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The Pathology Of Crime Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3334 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Pathology is the study of a particular subject- a disease. It is the diagnosis of an abnormality through careful examination of the constituents of the diseased body.

When crime is considered to be a disease, an abnormality among humans, then, Pathology of crime can be called the study of crime; the psychological and general aspects of it, by careful examination of the various constituents and factors of crime such as- disruption of existing social norms and values, mental illness, stress, disorganization in society, anti social psychopathological mindsets, physical disorders etc.

Through my paper on this subject, I hope to cover exhaustively all the social factors that affect society , crime in society and also understand and outline the lacunae between existing laws against crime, those geared towards the upliftment of society in general and the reality faced by us, the common man.

I also aim to unearth some potentially comprehensive, pragmatic and useful ways to reduce crime rate on a whole and evaluate the effectiveness of traditional punishment.

What is Crime?

A ‘purist legal view’ of crime is defined as a violation of a criminal law. Irrespective of the moral or social outrage or ethical wrongness of an act, it cannot be termed a crime unless it directly or indirectly is infringing upon a certain act passed.

In this sense, crime becomes a ‘sociopolitical event, rather than a clinical condition, a clinical or medical condition- which cannot be treated or diagnosed.’ – In the words of Mr. Vernon Fox,1985.

In this traditional outlook on crime, an Actus Reus – a criminal act and a guilty intention- Mens Rea ; are the essential elements of a crime.

But crime cannot be restricted in such a way solely to the acts defined. Criminologists must study the deviants-the criminals, as well as the socio cultural contexts that define them.

A lot of learned people and scholars in the fields of Sociology, psychology, neurology as well as eminent jurists and law makers opine that – ‘every criminal act is the result of abnormal behavior of the individual concerned’ . This is where it becomes imperative for us to understand the pathology of crime. Hence the question, what exactly is pathology?

Pathology and its relationship with crime

Pathology can be defined as the scientific study and characterization of an anomaly/ disease/ abnormality in a certain field of interest.

criminal pathologists, more commonly known as criminologists; deal with the study, structure, changes and functioning of a society on the basis of crimes and the interdependent relationship between crime and society. As in, how society at large is affected by various criminal deviant behavior, how values, mores, laws, folkways in turn keep changing or adjusting to the general consensus of society at large and how this in turn affects impressionable young minds towards deviant tendencies.

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An interesting trend to note would be the generality towards the acceptance of crime as an abnormality in society. This acceptance shows us that in a utopian environment, the concept of crime ceases to exist. This ‘pathology’ shows us that we believe crime is essentially a perversion of human character, something that must be remedied or rectified ; Removed from the minds of those who practice it.

We can relate the rationality behind that of a pathological criminal to that of a pathological/ compulsive liar. A pathological liar doesn’t always know when he/she is lying. The lie becomes a part of his/her reality. This is due to certain mental problems. It has also been found that there are some anomalies in the structure of the brain of a pathological liar. It is wired differently compared to regular healthy brains. This throws light on the psychological aspects of crime. It could perhaps be curable one day.  These ideas led to the study of phrenology, in which brain size and shape were used to determine criminality. There is an immediate and overwhelming need for more medical research on the subject.

Contradicting views –

Durkheim actually states that ‘ crime should be seen as something functional and necessary for society rather than something pathological, and a symptom of a diseased society.’

He bases his argument on that fact that crime has been omnipresent ever since society came into existence. He says all societies, bar none, have experienced crime. Thus, according to him, crime seems to represent a condition of normality.

He says a crime is a crime because it offends values, not because it is fundamentally wrong. He thinks crime strengthens a societies ideals and values because they are reaffirmed every time someone is prosecuted for a wrong doing.

Of course, his views are not widely accepted and are opposed by many, due to the obvious gaping loop holes in his explanation. Crime is never a good thing and it doesn’t strengthen a society. It reflects on the ethics and morals of the community, true; and it might be historically ingrained in our culture but that doesn’t make it right. It is still something that can, and should be curbed.

Thus, on the basis of lack of strong arguments stating otherwise, we can assume crime is inherently a pathological condition.

Factors responsible for crime.

The most basic question that comes to mind when discussing the criminology or pathological aspects of crime would be the one that points to the grass root level of it all. Why does crime exist?

What leads people to participate in such ethically and morally wrong deeds, and go about abusing the very values they grew up with?

Psychological conditions.


Social disorganization

Lack of education

Lack of a strong support system

social change/ Evolution- Regression.

Negative liberalization

Economic Fluctuations

Dissolution of religious, marriage and family institutions

No conformity towards social norms, morals.

Changing status of certain sects of society

Dissociative social processes and conflicts

Lack of empathy and personal ethics. Effect of mass media

The aforementioned reasons are some of the main factors for the reason crime exists. Tackling the growing phenomenon of crime can only be done by first taking care of the economic, social and psychological issues related to cause spikes in crime.

