized theory of crime causation which eventually led the foundation of the modern criminology and penology.

Neo-Classical School

In criminology, the Neo-Classical School continues the traditions of the Classical School within the framework of Right Realism. Hence, the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Beccaria remains a relevant social philosophy in policy term for using punishment as a deterrent through law enforcement, the courts, and imprisonment

The ‘free will’ theory of classical school did not survive for long. It was soon realized that the exponents of classical school faultered in their approach in ignoring the individual differences under certain situations and treating first offenders and the habitual alike on the basis of similarity of act or crime. The neo-classists asserted that certain categories of offenders such as minors, idiots, insane or incompetent had to be treated leniently in matters of punishment irrespective of the similarity of their criminal act because these persons were incapable of appreciating the difference between right and wrong. This tendency of neo-classists to distinguish criminals according to their mental depravity was indeed a progressive step inasmuch as it emphasized the need for modifying the classical view. Thus the contribution of neo-classical thought to the science of criminology has its own merits.

When crime and recidivism are perceived to be a problem, the first political reaction is to call for increased policing, stiffer penalties, and increased monitoring and surveillance for those released on parole. Intuitively, politicians see a correlation between the certainty and severity of punishment, and the choice whether to commit crime. The practical intention has always been to deter and, if that failed, to keep society safer for the longest possible period of time by locking the habitual offenders away in prisons (see Wilson). From the earliest theorists, the arguments were based on morality and social utility, and it was not until comparatively recently that there has been empirical research to determine whether punishment is an effective deterrent.

The main tenets of neo-classical school of criminology can be summarized as follows

1.Neo-classists approached the study of criminology on scientific lines by recognizing that certain extenuating situations or mental disorders deprive a person of his normal capacity to control his conduct. Thus they justified mitigation of equal punishment in cases of certain psychopathic offenders. Commenting on this point, Prof. Gillin observed that neo-classists represent a reaction against the severity of classical view of equal punishment for the same offence.

1. Neo-classists were the first in point of time to bring out a distinction between the first offenders and the recidivists. They supported individualization of offender a treatment methods which required the punishment to suit the psychopathic circumstances of the accused. Thus although the ‘act’ or the ‘crime’ still remained the sole determining factor  for adjudging criminality without any regard to the intent, yet the neo-classical school focused at least some attention on mental causation indirectly.

2. The advocates of this school started with the basic assumption that man acting on reason and intelligence is a self-determining person and therefore, is responsible for his conduct.  But those lacking normal intelligence or having some mental depravity are irresponsible to their conduct as they do not possess the capacity of distinguishing between good or bad and therefore should be treated differently from the responsible offenders.

3. Though the neo-classists recommended lenient treatment for “irresponsible” or mentally depraved criminals on account of their incapacity to resist criminal tendency but they certainly believed that all criminals, whether responsible or irresponsible, must be kept segregated from the society.

4. It is significant to note that distinction between responsibility and irresponsibility, that is the sanity and insanity of the criminals as suggested by neo-classical school of criminology paved way to subsequent formulation of different correctional institutions such as parole, probation, reformatories, open-air camps etc. in the administration of criminal justice. This is through this school that attention of criminologists was drawn for the first time towards the fact that all crimes do have a cause. It must, however be noted that though this causation was initially confined to psychopathy or psychology but was later expanded further and finally the positivists succeeded in establishing reasonable relationship between crime and environment of the criminal.

5. Neo-classists adopted subjective approach to criminology and concentrated their attention on the conditions under which an individual commits crime.

Thus it would be seen that the main contribution of neo-classical school of criminology lies in the fact that it came out with certain concessions in the ‘free will’ theory of classical school and suggested that an individual might commit criminal acts due to certain extenuating circumstances which should be duly taken into consideration at the time of awarding punishment. Therefore, besides the criminal act as such, the personality of the criminal as a whole, namely, his antecedents, motives, previous life-history, general character, etc., should not be lost sight of in assessing his guilt. It may be noted that the origin of jury system in criminal jurisprudence is essentially an outcome of the reaction of neo-classical approach towards the treatment of offenders.

As to the shortcomings of neo-classical school of criminology, it must be stated that the exponents of this theory believed that the criminal, whether responsible or irresponsible, is a menace to society and therefore, needs to be eliminated from it.

The term ‘Criminal Justice System’ is relatively new. It became popular only in 1967, with the publication of the report of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, The Challenge of Crime in the Free Society. The discovery that various ways of dealing with law breaking form a system was itself the result of criminological research. Research into the functioning of the system and its component parts, as well as into the work of functionaries within the system, has provided many insights over the last few decades.

