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Modern Criminal Justice System And Its Contributions Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 1715 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Discuss Beccaria’s contributions vis a vis modern criminal justice systems with particular emphasis on his views as regards: (a) prevention; (b) punishment; (c) prison; (d) torture; (e) death penalty; (f) the drafting of laws; (g) proofs and findings of cases and (h) defense preparation for court.

Cesare Beccaria was born in Milan in the year 1738 into an aristocratic family. He was educated in the Jesuit College of Parma, where he showed great ability for mathematics. His work was significant in the development of Utilitarianism, which is an ethical framework for effective moral action. Beccaria became close friends with Pietro and Alessandro Verri, two brothers who formed an intellectual circle called The Academy of Fists which focused on reforming the criminal justice system. Through this group Beccaria became acquainted with several philosophers, and Montesquieu was one of them. Beccaria’s ideas were highly influential in reforming European laws, and his contributions are also visible in the Maltese Criminal Justice system to this day.

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His best known work was his book On Crime and Punishments, which condemned torture and the death penalty and was a pioneering study in the field of criminology. His view of the government was that it should work to prevent crime, rather than focus on punishment, and the effort spent on education and rewarding good behaviour would get better results and bring out happiness for all. ‘It is better to prevent crimes, than to punish them. This is the fundamental principle of good legislation ‘the art of conducting men to the maximum of happiness, and the minimum of misery’ Beccaria, C (1764), On Crime and Punishments. For a society to function well, and for it to prevent crime, it must be good in tackling crime, and preventing it from getting out of hand. We do have an agency that prevents crime from happening, and this is the police force. ‘Beccaria gave nine principles that need to be in place in order to effectively prevent crime. To prevent crime, a society must 1) make sure laws are clear and simple, 2) make sure that the entire nation is united in defence, 3) laws not against classes of men, but of men, 4) men must fear laws and nothing else, 5) certainty of outcome of crime, 6) member of society must have knowledge because enlightenment accompanies liberty, 7) reward virtue, 8) perfect education, and finally 9) direct the interest of the magistracy as a whole to observance rather than corruption of the laws. If these nine principles are followed there would be less of a need to follow the other principles of trial and punishments. Beccaria emphasized that the laws should be written in a clear manner, with simple and easy grammar, so that every citizen can understand, and he expected the laws to be equal to all. ‘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 of men, let the laws be feared, and the laws only. The fear of the laws is salutary, but the fear of men is a fruitful and fatal source of crimes.’ Beccaria, C (1764), On Crimes and Punishments.

Cesare Beccaria agrees that punishment is needed, as one should pay for any harm or damage done, but punishing someone for no reason is not just, in fact while citing Montesquieu, Beccaria states that punishment which is not absolutely necessary is considered and noted as being tyrannical. He argued that deterrence can be achieved more readily through certainty of punishment rather than the severity of it. He stated that punishment should be dictated by the severity of the offence, creating a graduated series of punishment. ‘Laws are the conditions under which men, naturally independent, united themselves in society.’ Beccaria, C (1764), On Crimes and Punishments. Beccaria was one of the first to criticize the use of capital punishment, and he condemned it on two grounds, first, because the state does not possess the right to take lives, and secondly because capital punishment is neither a useful nor a necessary form of punishment. He also added other principles, and these were that punishment had a preventive strain, not a retributive, function, punishment should be proportionate to the crime committed, the certainty of punishment, not its severity, would achieve the preventive effect, procedures of criminal convictions should be public, and he also claimed that in order to be effective, punishment should be prompt. He believes that capital punishment is not necessary to implement into society, and long term imprisonment is a more powerful deterrent since execution only exists briefly. ‘”It seems to me absurd that the laws , which are an expression of the public will, which detest and punish homicide, should themselves commit it, and that to deter citizens from murder they order a public one” Beccaria, C (1764), On Crimes and Punishments. Since the 1700’s has Beccaria been arguing that capital punishment is not right, and one can see his contribution in the Maltese Criminal Justice System today, as it has been removed from the criminal code in 1971. However, in Malta it existed with a moratorium since the year 1943, and also, the death penalty could be given under military law, when cases of treason were involved, which was effectively abolished in 2000.

