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Psychology was a major contribution to criminological theories and practices. Many disciplines around the world has contributed to understand crime such as: Writers, Economists, researchers, medicine, sociology, psychology and many others. So criminology by time was evolved by the study of the above mentioned disciplines.
Past critics believe that criminology is not a specialization on it's own because it relies on various other disciplines within another field such as sociology. Then came Wolfgang and Farracuti (1967) who said that now criminology has achieved it's own status by the collection of data, theories and it's own methodology.
What is psychology?
As B.F Skinner (1953) said in his book that Psychology is a stint in between mind against behavior. But you cannot answer psychology in just two lines. Many books were published to answer this question and mainly all authors have come up with different ideas. Psychology is a study of human qualities such as perception, memory, thinking, learning, intelligence, creativity and personality.
Psychology is divided in various categories and psychologists study these human qualities in a particular way.
The mainstream areas are;
Development Psychology - the study of human from infancy to old age.
Abnormal Psychology - the study of understanding mental disturbances (depression etc..)
Social Psychology - the study of the behavior in families or peer groups and even working environment with work colleagues
Educational Psychology - the study of teaching and educational systems
Occupational Psychology - the expertise from people in the world organization. (Management etc…)
Clinical Psychology - the treatment / therapy for abnormal psychology, such as therapy and counseling.
What is crime?
There are three major approaches to define crime:
The consensus view
The conflict view
The consensus view
Whatever is done and is not followed by criminal proceedings is not considered as a crime. A crime is occurred if an act has been committed. Anti-social behavior is not a crime unless it is prohibited by the law (Actus Reus). It is also a crime if the individual have had criminal intent in committing the act (Mens Rea).
Some crimes are not seen as a crime in all countries and these are called statutory crimes (Male prohibitum). But there are crimes/other acts which are almost deemed 'wrong' or 'bad in themselves' (Male In Se) which crimes are those who inflict harm on other's persons. Two most popular are the murder, assault and rape (Act against the person) followed by the inflict of harm in the person's property such as burglary, damages and trespassing.
These are also the agreed terms of society. N Walker (1965) said that laws exists for the protection of the realm and to prevent public acts which might shock, corrupt or deprave the society and they act to preserve a stable society and protect individual lives and their possessions.
(Grinsberg 1965) Most people believe that not all acts/crimes deserves the same punishment. People in this country can distinguish between serious offences and less serious offences
(Siegal 1986) Siegal has summarized findings from the American National Survey of crime severity of public perceptions of crime seriousness. The 5 most serious crimes were all crimes against the person with the most serious was 'planting a bomb in a public place and killing 20 people or more (can be described also as an act of terrorism, with the least serious of crimes was a person being drunk in a public place or trespassing.
So from this survey it resulted that the consensus view of the public must be reflected on the type of crime committed. You can't treat all crimes the same. Imagine for stealing a book from a stationery is punished the same as raping a minor in a public place.
The conflict view
This view of crime is directly opposed by the consensus view. Conflict view is the difference between society - you have the upper, middle and lower class. The conflict between these three classes in someway or another creates jealousy and promotes crime.
These 3 classes commit various offences:
Lower Class Society: This class of people because of their way of living commit crime that can be felt by the general public and even seen on local media such as burglaries, theft and sometimes even murder.
Middle Class Society: This class commit typical white collar crime such as tax evasion, and theft from their employers in for example wages. When it comes to tax evasion this type of crime, you do not often hear it on the media and it take time for investigators to investigate this case and have a solid case in their hand before they must present same case infornt of the courts.
Upper Class Society: This class you find the people who often wear the tuxedo's and live the high life. This class of people make the big offences by sometimes using the lower class people for example the drug business. Similar to how the Mafia works. The Don's observe the business while their soldiers make the dirty work. Other criminal activities you usually find in this upper class society is exploitation, profiteering and environmental pollution.
Here comes the difference on how an upper class and a lower class person is seen in the eyes of justice. A low class person who is caught by police or a warden flicking a cigarette end on the floor is immediately punished there and then, while a factory owner who usually is an upper class citizen, drops kilos of poisonous gases in the air, litter thousands of litres of chemicals in rivers and seas, which by far they are much more dangerous for the human life is not punished.
Both of these classes of society are doing wrong but the low class who does not give anything to the economy gets fined and the upper class society who own factories and other business, justice close an eye on them because if they stop producing these gases it would be an economical catastrophe.
Criminal laws are there to protect the rich and the wealthy. The poor becomes poorer and the wealthy becomes even more wealthier. The lower class citizen is sentenced to prison for committing a simple offence while the rich for that same offence gets away with a reasonable fine.
The interactionist view
Interactionist view just stands in between the consensus and the conflict view. Started (Blumer 1965) in a school of thought within sociology known as symbolic interactionism, and divided into 3 groups the assumptions of why creating a crime.
1st assumption: Each individual is guided by his own interpretation of reality and meaning of what events hold for them.
2nd assumption: The individual is still learning the meaning, a process seen as a resulting from the way in which other people react, good or bad.
3rd and final assumption: The person can evaluate his behavior on what he has learned from other people.
Taking a life of another person is a criminal act. But what if this life was taken in self defence? What if you are sentenced to death for a crime you committed? In early days even for theft people were given this sentence. What if you are sent to war and during the fight you killed 5 or 6 other enemy soldiers? Would it be still seen as a criminal act?
In the 1960's the interactionist views reached their height's but started descending throughout the years. People who had the interactionist views have been split into the consensus and conflict views.
Theories of crime
The views discussed above have been translated into theories of crime and this has influenced the research in how evidence is gathered, data interpreted and theories construction.
Classical and positivist theories
Classical theories argues that criminal behavior is an act of free will. Every person has a free choice of choosing either a criminal or non criminal behavior. Keeping in mind what are the consequences of both behaviors. If it's worth it to commit a crime - if yes the risk of criminal acts will rise - for example if there are low punishments in court criminals would risk it why not. At it's most basic it suggests that severe punishments in court will deter people from any criminal act.
In the mid 1700's and early 1800's, stealing offences were punishable by severe punishment, sometimes even by dead.
Cesare Baccaria argued that every crime should be punished, but the punishment should fit the crime committed. Extreme measures are unnecessary and indeed, may be counter protective. The British philosopher Jeremy Bentham similarly argued as Baccaria. Bentham designed a number of rules to regulate the administration of punishment. Both Baccaria and Bentham has made their mark in the Judicial system of the time.
1970's and 1980's seen a renewed interest in classical Criminology - (Bayer 1981 and Van Den Haag 1982) among various neo classical and conservative Criminologists have emerged a strong voice in theorizing. Many wanted harsher sentences in courts, longer and even in Britain they asked for the reintroduction of the Death Penalty.
Positivists seen crime from the side of the Sociological problems and from the Biological side. The various classes people live in can affect the thinking of a person on whether he commits a crime or not. As discussed earlier low class citizens are more vulnerable to the under the scope crime. Sociological problems can result in 'anomie' and 'strain'. Positivists theories generally are more liberal in orientation which suggest that intime interventions, welfare or social level, is an optimum strategy for reducing crime.