Criminal is characterized

Lombroso defined the term atavist as a type of criminal who is clearly distinguished from other noncriminal by a series of physical irregularities. An atavist is differentiated from other noncriminal by use of physical defects. These criminal is characterized by deterioration to a primordial or subhuman type of a man with physical features suggestive of apes, lower primates and early man. An atavist can be identified with certain characteristics such as sloping brow, unusual sized ears and the face of the atavist is not symmetrical (Travis, 2001).

Additionally, an atavist has an excessive length of arms, asymmetry of the skull and other identified physical stigmata. Lombroso believed that an atavist is born criminal and other particular criminals such as thieves, rapists and murders could be distinguished by specific characteristics. I disagree with Lombroso’s definition of atavist. This is because there are some exceptions whereby criminality is not necessarily innate and also a person who is currently a criminal may not be born while criminal.

Additionally, the person cannot be distinguished from other criminals using physical defects. For instance, a person can be born while he is not a criminal and even no one in his kinship was a criminal, but later in his life due to peer influence or other factors like poverty, he becomes a thief. In such cases he is not termed as an atavist. This is because the criminality is not inherited and he does not posse a unique characteristic from noncriminal (Arata, 1995).

However, modern criminology benefit from Lombroso finding of atavism because they can easily identify a criminal by using features given by Lombroso such as more acute sight, brutality, lack of moral sense, vindictiveness and an excessive use of tattooing. There are various reasons as to why I do not commit crimes. Firstly, committing crime is precarious. This is because of the existing rules and regulations that govern and protect the society. When I commit a crime, I can end up being jailed in the prisons or killed.

Additionally, committing crime is unethical. It is against the people welfare in the society and the community at large. The law proscribes certain behaviors such as sexual abuse and other conducts that the government in a certain country terms them to be inappropriate and against the social norms (Rainwater, 1974). There is no much reluctance as some activities can be considered as crimes even if were done out of free will by a person. However, the absence of free will is not an excusing condition in the law. The costs of a crime are more than its benefits.

For instance, if a person commits robbery, he is arrested by the police and jailed for many years or discharged after paying a big amount of fine. The property that had been stolen may not be worthy the amount of fine, therefore, he end up incurring a lot of costs. The society and the country as a whole suffer a lot of costs repairing damages as a result of crime. Capital punishment and corrections may be used to deter the offenders from deviating again and also it frightens others who might be tempted into such crimes (Long, 2008).

Beccaria and other writers of his period together with the most recent objection movements strictly emphasize on positivism. Their main argument is that people in the community are always prejudiced by structural and external forces which goes beyond their control in their life. The choice of people’s behavior is restricted by fear of punishment and they evaluate both the benefits and consequences of crime and concluded that risk of punishment is worth the satisfaction of crime.


  • Arata, S. (1995).The Sedulous Ape: Atavism, Professionalism, and Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde. Criticism, Vol. 37, p. 12-17.
  • Long, R. (2008). Introductory sociology: Crime and Deterrence. Retrieved on 2 August 2010 from http://www. delmar. edu/socsci/rlong/intro/crime. htm
  • Rainwater, L. (1974). Deviance and Liberty: Social Problems and Public Policy. Chicago: Aldine Publishing.
  • Travis, M. (2001). A critique of Biological Positivism. Retrieved on 2 August 2010 from http://homepages. ihug. co. nz/~ttpbst/me/writing/positivism. htm