Ever since the dawn of human civilization, crime has been a baffling problem. There is hardly any society which is not beset with the problem of crime. Dr. Heinrich Oppenheimer in his book ‘Rationale of Punishment’ says that a crimeless society is a myth. Commenting on this aspect, Emile Durkheim says, “a society composed of persons with angelic qualities would not be free from violations of the norms of that society”. In fact, crime is a dynamic concept changing with social transformation and evolution of the human society.
Primitive societies did not recognize the distinction between the law of torts and crime but only knew the law of wrongs. The early English societies during 12th and the 13th century included only those acts as crimes which were against the State or religion. As a result, treason, blasphemy and rape were crimes whereas murder was not. Along came the concept of personal revenge, which demanded an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth . By the late 17th century, there wasn’t even a proper definition for crime.
But the 18th century witnessed an era of miraculous reorientation of criminological thinking in European counties especially in France and Italy. The ideas of divine displeasure, demonic forces and other myths were replaced by logical and rational explanations. The twentieth century then saw a considerable increase in crime and with it, the study of criminology.
The study of criminology is an accumulation of centuries of beliefs, ideas, norms and laws of various societies. Because crime is a part of every human society, the study of criminology is also imperative to all societies. In this project report, I will discuss the various schools of thoughts of criminology starting from the early seventeenth century to the modern day schools of criminological thought.
Schools of criminology
It has been generally accepted that a systematic study of criminology was first taken up by the Italian scholar, Cesare Bonesana Marchese de Beccaria who is known as the founder of modern criminology. His greatest contribution to criminology was that he, for the first time, proceeded with the study of criminals on a scientific basis and reached certain conclusions from which definite methods of handling crime and criminals could be worked out .
In an attempt to find a rational explanation of crime, a large number of theories have been propounded. Various factors such as evil spirit, sin, disease, heredity or economic maladjustment etc have been put forward either singly or together to explain criminality. However, some criminologists still tend to lay greater emphasis on physical traits in order to justify exclusive resort to correctional methods for the treatment of offenders. Various schools of criminology are discussed below.
1)Classical School a)Pre-classical The period of seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe was dominated by the scholasticism of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The dominance of religion in State activities was the chief characteristic of that time. In political sphere, thinkers such as Hobbes and Locke were concentrating on social contract as the basis of social evolution. The concept of Divine right of king advocating supremacy of monarch was held in great esteem. As scientific knowledge was yet unknown the concept of crime was rather vague and obscure.
There was a general belief that man by nature is simple and his actions are controlled by some super power. It was generally believed that a man commits crime due to the influence of some external spirit called demon or devil. Thus an offender commits a wrongful act not because of his own free will but due to the influence of some external super power. No attempt was, however, made to probe into the real causes of crime.
This demonological theory of criminality propounded by the exponents of pre-classical school acknowledged the omnipotence of spirit, which they regarded as a great power . The pre-classicals considered crime and criminals as an evidence of the fact that the individual was possessed of devil or demon the only cure for which was testimony of the effectiveness of the spirit. Worships, sacrifices and ordeals by water and fire were usually prescribed to specify the spirit and relieve the victim from its evil influence.
An ordeal is an ancient manner of trial in criminal cases. When an offender pleaded not guilty, he might choose whether he would put himself for trial upon God and the country, by men or upon God only, and then it was called ‘the judgment of God’, presuming that God would deliver the innocent. Examples of such ordeals are, throwing into fire, throwing into water after tying a stone to his neck, administration of oath by calling up God‘s wrath, trial by battle, etc. Trial by battle was common mode of deciding the fate of criminal.
The oaths and ordeals played a very important role in the ancient judicial system in determining the guilt of the offender. The justification advanced for these rituals was the familiar belief that when the human agency fails, recourse to divine means of proof becomes most inevitable. Though these practices appear to be most irrational and barbarous to the modern mind, they were universally accepted and were in existence in most Christian countries till thirteenth century. The Roman law completely ignored the system of ordeals and it was forbidden in Quran.
The right of society to punish the offender was, however, well recognized. The offender was regarded as an innately depraved person who could be cured only by torture and pain. The evolution of criminal law was yet at a rudimentary stage. Hobbes suggested that fear of punishment at the hands of monarch was a sufficient deterrent for the members of early society to keep them away from sinful acts which were synonymous to crimes.
