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The study of criminological theory is an opportunity to analyze and critique the way others have looked at crime through history. Today, the quest to understand crime is as close to us as the latest newspaper headlines and television reports. However, theory is not just a popular belief, opinion, or value-driven explanation. Instead, theory is a product of the scientific approach.
"Two writers of this period, Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794) and Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), wrote the best-known works and they are considered to have had the most influence. In their writings, they opposed the arbitrary and capricious nature of the criminal justice systems of the time. Both Beccaria and Bentham, proposed that both the law and the administration of justice should be based on rationality and human rights, neither of which was then commonly applied" (Williams & McShane, 2004, p. 15).
How Do These Theories Differ
The classical theory believes crime occurs when the benefits outweighs the costs, when individuals pursue self-interest in the absence of effective punishments. Crime is a free-willed choice. "This theory focuses mainly on the individual and choice. Each individual makes decisions based on cost and benefit. Using Classical Theory, human behavior is explained in terms of the attempt to maximize pleasure and minimize pain" (Williams & McShane, 2004, p.17) and because the basis for the concept of deterrence. The core principle of the classical school is the deterrence theory, which states a crime can be controlled through the use of punishments.
Political belief prior to this supported the idea that people served the needs of the government. The idea of a new social contract in which the government existed to serve the needs of the governed brought forth a new idea that supports "a person surrendered to the authority of the state only the amount of freedom necessary to ensure protection of the rights of other citizens." This new idea of contractual relationship of the government to its people was a product of a new, emerging middleclass, and as such was at strain with the ruling elite and those who had held power.
The Classical Theory does not consider compulsions, obsessions and irrational behavior. Classical Theorists believe that this hypothesis applies to, and is inclusive of, all individuals, that everyone possesses equivalent reasoning ability. If individuals are aware of the consequences presented for an action, this will serve as a deterrent. This is not the case, for example, applicable to diminished person that cannot comprehend such concepts. The following paragraphs will discuss the Positivist Theory
According to the Theories of Crime (2009) article, "The common assumptions of the biological theories of crime are that physical attributes can lead an individual to criminal activities. Generally, the thought was that certain physical attributes were passed down from parent to child, making the child more at risk of committing crimes. These earlier theories of crime focused on heredity, and were quick to make assumptions about the findings of the research."
"Biological theory assumes crimes are a physical attribute, which can lead an individual to criminal activities. Generally, the thought was that certain physical attributes were passed down from parent to child, making the child more at risk of committing crimes. These earlier theories of crime focused on heredity, and were quick to make assumptions about the findings of the research. One of the controversies surrounding the biological and psychological factors is the recognition that both factors play important roles in human behavior, while at the same time not recognizing those same factors as having important roles in contributing to delinquency or an individual's tendencies to be delinquent" (Tehrani, & Mednick, 2010).
"Biosocial Theory is a theory in behavioral and social science that suggests the attribution of disorders of personality and conditions of mind to the reaction of biologically determined personality traits to environmental stimuli" (Cloninger, 1986). While many sociologists and criminologists focus on the role of environmental effects as primarily responsible for causing crime, the influence of biology an crime is also often studied" (Ellis, 2007). Biosocial theories may argue, for example, that humans predisposed by their genes to taking risks may also be predisposed to criminal behavior" (Ellis, 2007).
Both the biological and biosocial theories, agree that individuals commit a criminal act due to biological or genetic defects, and that the crime is a result of abnormalities that an individual received during birth, is what makes individuals commit crimes.
The classical theory believes that every individual is given his or her own right and freedom of choice. The classical theory believes deterrence can be used as a preventative measure to help reduce crimes.
What Do Biological and Biosocial Advocates Propose
Early childhood development or damage to certain areas of the brain during development has been found to be present in delinquents and criminals. Certain organic differences have also been found. Children who have grown up in urban areas polluted by lead and toxic industrial wastes have been found to have lower learning abilities and brain damage, and exhibit other disorders such as attention deficit disorder or learning disabilities. These can lead to the inability to learn properly or socialize, and have a greater tendency to display impulsive behavior, and an inability to postpone instant gratification for later long-term gratification.
Nevertheless, persons should be held responsible and accountable for their actions if they are of sound mind and body. Many defense attorneys rely on the insanity defense and coherent criminals attempt to feign mental or diminished capacity in an attempt to escape consequences for their actions.
Would Classical School Supporter Accept These Concepts
Early scientific methods and theories used to explain criminal behavior and to identify the potential and prevention of criminality were very crude in the early years when attempts were made to measure the size of skulls, foreheads, and other outward body shapes. My personal belief is the classical school would support these concepts because each criminological theory shares similar concepts, which can be integrated into one criminological theory. Today there is much more known about the effect that environment, both the geographical and social have on individual and group development and the tendency toward delinquent and criminal behavior.
Perhaps a more important issue is if the focuses on biological and psychological explanations are used to determine and explain criminal behavior, then it becomes an individual focus, or a focus on a specific neighborhood or geographical area.
Once the focus is on individuals instead of social conditions that lead to antisocial behavior, the fear is that social policies and attempts to correct and alleviate injustice and terrible social conditions will fall by the wayside while more control will be leveled against certain individuals deemed to be prone to delinquent or criminal behavior. Biological theory may lead those in power to exert control and lead to discrimination to groups of people determined to be risky.
Political belief prior to this supported the idea that people served the needs of the government. The idea of a new social contract in which the government existed to serve the needs of the governed brought forth a new idea that supports "a person surrendered to the authority of the state only the amount of freedom necessary to ensure protection of the rights of other citizens." This new idea of contractual relationship of the government to its people was a product of a new, emerging middle-class, and as such was at strain with the ruling elite and those who had held power."
Because these can be potential excuses for abuse, researchers and scientists should exercise vigilance and caution to prevent those discoveries from leading to regressive or repressive social policies. The old "nature vs. nurture" has evolved into realization that both genetics and environment have differing effects based upon an individual's vulnerability to a deviant behavior
With either approach, it is politics and economics that ultimately determine which direction the criminal justice system will use to control or present crime. Using the classical idea that behavior is a choice, control, treatment or punishment will be centered on changing the patterns of behavior and decision-making of those who have or are expected to break the law. If the biosocial and biological theory pre-dominates the criminal justice policies and programs, there will likely be more research into the genetic, biological, and environmental influences that predispose certain people to become criminal. This could be a dangerous or an exciting breakthrough for humanity, depending on the motives behind those charged with implementation and financing of the research and programs.
An explanation concerning the disparity of these theories and a discussion of crime control practices that classical theory advocates support has been provided. Society should be more generous with praise and accolades to those that have overcome a great deal of adversity in their lives, overcome gargantuan disadvantages and yet, have managed to transcend.