Classical School of Criminology

Abstract Theories about crime and criminals tend to be complex theories and are based on what we know from research on crime and criminals. The criminal theories vary from scientific theories as scientific theories can be proven as factual and criminal theories are never proven; but a part of every day life (Williams 2004). The author of this paper discusses the Classical School of Criminology beliefs and its founders. The author of the paper also briefly discusses the problem solving techniques the Classical School of Criminology believes to be necessary, fair, and successful.

Classical School of Criminology Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham had a large influence on the conceptions of crime and criminal justice which are known as the Classical School of Criminology Theories (Williams 2004). The Classical School in Criminology came about during the Enlightenment period which is often closely linked with the Scientific Revolution as both movements focused on reason and rationality (Wikipedia 2007). The combination of Becaria and Bentham’s beliefs helped form the theories categorized as the Classical School of Criminology today. Cesare Beccaria influenced the Classical School in Criminology with his three main beliefs.

Beccaria believed that all individuals have freewill and a rational manner. Secondly, he believed that individuals do what satisfies them and they do so with a rational and logical frame of mind. People who look out for their best interest will either participate in criminal activity or try to prevent criminal activity allowing for a clash of interest hence the need for social order and government control. Last but not least Beccaria assumed human actions were predictable, generalable, and controllable because people are motivated by self interest (Roshier 1989). Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher, and legal social reformer influenced the classical theories through his writings and teachings to his students.

Bentham argued in favor of separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, abolition of physical punishment, divorce, taxes, and other similar beliefs (wikipedia 2007). These two men’s writings and teachings descended ideas such as “utilitarianism, civil rights, due process, rules of evidence and testimony; determinate sentencing; and deterrence.” These theorists believe that focus should be on legalalities rather than criminal behavior as we all have a free will and make a rational choice to either commit or not commit crimes (Williams 2004).

Those who break the law chose to act irrational of their own free will and punishment will deter the individuals from violating the interest of others. The social contract between the government and its citizens should be followed. The punishment should be proportional to act and focus is on the act itself. The punishment should reward useful activity and punish damaging activity with emphasis on due process. There are no mitigating circumstances or special cases as all who commit crime should be punished (Hamlin 2001). People commit crimes because they do what satisfies them regardless, and the current forms of punishment do not deter criminal activity.

Individuals refuse to reform once incarcerated or rehabilitated. Another reason people break the social contract is due to the fact that crimes are unpunished and the current laws are not harsh enough. In order to prevent crime classicist believe that the criminal justice system should be constructed properly. The prevention of crime depends on using human nature as the rationale for setting up legal structures. The focus is to be on crime and law instead of the criminal and their excuses. We force individuals to take responsibility for their actions and use punishment to exclude some greater evil not as an evil act. Punishment deters crime if we apply it in equal and just doses.

The punishment must be swift, certain, and severe in order to deter (Williams 2004). The classical theories are the answer to our steadily rising crime problem. We have to be fair throughout the process but punish harshly and in a severe fashion. The making of excuses for criminal activity is unproductive as everyone in the world can fabricate mitigating circumstances as to why they committed crimes. There is no room for excuses in the criminal justice system. The founding fathers of the Classical School in Criminology had the right idea and many of their beliefs have been integrated into our criminal justice system. If we were to follow their instructions step by step we would be able to deter criminal activity making society a safer place for everyone.

References: Criminological Theory, Fourth Edition, by Frank P. Williams, III and Marilyn D. McShane. Published by Prentice-Hall. Copyright © 2004 by Pearson Education, Inc. Wikipedia 2007 Retrieved from on June 16th 2007 Wikipedia 2007 Retrieved from June 16th 2007

Historical Background of Cesare Beccaria Retrieved from on June 16th 2007 Criminological Theory John Hamlin Retrieved from on June 16th 2007