Thus the theosophists, notably St. Thomas Aquinas and the social contract writers such as Donte Alighieri, Machiavelli, Martin Luther and Jean Bodin provided immediate background for Beccaria‘s classical school at a later stage. The pre-classical thinking, however, withered away with the lapse of time and advancement of knowledge.
b) Classical school The Classical School in criminology is usually a reference to the eighteenth-century work during the Enlightenment by the utilitarian and social contract philosophers Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Beccaria. Their interests lay in the system of criminal justice and penology and, indirectly through the proposition that "man is a calculating animal", in the causes of criminal behaviour. The Classical school of thought was premised on the idea that people have free will in making decisions, and that punishment can be a deterrent for crime, so long as the punishment is proportional, fits the crime, and is carried out promptly.
Beccaria, the pioneer of modern criminology expounded his naturalistic theory of criminality by rejecting the omnipotence of evil spirit. He laid greater emphasis on mental phenomenon of the individual and attributed crime to free will of the individual. Thus he was much influenced by the utilitarian philosophy of his time which placed reliance on hedonism, namely, the ― pain and pleasure theory. As Donald Taft rightly put it, this doctrine implied the notion of causation in terms of free choice to commit crime by rational man seeking pleasure and avoiding pain .
Main Reforms Advocated by the Classical School The system of law, its mechanisms of enforcement and the forms of punishment used in the eighteenth century were primitive and inconsistent. Judges were not professionally trained so many of their decisions were unsatisfactory being the product of incompetence, capriciousness, corruption or political manipulation. The use of torture to extract confessions and a wide range of cruel punishments such as whipping, mutilation and public executions were commonplace. A need for legal rationality and fairness was identified and found an audience among the emerging middle classes whose economic interests lay in providing better systems for supporting national and international trade.
Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794) In 1764, Beccaria published Dei Deliti e Delle Pene ("On Crimes and Punishments") arguing for the need to reform the criminal justice system by referring not to the harm caused to the victim, but to the harm caused to society. In this, he posited that the greatest deterrent was the certainty of detection: the more swift and certain the punishment, the more effective it would be. It would also allow a less serious punishment to be effective if shame and an acknowledgement of wrongdoing was a guaranteed response to society's judgment. Thus, the prevention of crime was achieved through a proportional system that was clear and simple to understand, and if the entire nation united in their own defense .
His approach influenced the codification movement which set sentencing tariffs to ensure equality of treatment among offenders. Later, it was acknowledged that not all offenders are alike and greater sentencing discretion was allowed to judges. Thus, punishment works at two levels. Because it punishes individuals, it operates as a specific deterrence to those convicted not to reoffend. But the publicity surrounding the trial and the judgment of society represented by the decision of a jury of peers, offers a general example to the public of the consequences of committing a crime. If they are afraid of similarly swift justice, they will not offend.
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) Bentham devoted his life to developing a scientific approach to the making and breaking of laws. Like Beccaria he was concerned with achieving the greatest happiness of the greatest number. His work was governed by utilitarian principles. Utilitarianism assumes that all human actions are calculated in accordance with their likelihood of bringing happiness (pleasure) or unhappiness (pain). People weigh the probabilities of present future pleasures against those of present and future pain.
The main tenets of classical school of criminology:
1. Man’s emergence from the State‘s religious fanaticism involved the application of his reason as a responsible individual.
2. It is the ‘act’ of an individual and not his ‘intent’ which forms the basis for determining criminality within him. In other words, criminologists are concerned with the act of the criminal rather than his intent. Still, they could never think that there could be something like crime causation.
3. The classical writers accepted punishment as a principal method of infliction of pain, humiliation and disgrace to create ‘fear’ in man to control his behavior.
4. The propounders of this school, however, considered prevention of crime more important than the punishment for it. They therefore, stressed on the need for a Criminal Code in France, Germany and Italy to systematize punishment for forbidden acts. Thus the real contribution of classical school of criminology lies in the fact that it underlined the need for a well defined criminal justice system.
5. The advocates of classical school supported the right of the State to punish the offenders in the interest of public security. Relying on the hedonistic principle of pain and pleasure, they pointed out that individualization was to be awarded keeping in view the pleasure derived by the criminal from the crime and the pain caused to the victim from it.
6. The exponents of classical school further believed that the criminal law primarily rests on positive sanctions. They were against the use of arbitrary powers of Judges. In their opinion the Judges should limit their verdicts strictly within the confines of law .
Major Shortcomings of the Classical School The contribution of classical school to the development of rationalized criminological thinking was by no means less important, but it had its own pitfalls.