He expresses not only the need for the criminal justice system, but also the government’s right to have laws and punishments. He believes in the social contract, where one chooses to live in a society, but has to give up some personal liberties in exchange for the safety and comfort of a society. ‘”but merely to have established this deposit was not enough; it had to be defended against private usurpation by individuals each of whom always tries not only to withdraw his own share but also to usurp for himself that of others” Beccaria, C (1764), On Crimes and Punishments. Beccaria emphasizes that there should be two parties, one representing the sovereign, known as the prosecution, and the other representing the accused, known as the defence. When these two parties battle out the fate of the accused in the courtroom, the judge or magistrate shall be the one who decides, after the jury will have given their sentence. ‘The proofs of a crime ‘ be divided into two classes, perfect and imperfect’ perfect ‘exclude the possibility of innocence; imperfect ‘ do not exclude this possibility.’ Beccaria, C (1764), On Crimes and Punishments. Needless to say, in the modern criminal justice system, to arrest a person, proof is needed and to arraign in court and strong evidence is needed for the prosecution to convince the jury. Society changes, people’s minds and actions towards other factors also change, and therefore an act is criminal when it is branded as such by the majority of the people, and an example of this is how adultery is no longer a crime, as in due time the people’s mentality toward this issue has changed. Beccaria says that when a person is accused, and later on revealed to be innocent by the courts, this event must be known by society as a whole, as if not, the accused, now innocent person may get a bad reputation for nothing, therefore in the modern criminal justice system this is done by a variety of means, such us the media and even online. ‘When the accused is found to be ‘not guilty’, this decision should be made public so that the person’s reputation be redeemed.’ Beccaria, C (1764), On Crime and Punishments.

Alessandro Verri was the protector of the prisoners, and therefore Beccaria had quite some knowledge about the prison systems and how the prisoners were treated. People were going to prison for any wrong doing they committed and petty crime offenders were ending up staying next you hardened criminals, and the young were being housed with the old. Beccaria wanted to reform the prison system, and he came up with the idea that prisons should be provided for different people, that is, a petty criminal cannot stay next to a hardened criminal, as it is not just for the petty offender. A better physical quarters should be provided, with prisoners classified by age, sex and degree of criminality. In fact with regards to Beccaria’s contributions to the modern criminal justice, modern prison systems are housed and maintained as he claimed, were the young and old are separated, were the juvenile section is implemented, solely for minor offenders, and also male and female prisoners are housed in a difference building. Since Beccaria was against the use of torture on criminals to gain confessions, he states that with torture one may be at risk at punishing an innocent. He also states that the weak may succumb to torture and the strong may resist, so this practice cannot work in a society. ‘..of two men equally innocent, or equally guilty, the most robust and resolute will be acquitted, and the weakest and most pusillanimous will be condemned, in consequence of the following excellent mode of reasoning.’ Beccaria, C (1764), On Crime and Punishments. Again in most modern criminal justice systems worldwide, torture is not used in any ways, and mostly looked down upon.

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His main work was the book on Crimes and Punishments, originally called Dei delitti e delle pene, in which he argues against the severities and abuses of criminal law, especially capital punishment and torture. The work became extremely popular and was translated into all the European languages. The writings of Beccaria stimulated and provided a guide for reforms in the penal codes of many European nations, as well as the United States. He was among the first to advocate education as a means of lessening crime.

Discuss Beccaria’s contributions vis a vis modern criminal justice systems with particular emphasis on his views as regards: (a) prevention; (b) punishment; (c) prison; (d) torture; (e) death penalty; (f) the drafting of laws; (g) proofs and findings of cases and (h) defense preparation for court.


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