Scientists who study the criminal justice system are frequently referred to as ‘criminal justice specialists.’ This term suggests a separation between criminology and criminal justice. In fact, the two fields are closely interwoven. Scholars of both disciplines use the same scientific research methods. They have received the same rigorous education, and they pursue the same goals. Both fields rely on the cooperation of many other disciplines, including sociology, psychology, political science, law, economics, management, and education. Their origins, however, do differ. Criminology has its roots in European scholarship, though it has undergone refinements, largely under the influence of American sociology. Criminal justice is a recent American innovation.

The two fields are also distinguished by a difference in focus. Criminology generally focuses on scientific studies of crime and criminality, whereas criminal justice focuses on scientific studies of decision-making processes, operations, and such justice-related concerns as the efficiency of police, courts, and corrective systems; the just treatment of offenders; the needs of victims; and the effects of changes in sentencing philosophy.

Historical Development of Criminology

The history of primitive societies and early medieval period reveals that human thinking in those days was predominated by religious mysticism and all human relations were regulated through myths, superstitious and religious tenets prevailing in a particular society. This in other words, meant that little attention was devoted to the motive, environment and psychology of the offender in the causation of crime. Moreover, in absence of any definite principle for the guidance of those who were concerned with the criminal justice administration, punishments were often haphazard, arbitrary and irrational. This situation prevailed until the end of seventeenth century. Thereafter, with the change in human thinking and evolution of modern society, certain social reformers took up the cause of criminals and devoted their attention to analysis of crime causation. This finally led to the emergence of criminology as a branch of knowledge through development of different schools of criminology.

The theoretical dimension of criminology has a long history and ideas about the causes of crime can be found in philosophical thought over two thousand years ago. For example, in Politics, Plato’s student, Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), stated that “poverty engenders rebellion and crime (Quinney 1970).” Religious scholars focused on causes as diverse as natural human need, deadly sins, and the corrupting influence of Satan and other demons. The validity of such theories was founded in religious authority and they were not viewed as theories, subject to verification through any form of systematic observation, measurement and analysis.

Rational, naturalistic philosophies about people and society grew in prominence during the 18 century. Enlightenment philosophers such as Montesquieu, Voltaire, Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham criticized political and legal institutions and advocated social reforms based on the assumption that people were rational, deliberative beings. Such ideas constituted the first major school of organized, “naturalistic” thought about criminal law, criminality, and appropriate responses to crime--the Classical School. Such perspectives were called “naturalistic” because they constructed theories locating the causes of crime in natural characteristics of human beings as opposed to “supernatural” theories emphasizing demonic causes. Classical theorists assumed that most people were capable of rational calculation of gains and costs and that criminality was a choice. Laws were to be designed and enforced based on that principle. Contemporary “deterrence theory,” “rational choice theory,” and “social learning theory” in criminology incorporate these same assumptions.

The origins of a more systematic criminology, however, are located in the late-eighteenth-century writings of those who sought to reform criminal justice and penal systems that they perceived as cruel, inhuman, and arbitrary. These old systems applied the law unequally, were subject to great corruption, and often used torture and the death penalty indiscriminately.

The leading theorist of the classical school of criminology, the Italian CESARE bonesano beccaria (1738–94), argued that the law must apply equally to all, and that punishments for specific crimes should be standardized by legislatures, thus avoiding judicial abuses of power. Both Beccaria and another classical theorist, the Englishman Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), argued that people are rational beings who exercise free will in making choices. Beccaria and Bentham understood the dominant motive in making choices to be the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Thus, they argued that a punishment should fit the crime in such a way that the pain involved in potential punishment would be greater than any pleasure derived from committing the crime. The writings of these theorists led to greater codification and standardization of European and U.S. laws.

Criminologists of the early nineteenth century argued that legal punishments that had been created under the guidance of the classical school did not sufficiently consider the widely varying circumstances of those who found themselves in the gears of the criminal justice system. Accordingly, they proposed that those who could not distinguish right from wrong, particularly children and mentally ill persons, should be exempted from the punishments that were normally meted out to mentally capable adults who had committed the same crimes. Along with the contributions of a later generation of criminologists, known as the positivists, such writers argued that the punishment should fit the criminal, not the crime.