1. The classical school proceeded on an abstract presumption of free will and relied solely on the act (i.e., the crime) without devoting any attention to the state of mind of the criminal.
2. It erred in prescribing equal punishment for same offence thus making no distinction between first offenders and habitual criminals and varying degrees of gravity of the offence.
However, the greatest achievement of this school of criminology lies in the fact that it suggested a substantial criminal policy which was easy to administer without resort to the imposition of arbitrary punishment. It goes to the credit of Beccaria who denounced the earlier concepts of crime and criminals which were based on religious fallacies and myths and shifted emphasis on the need for concentrating on the personality of an offender in order to determine his guilt and punishment. Beccaria‘s views provided a background for the subsequent criminologists to come out with a rationalized theory of crime causation which eventually led the foundation of the modern criminology and penology .
c) Neo-Classical School In criminology, the Neo-Classical School continues the traditions of the Classical School within the framework of Right Realism. Hence, the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Beccaria remains a relevant social philosophy in policy term for using punishment as a deterrent through law enforcement, the courts, and imprisonment
The ‘free will’ theory of classical school did not survive for long. It was soon realized that the exponents of classical school faltered in their approach in ignoring the individual differences under certain situations and treating first offenders and the habitual alike on the basis of similarity of act or crime.
The neo-classists asserted that certain categories of offenders such as minors, idiots, insane or incompetent had to be treated leniently in matters of punishment irrespective of the similarity of their criminal act because these persons were incapable of appreciating the difference between right and wrong. This tendency of neo-classists to distinguish criminals according to their mental depravity was indeed a progressive step inasmuch as it emphasized the need for modifying the classical view. Thus the contribution of neo-classical thought to the science of criminology has its own merits.
When crime and recidivism are perceived to be a problem, the first political reaction is to call for increased policing, stiffer penalties, and increased monitoring and surveillance for those released on parole. Intuitively, politicians see a correlation between the certainty and severity of punishment, and the choice whether to commit crime. The practical intention has always been to deter and, if that failed, to keep society safer for the longest possible period of time by locking the habitual offenders away in prisons. From the earliest theorists, the arguments were based on morality and social utility, and it was not until comparatively recently that there has been empirical research to determine whether punishment is an effective deterrent.
The main tenets of neo-classical school of criminology:
1. Neo-classists approached the study of criminology on scientific lines by recognizing that certain extenuating situations or mental disorders deprive a person of his normal capacity to control his conduct. Thus they justified mitigation of equal punishment in cases of certain psychopathic offenders. Commenting on this point, Prof. Gillian observed that neo-classists represent a reaction against the severity of classical view of equal punishment for the same offence.
2. Neo-classists were the first in point of time to bring out a distinction between the first offenders and the recidivists. They supported individualization of offender a treatment methods which required the punishment to suit the psychopathic circumstances of the accused. Thus although the ‘act’ or the ‘crime’ still remained the sole determining factor for adjudging criminality without any regard to the intent, yet the neo-classical school focused at least some attention on mental causation indirectly.
3. The advocates of this school started with the basic assumption that man acting on reason and intelligence is a self-determining person and therefore, is responsible for his conduct. But those lacking normal intelligence or having some mental depravity are irresponsible to their conduct as they do not possess the capacity of distinguishing between good or bad and therefore should be treated differently from the responsible offenders.
4. Though the neo-classists recommended lenient treatment for ‘irresponsible’ or mentally depraved criminals on account of their incapacity to resist criminal tendency but they certainly believed that all criminals, whether responsible or irresponsible, must be kept segregated from the society.
5. It is significant to note that distinction between responsibility and irresponsibility, that is the sanity and insanity of the criminals as suggested by neo-classical school of criminology paved way to subsequent formulation of different correctional institutions such as parole, probation, reformatories, open-air camps etc. in the administration of criminal justice. This is through this school that attention of criminologists was drawn for the first time towards the fact that all crimes do have a cause. It must, however be noted that though this causation was initially confined to psychopathy or psychology but was later expanded further and finally the positivists succeeded in establishing reasonable relationship between crime and environment of the criminal.
6. Neo-classists adopted subjective approach to criminology and concentrated their attention on the conditions under which an individual commits crime. Thus it would be seen that the main contribution of neo-classical school of criminology lies in the fact that it came out with certain concessions in the ‘free will’ theory of classical school and suggested that an individual might commit criminal acts due to certain extenuating circumstances which should be duly taken into consideration at the time of awarding punishment.
