Classical SchoolClassical theory in criminology has its roots in the theories of the 18th century Italian nobleman and economist, Cesare Beccaria and the English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham (Hollin, 2004, 2). It was based on principles of utilitarian philosophy. Cesare Beccaria, author of On Crimes and Punishments (1763–64), Jeremy Bentham, inventor of the panopticon, and other classical school philosophers based their arguments as follows, (1) People have free will to choose how to act
(2) Deterrence is based upon the notion of the human being as a ‘hedonist’ who seeks pleasure and avoids pain, and a ‘rational calculator’ weighing up the costs and benefit consequences of each action. (3) Punishment (of sufficient severity) can deter people from crime, as the costs (penalties) outweigh benefits, and that severity of punishment should be proportionate to the crime. (4) The more swift and certain the punishment, the more effective it is in deterring criminal behavior.
Pre 18th century was a time in history when punishment for crime was severe in the extreme, and both men proffered the theory of utility. It should be remembered that the Classical school of thought came about at a time when major reform in penology occurred, with prisons developed as a more civilized form of punishment. Also, this time period saw many legal reforms, like the French Revolution, and the development of the legal system in the United States. New theorists like Beccaria and Bentham looked at the causes of criminal and delinquent behavior, and began to scientifically explain such deviance (Juvenile, 2005, 71).
They rejected theories of naturalism and demonology which characterized the European Enlightenment as explanations for these types of behavior. The new theories reflected the rationalism and humanitarianism of the philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment. These theories have paved the way for more humane form of new world order on criminology. According to some Beccaria did not develop a completely new theory of criminology, but rather sought a way to make the punishment for committing a crime more rational.
He believed that there should be a hierarchy of punishments for more and more serious crimes and the number of times a criminal had been charged previously, the circumstances under which the death penalty was imposed would depend entirely on the severity of the crime but not on the actual act committed or the degree of involvement in the act. He was against judges having virtually unlimited discretion they possessed and favored definite punishments fitting each crime. He published an historic piece, An Essay on Crimes and Punishment, in 1764, discussing why crime occurs. It may be important to discuss the state of criminal justice in Europe to which the classical school was responding.
Europe was leaving behind its long history of feudalism and absolute monarchy and turning toward the development of modern nation states that ruled based on rational decision making powers. In light of this criminal justice was one of the areas that needed to be updated. Throughout Europe, except in England, the use of torture to secure confessions and force self-incriminating testimony had been widespread. In England, the standard penalty for conviction of a felony was death. capital punishment often had been combined with estate forfeiture, leaving the felon’s widow and children penniless.
Many accused allowed themselves to be crushed to death (piene forte et dure) rather than risk a trial and leave their families destitute. It was with such a knowledge of history that Beccaria developed his ideas concerning criminal behavior and how best to control it. However, Beccaria and other utilitarians did not develop their ideas in a vacuum.
There were other Enlightenment thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau who helped to create the intellectual climate in which Beccaria worked. There were a number of beliefs about human behavior that most “reasoned” intellectuals shared. These included: (I.) The belief that pain and suffering were a natural part of the human condition. (2.) Humankind is a rational species.
(3.) What controls behavior is the human will.(4.) Although supernatural [and natural] forces might influence the will, in regard to specific actions the will was free to choose. (5.) The principal means of controlling behavior is fear, particularly fear of pain or punishment. In this way the will could be directed to make correct choices.(6.) Since the state had the right to punish behavior, it ought to do so in an organized manner which included the centralized administration of law enforcement, courts, and correctional practices. Summary of points to be made about Beccaria.
1. Beccaria did not develop a new explanation for criminal behavior. He merely accepted the taken-for granted beliefs of his era. He sought solely to rationalize punishments. 2. Beccaria opposed allowing judges the type of broad discretion they then enjoyed. 3. The ultimate source of law must be the legislature, not the judiciary. Beccaria is here attacking the common law tradition. Today’s conservatives attack judicial activism, i.e., in the recent U.S. Supreme Court. 4. The principal role of the judiciary is in determining guilt, not deciding on punishments.
5. A truly rational system of criminal justice would be based on a scale of crimes and punishments: e.g. first, second, and third degree felonies. Each would be assigned a specific punishment that included ascending severity based an the level of seriousness of the offense.