Later in the nineteenth century, the positivist school of criminology brought a scientific approach to criminology, including findings from biology and medicine. The leading figure of this school was the Italian Cesare Lombroso (1836–1909). Influenced by Charles R. Darwin's theory of evolution, Lombroso measured the physical features of prison inmates and concluded that criminal behavior correlated with specific bodily characteristics, particularly cranial, skeletal, and neurological malformations. According to Lombroso, biology created a criminal class among the human population. Subsequent generations of criminologists have disagreed harshly with Lombroso's conclusions on this matter. However, Lombroso had a more lasting effect on criminology with other findings that emphasized the multiple causes of crime, including environmental causes that were not biologically determined. He was also a pioneer of the case-study approach to criminology.

Other late-nineteenth-century developments in criminology included the work of statisticians of the cartographic school, who analyzed data on population and crime. These included Lambert Adolphe Quetelet, (1796– 1874) of France and André Michel Guerry, of Belgium. Both of these researchers compiled detailed, statistical information relating to crime and also attempted to identify the circumstances that predisposed people to commit crimes.

The writings of French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858–1917) also exerted a great influence on criminology. Durkheim advanced the hypothesis that criminal behavior is a normal part of all societies. No society, he argued, can ever have complete uniformity of moral consciousness. All societies must permit some deviancy, including criminal deviancy, or they will stagnate. He saw the criminal as an acceptable human being and one of the prices that a society pays for freedom.

Durkheim also theorized about the ways in which modern, industrial societies differ from nonindustrial ones. Industrial societies are not as effective at producing what Durkheim called a collective conscience that effectively controls the behavior of individuals. Individuals in industrial societies are more likely to exhibit what Durkheim called anomie—a Greek word meaning "without norms." Consequently, modern societies have had to develop specialized laws and criminal justice systems that were not necessary in early societies to control behavior.

Early efforts to organize criminologists in the United States attracted law enforcement officials and others who were interested in the criminal justice system. In 1941, a group of individuals in California organized for the purpose of improving police training and the standardization of police-training curricula. In 1946, this movement developed into the establishment of the Society for the Advancement of Criminology, which changed its name to the American Society of Criminology in 1957. Initial efforts of this organization focused upon scientific crime detection, investigation, and identification; crime prevention, public safety, and security; law enforcement administration; administration of criminal justice; traffic administration; and probation.

The American Society of Criminology has since attracted thousands of members including academics, practitioners, and students of the criminal justice system. Studies of criminology include both the theoretical and the pragmatic, and some combined elements of both. Although some aspects of criminology as a science are still considered radical, others have developed as standards in the study of crime and criminal justice.

Defining Criminology

Criminology maybe defined asthe scientific study of the causation, correction, and prevention of crime”. Criminology (from Latin crīmen, "accusation"; and Greek -λογία, -logia) is the social science approach to the study of crime as an individual and social phenomenon. Although contemporary definitions vary in the exact words used, there is considerable consensus that criminology involves the application of the “scientific method” to the study of variation in criminal law, the causes of crime, and reactions to crime (Akers 2000).

Criminological research areas include the incidence and forms of crime as well as its causes and consequences. They also include social and governmental regulations and reactions to crime. Criminology is an interdisciplinary field in the behavioral sciences, drawing especially on the research of sociologists and psychologists, as well as on writings in law. An important way to analyze data is to look at quantitative methods in criminology. In 1885, Italian law professor Raffaele Garofalo coined the term "criminology" (in Italian, criminologia). The French anthropologist Paul Topinard used it for the first time in French (criminologie) around the same time.

Nature and Scope of Criminology

Criminology is an inter-disciplinary field of study, involving scholars and practitioners representing a wide range of behavioral and social sciences as well as numerous natural sciences. Sociologists played a major role in defining and developing the field of study and criminology emerged as an academic discipline housed in sociology programs. However, with the establishment of schools of criminology and the proliferation of academic departments and programs concentrating specifically on crime and justice in the last half of the 20 century, the criminology emerged as a distinct professional field with a broad, interdisciplinary focus and a shared commitment to generating knowledge through systematic research.

One ultimate goal of criminology has been the development of theories expressed with sufficient precision that they can be tested, using data collected in a manner that allows verification and replication.

As a subdivision of the larger field of sociology, criminology draws on psychology, economics, anthropology, psychiatry, biology, statistics, and other disciplines to explain the causes and prevention of criminal behavior. Subdivisions of criminology include penology, the study of prisons and prison systems; bio-criminology, the study of the biological basis of criminal behavior; feminist criminology, the study of women and crime; and criminalistics, the study of crime detection, which is related to the field of Forensic Science. Much research related to criminology has focused on the biological basis of criminal behavior. In fact, bio-criminology, attempts to explore the biological basis of criminal behavior. Research in this area has focused on chromosomal abnormalities, hormonal and brain chemical imbalances, diet, neurological conditions, drugs, and alcohol as variables that contribute to criminal behavior.