We have to understand that the majority of socialization processes are completed by the family, in the primary stage. If the process of sociality is done right, with the family stressing on the inculcation of the right values, norms, culture and liberal thinking, the base for a healthy society can be accomplished.

For this, it is essential for families to be tight knit and functional. The environment given to the children has to project safety. When there is an absence of a healthy environment and a family system, it has been statistically proven that there is an increase in the risk for delinquency.

Most crimes can be averted when the simple differentiation between rights and wrongs, and human empathy are clarified and made extremely clear.

When there is a fear of a higher authority which projects absolute morals and strict punishment for those who break this code of morality, there is a reduction in the occurrence of crime. Thus, religion, though borderline irrational, plays an important role in curbing crime; when interpreted the right way.

Trends In Crime

Age and crime

Crime rate generally declines with progress in age. Most offenders caught come under the age bracket of 16-25. Experts say ‘ the age-crime curve probably reflects decreasing parental controls, a peaking of peer influence in the teenage years, and then increasing family and community controls with age. ‘

Sex and crime

Of all the demographic variables present, gender seems to be the most muddled.

Most offenses are predominantly done by males, save those of flesh trade. More than 83% of today’s heinous crimes are committed by males. But the fairer sex seems to be proclaiming equality in this field, too.

A lot of petty crimes, traffic violations and other minor crimes are slowly becoming the female domain of crime.

Attached next is a graph, to illustrate both.


Social class and crime

A vast majority of those arrested or labeled as a criminal belong to the lower strata of society.

Though some scholars say that the official data shows this only because those belonging to the higher classes can usually get away with crime by bribing or gaining favors from the authority figures, there has been a rise in white collar crimes and the like, which may soon even out the curve.

Minority groups/ Race / Regionality and crime.

People belonging to the minority groups and less dominant races or those who belong to other regions (those who migrate in search of better living conditions, work etc) usually belong to the poorer sections of society.

This, coupled with the fact that the adults in the family are too busy eking out a living to take care of the education and moral well being of their wards ,could have a direct effect on the fact that a lot of miscreants and criminal offenders belong these backgrounds.

Also, there is an underlying contempt towards the privileged lot because racial profiling and discrimination is rampant. This in turn creates conflict between the two groups and might provoke the poorer sections to target the privileged lot.

These various trends in crime help us understand the societal approach to it and the group consensus. Targeted treatment can be done.

Typology of Crime

Criminal typologies are ways to try and classify types of crime and criminals.

It can be based on various criteria like :

Type of offence committed.

Reaction of society towards said crime.

What the law and legislatures state.

Criminal career of the offender etc.

There have been many attempts made to classify criminals under one binding system but no such efforts have paid off till date.

For example, Schafer’s LIFE TREND typology of criminals (1982)

is as follows-

Occasional criminals

Professional criminals

Abnormal criminals

Habitual criminals

Convictional criminals

Though seemingly comprehensive enough, this typology was rejected, just like many before because it did not completely classify every criminal type.

The very science of typology has been under heavy criticism because

Specific offenses vary with time and place.

some offenders participate in more than one type of crime

Most offenses are usually inter linked and cannot be over simplified by trying to make them seem more distinct than they are.

No single typology is useful to group all offenders.

But the typology of Criminal behavior systems is still widely taken into consideration.

It is as follows-

Violent personal crime

occasional property crime

occupational crime

corporate crime

political crime

public order crime

conventional crime

organized crime

Professional crime

This kind of typology is done on the basis of behavior and type of crime committed, for making the legislative and judiciary process easier, by simplifying the classification.

Figure3.1 Use of Typologies in CJS-Final.jpg

Some of the most jarring and convoluted crimes ever recorded in History occurred sometime over the past century.

Gruesome murders, violent rape and assault charges, extortion, art crimes and media copy cat crimes have been the rage.



THE LINDBERGH KIDNAPPING; THE Lufthansa heist etc are all globally famous crimes that literally shocked people. To know that fellow humans were capable of such monstrosities wasn’t a comforting thought. The recent jimmy saville case is also terrifying, in many ways.

But there has been a steady decline in violent crime, globally. Though experts are baffled for the reason behind this, a lot of criminologists think it has something to do with growing awareness and simple precautionary methods being cultivated in day to day life.

There is actually research to support this claim. Apparently more than 40% of crimes in a society are the product of easy opportunity.

In india, a sizeable number of crime results from the easy opportunity and due to lack of effective thinking on crime prevention.



By this act, people above 21 who wish to marry a person below 18 or those who aid and solemnize this marriage are liable for punishment . (Imprisonment for more than 3 months and fine).


