Individual Choice and Crime

Criminology is a behavioral study of crime both at an individual and societal level. Though only being around for a century, it is a subject that has witnessed a flurry of studies aimed at unearthing the various causes of crime and also the motivations that drive criminals. These findings may mean nothing to layman in Australia but they are crucial in the formulation of government policies in regard to crime and punishment.

Though the study of criminology may not be expansive and exhaustive, there have been various attempts to focus on the motivation of crime in Australia especially aiming on the ascertaining why the minority groups have a high prevalence to crime. All manner of theories have been brought forth to explain this mostly centering on the social and environmental circumstances. In the light of this topic, this paper will analyze the various existing theories on the causes of crime while maintaining the view that crime is as a result of individual choice and not due to social circumstances.

The 18th century witnessed a number of philosophers venturing into the field of criminology giving rise to a number of schools of thoughts; others have arisen in the recent years. The classical school of thought has centered on the individual and how people make their own choices to engage in crime. The positivist school of thought on the other hand has made a radical shift from this taking a stand that remains controversial. Crime, according to the Positivist School of Thought, is as a result of external and internal factors. Crime is driven by factors that are outside the precincts of human reach.

Criminal traits according to this school of thought are deterministic, this means that you are either naturally cut to be a criminal or not. This is not a matter of individual choice. Prior to the positivist thought, crime was seen as part of humans giving the notion of homo crminalis. Positivists forward the claim that crime is as a result of biological, social factors or physiological composition. All people might have a knack for engaging in crime but “criminal behavior does not become manifest unless the host is in some way inherently abnormal: large headed, feeble-minded, mentally defective, dark skinned, morally insane.

” (David, 2002, 367) This view was pioneered by Cesare Lambroso and was meant to attack those that believed in the pure sociological foundations of crime. The conclusion on the facial and cranial features was reached after observing those incarcerated of serious crimes. Importantly, he was able to identify a number of features that are also today associated with crime, these include paranoia, head injuries and impulsivity amongst others. These are features that even today can be pointed out amongst those incarcerated.

Those that engage in crime hence should not be severely punished as they are nothing but mere victims of the circumstances. This theory however has been blamed for fuelling racism and for propagating racial and ethnic profiling. Recent studies continue to discount this and question the objectivity of the studies and how representative the statistics really were. There are those too in the pursuit of the positivist theory who have seen a connection between genetics and crime. This was motivated by the said link between race and genes.

However this is a line of thinking that has been hotly disputed and is seen as being a source of prejudice. The existing “scientific consensus seems to be that genes and crime have at best am indirect connection, and some scholars are anxious that drawing premature conclusions regarding genetic causes of crime might have deleterious repercussions for race relations. ” (Ted, 2003, 73) The tenacity of the various claims forwarded by the positivist school of thought in regard to the causes of crime has been rubbished.