Criminology has historically played a reforming role in relation to Criminal Law and the criminal justice system. As an applied discipline, it has produced findings that have influenced legislators, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, Probation officers, and prison officials, prompting them to better understand crime and criminals and to develop better and more human sentences and treatments for criminal behavior.

Criminologists also study a host of other issues related to crime and the law. These include studies of the Victims of Crime, focusing upon their relations to the criminal, and their role as potential causal agents in crime; juvenile delinquency and its correction; and the media and their relation to crime, including the influence of Pornography.

Significance of Criminology

The true effect of criminology upon practices in the criminal justice system is still subject to question. Although a number of commentators have noted that studies in criminology have led to significant changes among criminal laws in the various states, other critics have suggested that studies in criminology have not directly led to a reduction of crime.

In Mc Cleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279, 107 S. Ct. 1756, 95 L. Ed. 2d 262 (1987), an individual who had been sentenced to death for a murder in Georgia demonstrated to the U.S. Supreme Court that a criminologist's study showed that the race of individuals in that state impacted whether the defendant was sentenced to life or to death. The study demonstrated that a black defendant who had killed a white victim was four times more likely to be sentenced to death than was a defendant who had killed a black victim. The defendant claimed that the study demonstrated that the state of Georgia had violated his rights under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as under the Eigth Amendment's protection against Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

The high court disagreed. Although the majority did question the validity of the findings, of study's it held that the study did not establish that officials in Georgia had acted with discriminatory purpose, and that it did not establish that racial bias had affected the officials' decisions with respect to the death sentence. Accordingly, the death sentence violated neither the Fourteenth Amendment nor the Eighth Amendment.

Criminology has had more of an effect when states and the federal government consider new criminal laws and sentencing provisions. Criminologists' theories are also often debated in the context of the death penalty and crime control acts among legislators and policymakers. In this light, criminology is perhaps not at the forefront of the development of the criminal justice system, but it most certainly works in the background in the determination of criminal justice policies.

Sociology and Criminology uring the twentieth century, the sociological approach to criminology became the most influential approach. Sociology is the study of social behavior, systems, and structures. In relation to criminology, it may be divided into social-structural and social-process approaches.

Social-Structural Criminology Social-structural approaches to criminology examine the way in which social situations and structures influence or relate to criminal behavior. An early example of this approach, the ecological school of criminology, was developed in the 1920s and 1930s at the University of Chicago. It seeks to explain crime's relationship to social and environmental change. For example, it attempts to describe why certain areas of a city will have a tendency to attract crime and also have less-vigorous police enforcement. Researchers have found that urban areas in transition from residential to business uses are most often targeted by criminals. Such communities often have disorganized social networks that foster a weaker sense of social standards.

Another social-structural approach is the conflict school of criminology. It traces its roots to Marxist theories that saw crime as ultimately a product of conflict between different classes under the system of capitalism. Criminology conflict theory suggests that the laws of society emerge out of conflict rather than out of consensus. It holds that laws are made by the group that is in power, to control those who are not in power. Conflict theorists propose, as do other theorists, that those who commit crimes are not fundamentally different from the rest of the population. They call the idea that society may be clearly divided into criminals and non-criminals a dualistic fallacy, or a misguided notion. These theorists maintain, instead, that the determination of whether someone is a criminal or not often depends on the way society reacts to those who deviate from accepted norms. Many conflict theorists and others argue that minorities and poor people are more quickly labeled as criminals than are members of the majority and wealthy individuals.

Critical criminology, also called radical criminology, shares with conflict criminology a debt to Marxism. It came into prominence in the early 1970s and attempted to explain contemporary social upheavals. Critical criminology relies on economic explanations of behavior and argues that economic and social inequalities cause criminal behavior. It focuses less on the study of individual criminals, and advances the belief that existing crime cannot be eliminated within the capitalist system. It also asserts, like the conflict school, that law has an inherent bias in favor of the upper or ruling class, and that the state and its legal system exist to advance the interests of the ruling class. Critical criminologists argue that corporate, political, and environmental crime are underreported and inadequately addressed in the current criminal justice system.

Feminist criminology emphasizes the subordinate position of women in society. According to feminist criminologists, women remain in a position of inferiority that has not been fully rectified by changes in the law during the late twentieth century. Feminist criminology also explores the ways in which women's criminal behavior is related to their objectification as commodities in the sex industry.

