Where To Attempt To Tackle Crime Criminology Essay

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The classic debate amongst criminologists concerning where to attempt to tackle crime is a debate that has evolved through many different schools of thought. The debate itself is looked at with a new angle with every innovative idea concerning what causes criminals to act deviantly and contradict societal norms. Whether or not the causes of the devience can be accounted on biological psychological or sociological causes, the main goal of preventing crime is always to deter actors from committing the offence. The Deterence theory is based upon a concept that the punishment or consequence of committing a crime must be greater or outweigh the benefit of committing the crime itself. If the criminal is aware that when caught the consequences of the crime are greater then the benefits of the crime itself, then they will be deterred from committing an offence. The fact that the punishment is known to society and that the consequences are as well, assumes that when a crime is committed, the criminal accepts all responsibilities and consequences of her/ his actions.

Deterrence can be applied to any criminological theories that have developed over time, and can be found at the core of many successful and unsuccessful methods of crime prevention - all centering on the prevention and deterrence of crime from being committed. Several theories centering on deterrence will be discussed, as they have evolved over time from feudalistic systems that concentrate on physical punishments, to modern systems of thought which incorporated much more then just the actor, such as sociological factors, into the reason for social deviance. These theories tie hand in hand in looking at the four quadrant model which dictates who society views as the cause of crime, and who is responsible. Saul Alinsky's parable summarized, concerns a fisherman who sees a drowning body in a river, jumps in and saves the man. The drowning body is followed by another and another, each being saved by the fisherman. This continues until the fisherman ignores one body, and runs upstream to see who is "pushing these poor folks into the water". This analogy is a commentary on the evolution of the way criminological theory has dictated we deal with criminals and social deviance. Criminological theory dictated in the past that we must deal with the actor whos commiting the crime, (i.e the drowning men), yet more modern principles dictate we dictate with the act, or the factors that influence an individual to commit a crime (i.e the man pushing the drowing men into the river).

Early feudalistic deterrence dealt not only with crime, yet dealt with the political ideals of the time, which centered around monarchy's and absolute unquestionable power. This in turn led to practices of deterrence which were ultimately unfair and animalistic in nature, which lead to practices such as an "eye for an eye". The class system was meant to stay in place and these methods of deterrence were put in place to keep the system in order and keep the powerful on top and the weak on the bottom. Totalitaranistic rule also did not see much evolution into theories revolving around the actors yet soley focused on swift and just punishment for the actions of social deviants without much concern shown towards the defendants, rarely being offered legal council of any sort. The thought process was that public displays of brutally strict justice with no mercy, led to public compliance with the laws, and that any deviance would be dealt with immediately. During this period in the evolution of criminological thought the punishments grossly outweighed the benefits of the crime.

The school of thought that stemmed from this primitive harsh system of punishment was the classical school of thought, headed by Cesare Beccaria. The classical school of thought focuses on the fact that all people are rational and possess free will therefore when the act is committed it is directly the responsibility of the actor committing the crime. Even though the primitive thought process was slowly weaning out of popularity and a more humanistic approach was being taken towards crime, there was a common consensus that the criminal justice system could control individuals' tendencies to commit crime by example or direct punishment. The classical school of thought co-coordinated between the behavioral or exterior-individual quadrant of Ken Wilber's model and the intentional or interior-individual quadrant, stating that the individual was rational and the reason for committing crime was a behavioral issue which can also be seen in much of theorists work concerning genetics being responsible for social deviance.

Out of the classical thought of criminological deviance came Casare Lombroso. With Lombroso came the theory of positive criminological thought, which is the building blocks for theories of thought that can still be seen in modern criminal justice. Casare Lombroso is referred to as the "father of modern criminology" for this reason specifically. The positive view of criminology shifts across Wilbers quadrants to Interio-Collective, which places societies views of deviance on cultural influences and centers around 9 components.

"1. Criminal behavior is learned. 

2. Criminal behavior is learned through interaction with others during communication. 

3. The key part of learned criminal behavior occurs in intimate personal groups. 

4. When criminal behavior is learned, the learned behavior includes:

  · the techniques of committing the crime, those which are very complicated and those very simple and

  · the specific direction of criminal motives, drives, rationalizations and attitudes. 

5. The direction of the motive and/or drive is learned from the legal code as either favorable or unfavorable. 

6. A person chooses delinquent behavior when they acquire an excess of favorable definitions related to the violation of laws.

7. Differential association varies in frequency, duration, priority and intensity. 

8. The process of learning criminal behavior through contact with criminal and non-criminal patterns involves all the same things involved in any other type of learning. 

9. Criminal behavior is an expression of general needs and values, but it is not explained by those needs, because non-criminal behavior is defined by those same needs and values. " [1] 

The Positive school of thought also encompasses biological positivism which essentially theorizes that crime can be explained by scientific fact. This has some benefits as it does not treat all humans as equal when looking at factors that cause crime, yet it also leads to discriminating theories based on physical appearance. This is one of the main limitations of the positive school of thought. Some assumptions concerning biopositivism are also based on unscientific, unproven conclusions, such as height and body stature, being related to social deviance.

These limitations have been left behind in the evolution of criminal theory, as many points first introduced in criminal positivism were carried on too modern day theories, yet certain aspects were left behind. Modern schools of thought focus on the act instead of the actor which falls hand in hand with the latter part of the Saul Alinsky's parable concerning the fishermen and the drowning man. Just as the focus of the fisherman is shifted from saving the drowning men, to stopping the man who is pushing the men into the water, the shift from the positive school of criminal thought to a more modern school of criminal thought symbolizes the final shift in society's view of what causes social deviance.

The Chicago school of thought is an example of a criminological theory that has moved past both the classical views of rational choices, blame on the individual and harsh strict punishments, as well as the positive view of biological aspects influencing crime. The Chicago school of thought includes a vast array of sociological factors to a contribution in the act of social deviance. This is the first theory that states humans are born neither good or bad, but various sociological factors that influence people are the cause of crime rates and social deviance. The exterior factors, or exterior-collective (societal) factors, in Wilber's quadrants influence people to commit crimes. These sociological factors can encompass many difference things, including social wellbeing, insole, ethnic community, gender, age etc. Theories of thought have that have been built on the Chicago school of thought deal with separate aspects that the Chicago school doesn't deal with, to an in-depth extent. Two of these theories include the differential association theory and the social disorganization theory. Both of these theories fall into the exterior-collective quadrant, as does their initial theory, the Chicago school.

The differential association theory focuses on the different social groups and how these groups influences social deviance. Conformity in certain social groups as well as the norms these groups drive on the members of their select society plays an extremely important element in the trends in social deviance seen in these societies, which comprise the frequency and the types of crimes committed. This theory is complimented by the social disorganization theory which focuses on the rates of crime that are committed in different areas of a city. The different areas of a city, dictated by proximity to the inner city, versus the suburbs greatly influences the types and frequencies of crimes committed. Inner city environments combined with poverty and large amounts of population combined in a smaller area leads to increased crime rates.

These modern theories all attempt to pin various sociological factors which affect the criminal, and attempt to manipulate these factors to deter crime, as opposed to various earlier criminological theories focus more on the actor then the actual act. The various earlier methods including the classical and positive theories all focus on the actor, or as shown in the parable, the result of crime, rather then dealing with the root cause. The evolution of these theories have allowed for more effective methods of crime deterrence as well as more humane and moral ways to approach social deviance.