6. The severity of the crime for which one is ultimately punished must be based upon the actual act committed, not the level of intent involved. If you only intended to maim someone but they died as a result of the injuries inflicted, the perpetrator must be charged with murder. For a rational system of criminal justice to work, punishment must be certain, swift, and proportional. The ultimate goal was to insure that the benefits of crime never outweighed the potential pain from punishments the offender would receive.
As rational, calculating human beings, most would avoid crime under such a system. Certainty required that all offenders be punished; the more criminals who escaped punishment the less the impact on the minds of others contemplating such behavior. Swiftness was also important. If too long a time lapsed between the crime and its punishment, this would also lessen the deterrent effect on future criminality. Beccaria’s emphasis on proportionality led him to oppose the use of the death penalty for all but the some serious crime. Capital punishment would have no impact if its use were for minor offenses.
The Neo-classical SchoolOnce a particular model becomes “dominant” its antithesis is argued by “reformers”, this is known as pendulum like nature of criminological theory. The neo-classical approach in criminology is not exactly an anti-thesis but a form of revisionism. Neo-classical criminologists realized that the free will approach had a number of shortcomings. English jurist William Blackstone was one leading personality in developing this theory.
Neo-classical criminologists considered what types of criminal behavior the classical model is inadequate to explain. Some of the objections pointed out by neo-classical thinkers included exceptions in criminal defenses such as self-defense or mistake of fact. Also, long recognized was the fact that not all persons were completely responsible for their own actions. (For example, should children be expected to behave with the same level of responsibility as adults?).
The fact that some people appeared to be compelled by forces beyond their rational control, some considered as “possession” explained by demonic theory, was viewed in new angle “mental illness”. There were some who behaved “irrationally” yet separating the rational from the irrational has become a continuing problem for modern criminal justice systems. Another area of concern was whether individuals can be influenced by others to do things they would not normally do, and whether they should be exonerated by the courts in such instances. Duress and entrapment are criminal defenses based on this premise.
Practical application of Classical School theoriesEven though in criminology the classical school’s importance diminished as positivist explanations of criminal behavior emerged and became dominant, most modern criminal justice systems have never rejected free will explanations of criminal behavior. The classical model has re-emerged in criminology and American jurisprudence as the “justice model” and rational choice explanations. These approaches are advocated by theorists such as David Fogel, Ernest van den Haag, James Q. Wilson, and Ronald Clarke. Collectively they would favor the following: 1. Doing away with indeterminate sentencing and its replacement with various forms of determinate sentencing, including sentencing guidelines, mandatory sentences, habitual offender statutes, etc. 2. Truth in sentencing.
One should serve one’s full sentence and not receive an early release through parole or prison overflow control policies. 3. The use of the death penalty. Most favor decreasing the amount of time between sentencing and execution by limiting the appeals process. (Bentham and Beccaria both opposed the death penalty as a punishment so severe it would have no deterrent effect.)4. Doing away with the exclusionary rule altogether or the allowing of additional “good faith” exceptions for law enforcement infringements an defendants’ due process rights.
5. Continued research on criminal behavior predicated an the idea of free will. It examines phenomenon such as criminal career choices. For example, why would an offender choose to shoplift rather than commit robberies? Why do some career criminals finally decide to stop and become honest productive citizens? Krishna Kumari Areti in Role of Theories of Punishment in the Policy of Sentencing (July 2007, ) In this article it is proposed to analyze various theories of punishment. Austin considered sanction as an essential ingredient of law. It is only through sanction that obedience to law can be secured. Sanction is nothing but inflicting pain or injury upon the wrong doer.
This in a way can be called punishment. The immediate consequence of a criminal act is punishment. The term punishment is defined as, “pain, suffering, loss, confinement or other penalty inflicted on a person for an offence by the authority to which the offender is subjected to.” Punishment is a social custom and institutions are established to award punishment after following criminal justice process, which insists that the offender must be guilty and the institution must have the authority to punish. In this article an attempt is made to discuss the policy of sentencing vis-à-vis various theories of punishment and their efficacy and effectiveness in the light of modern penology. NATU