Others using the social-structural approach have studied Gangs, juvenile delinquency, and the relationship between family structure and criminal behavior.

Social-Process Criminology Social-process criminology theories attempt to explain how people become criminals. These theories developed through recognition of the fact that not all people who are exposed to the same social-structural conditions become criminals. They focus on criminal behavior as learned behavior.

Edwin H. Sutherland (1883–1950), a U.S. sociologist and criminologist who first presented his ideas in the 1920s and 1930s, advanced the theory of differential association to explain criminal behavior. He emphasized that criminal behavior is learned in interaction with others, usually in small groups, and that criminals learn to favor criminal behavior over noncriminal behavior through association with both forms of behavior in different degrees. As Sutherland wrote, "When persons become criminal, they do so because of contacts with criminal patterns and also because of isolation from anti-criminal patterns." Although his theory has been greatly influential, Sutherland himself admitted that it did not satisfactorily explain all criminal behavior. Later theorists have modified his approach in an attempt to correct its shortcomings.

Political CriminologyPolitical criminology is similar to the other camps in this area. It involves study into the forces that determine how, why, and with what consequences societies chose to address criminals and crime in general. Those who are involved with political criminology focus on the causes of crime, the nature of crime, the social and political meanings that attach to crime, and crime-control policies, including the study of the bases upon which crime and punishment is committed and the choices made by the principals in criminal justice.

Although the theories of political criminology and conflict criminology overlap to some extent, political criminologists deny that the terms are interchangeable. The primary focus points in the new movement of political criminology similarly overlap with other theories, including the concerns and ramifications of street crime and the distribution of power in crime-control strategies. This movement has largely been a loose, academic effort.


Definitions of Important Terms

Deviance: Deviance is a violation of social norms defining appropriate or proper behaviour under particular set of circumstances. Deviance often includes criminal acts. Deviance is also referred to as deviant behaviour. It is behavior that is sharply different from a customary, traditional, or generally accepted standard.

Delinquency: Delinquent means one who fails to do that which is required by law or by duty when such failure is minor in nature. A delinquent is often used to refer to a juvenile who commits a minor criminal act—juvenile delinquents.

Juvenile Delinquency: It refers to criminal acts performed by juveniles. Most legal systems prescribe specific procedures for dealing with juveniles, such as juvenile detention centers. Juvenile delinquency may refer to either violent or non-violent crime committed by persons who are (usually) under the age of eighteen and are still considered to be a minor. There is much debate about whether or not such a child should be held criminally responsible for his or her own actions.

Crime: Crime is an ‘act’ or ‘omission’ which is prohibited by criminal law. Each State sets out a limited series of acts (crimes) which are prohibited and punishes the commission of these acts by fine, imprisonment or some other form of punishment. In exceptional cases, an omission to act can constitute a crime, such as failing to give assistance to a person in peril or failing to report a case of child abuse.

Inter-Relation Between Criminology, Penology and Criminal Law

It must be reiterated that criminology is one of the branches of criminal science which is concerned with social study of crimes and criminal behavior. It aims at discovering the causes of criminality and effective measures to combat crimes. It also deals with custody, treatment, prevention and control of crimes which, for the purposes of this study, is termed as penology. The criminal policies postulated by these twin sister branches (i.e., criminology and penology) are implemented through the agency of criminal law. Thus for the sake of convenient study the entire subject may be classified under the following heads:

It is generally said that criminal law is an index of civilization because it is sensitive to the changes in social structure and reflects mental fiber of a given society. This is why Prof. Friedman calls it a barometer of moral thinking. According to Wechsler, “crime is a formal social condemnation of forbidden conduct buttressed by sanction calculated to prevent it”. Criminologists are thus confronted with three major problems, namely:

  1. What conducts should be forbidden and an inquiry into the effect of environment on these conducts ;
  2. What condemnation is appropriate in such cases ; and
  3. What kinds of sanctions are best to prevent these conducts?

It is thus evident that criminology, penology and criminal law are inter-related and one cannot really function without the other. The formulation of criminal policy essentially depends on crime causation and factors correlated therewith while its implementation is achieved through the instrumentality of criminal law. It has been rightly observed by Prof. Sellin that the object of criminology is to study the sequence of law-making, law-breaking and reaction to law-breaking from the point of view of the efficacy of law as the method of control. According to Donald Taft, criminology is the scientific analysis and observation of crime and criminals whereas penology is concerned with the punishment and treatment of offenders. In his view, the development of criminology has been much later than that of penology because in early periods the emphasis was on treatment of offenders rather than scientific investigation into the causation of crime.