The Protection Of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005

The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2000

Under this act, juvenile offenders (those under 18 years of age) are rehabilitated and protected. Reformation in the main criteria.

Prevention Of Terrorism Act 2002

Though there are a myriad of such laws, legislations, acts being passed frequently, there is still a gaping bridge between them being recognized and being implemented efficiently.

Laws made for the welfare of the people or certain sections of the society are highly misused or taken advantage of by people with dishonest intentions, thus making it unapproachable for those in real need of it.


Upliftment and protection of women has always been on the agenda for our law makers.

There have been copious changes in existing legislations and acts being passed in various sections for the same.

Art 15(A) (e) – To renounce practices derogatory to women or their dignity.

304 B IPC – Dowry harassment and death.

312-318 IPC – Causing miscarriage and abortion; without consent.

359-374 IPC – Kidnapping ad abduction

375-376 (D) IPC – Sexual offences

497 IPC – Adultery

494 IPC – Bigamy

453 IPC – Cohabitation by manipulation /deceit

The prevention of sati act 1829

Hindu widow remarriage act 1856

Immoral traffic prevention act 1956

These are very few of the exhaustive list available. But we do not see most of these laws reaching their desired objective.

Preventive Measures, Punishments.

The problem of crime is a socially constructed problem. It’s about socio economic status and criminal victimization, in most cases.

Richer households are more likely to be victims of some crimes , such as crimes against property, trespass etc.

Poorer households are more likely to be victims of serious intrusive crime such as burglary, mugging and domestic violence.

Statistics also confirm that minority ethnic groups are also victimized more than regular people.

Same goes for young people, whose chances of being physically molested, mobbed, assaulted etc decrease with increase in age.

By understanding these demographics and applying the theory of crime of opportunity, there is a concept of ‘Situational Crime prevention’.

What is situational crime prevention?

Making changes to buildings and streets to make them safer

Asking the police for help

Using common sense to stop criminals

Using neighbors to look out for crime

Working with people from different agencies

By being practical, smart, resourceful and keeping a vigilant eye on our surroundings, this theory claims to be able to reduce upto 50% of the crimes.


Youth and crime –

Four million people use illicit drugs each year, of which about 56% are aged 16-24.

Most offenders who use drugs commit crimes to finance their drug use. Police crackdowns on dealers and users have had no impact on drug availability or levels of crime.

Hence, appropriate drug treatment, psychological help and efficient rehabilitation programs must be made available.


The concept of crime and penalties and jurisdiction evolved as society civilized over centuries.

They were originally considered to be private affairs. The offended party had to seek compensation or private revenge. Later, offenses were only against the king and later yet, the subjects.

When compensation developed, fines were levied on behalf of the king (state), thus making the state the wronged party, much like what it is today.

The intentions behind imposing penalties to compensate the wronged parties, though honorable, does not serve its purpose. People cannot restore lost dignity, respect or honor by providing monetary compensation to the victims. Though it may help some of them start over in life. what about the wretched families of the wrong doer, who have to bequeath their possessions and requirements in life to pay for a mistake they didn’t even make.

And the very concept of imprisonment also does not really make much sense to a forward rational thinker.

Paraphrasing one of them, ‘There is a logical contradiction at the heart of the idea (imprisonment) which is that, you are taking people away from society, away from the law-abiding world, and away from all the influences of people who keep the norm, and putting them in a place where they will only be mixing with people who have broken the norm and then expecting that some good will come out of it. I think, the evidence accumulated over many years is that, what you create is a lawless society. ‘

Criminals /Delinquents should not be treated as evil.

‘Psychoanalytic Theory : The psychoanalytic theory, rather than seeking the causes in biological processes or anomalies, – attempts to look into the mind of the individual. According to Friedlander, classical Freudian psychoanalytic explanations of delinquency focus on abnormalities or disturbances in the individual’s emotional development from early childhood. The id is the unconscious seat of all irrational, antisocial and instinctual impulses, which must be controlled and shaped for successful adaptation to life within a society. This is done through the development of the ego, or the conscious and the rational part of the mind and through the superego, or the conscience, which serves as the moralizing part of the mind.

The basic premise of his approach to crime is that, – delinquent or criminal behaviour is, by itself, unimportant. It is only a symptom of the psychic conflict between the id, ego and the superego – arising from abnormal maturation or control of instincts. 

The treatment and policy implications of psychoanalytic theory are direct and obvious. Criminals and delinquent offenders should be treated, not as evil – but as sick persons, who can basically, not be held responsible for their actions in any rational or controllable sense. Therefore, punishment of offenders will remain largely ineffective and will only provoke more guilt and unhealthy psychological reactions. #

# Kate Friedlander, 1947. 

Emile Durkheim. ‘



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