Therefore, besides the criminal act as such, the personality of the criminal as a whole, namely, his antecedents, motives, previous life-history, general character, etc., should not be lost sight of in assessing his guilt. It may be noted that the origin of jury system in criminal jurisprudence is essentially an outcome of the reaction of neo-classical approach towards the treatment of offenders. As to the shortcomings of neo-classical school of criminology, it must be stated that the exponents of this theory believed that the criminal, whether responsible or irresponsible, is a menace to society and therefore, needs to be eliminated from it .
2) Positive School The Positive School has attempted to find scientific objectivity for the measurement and qualification of criminal behavior. As the scientific method became the major paradigm in the search for all knowledge, the Classical School's social philosophy was replaced by the quest for scientific laws that would be discovered by experts. It is divided into Biological, Psychological and Social.
Historically, medicine became interested in the problem of crime, producing studies of physiognomy and the science of phrenology which linked attributes of the mind to the shape of the brain as reveal through the skull. These theories were popular because society and any failures of its government were not the causes of crime. The problem lay in the propensities of individual offenders who were biologically distinguishable from law abiding citizens.
This theme was amplified by the Italian School and through the writings of Cesare Lombroso which identified physical characteristics associated with degeneracy demonstrating that criminals were atavistic throwbacks to an earlier evolutionary form. Charles Goring (1913) failed to corroborate the characteristics but did find criminals shorter, lighter and less intelligent, i.e. he found criminality to be "normal" rather than "pathological". William Sheldon identified three basic body or somatotypes (i.e. endomorphs, mesomorphs, and ectomorphs), and introduced a scale to measure where each individual was placed. He concluded that delinquents tended to mesomorphy. Modern research might link physical size and athleticism and aggression because physically stronger people have the capacity to use violence with less chance of being hurt in any retaliation.
Otherwise, such early research is no longer considered valid. The development of genetics has produced another potential inherent cause of criminality, with chromosome and other genetic factors variously identified as significant to select heredity rather than environment as the cause of crime. However, the evidence from family, twin, and adoption studies shows no conclusive empirical evidence to prefer either cause. With the advance of behavioral sciences, the monogenetic explanation of human conduct lost its validity and a new trend to adopt an eclectic view about the genesis of crime gradually developed.
By the nineteenth century, certain French doctors were successful in establishing that it was neither ‘free will’ of the offender nor his innate depravity which actuated him to commit crime but the real cause of criminality lay in anthropological features of the criminal. Some phrenologists also tried to demonstrate the organic functioning of brain and enthusiastically established a co-relationship between criminality and the structure and functioning of brain. This led to the emergence of the positive school of criminology.
The main exponents of this school were three eminent Italian criminologists namely: Cesare Lombroso, Raffaele Garofalo and Enrico Ferri. It is for this reason that this school is also called the Italian School of Criminology.
Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909) The first attempt to understand the personality of offenders in physical terms was made by Lombroso of the Italian School of criminological thought, who is regarded as the originator of modern criminology. He was a doctor and a specialist in psychiatry. He worked in military for sometime handling the mentally afflicted soldiers but later he was associated with the University of Turin. He was the first to employ scientific methods in explaining criminal behavior and shifted the emphasis from crime to criminal.
Lombroso adopted an objective and empirical approach to the study of criminals through his anthropological experiments. After an intensive study of physical characteristics of his patients and later on of criminals, he came to a definite conclusion that criminals were physically inferior in the standard of growth and therefore, developed a tendency for inferior acts. He further generalized that criminals are less sensitive to pain and therefore they have little regard for the sufferings of others. Thus through his biological and anthropological researches on criminals Lombroso justified the involvement of Darwin’s theory of biological determinism in criminal behavior. He classified criminals into three main categories .
1.The Atavists or Hereditary Criminals Lombroso also termed them as born criminals. In his opinion born-criminals were of a distinct type who could not refrain from indulging in criminality and environment had no relevance whatsoever to the crimes committed by the Atavists. He, therefore, considered these criminals as incorrigibles, i.e., beyond reformation. In his view, the criminal reflected a reversion to an early and more primitive being that was both mentally and physically inferior. He resembled those of apes and had ape-like characteristics.
Lombroso‘s theory used physical characteristics as indicators of criminality. He enumerated as many as sixteen physical abnormalities of a criminal some of which were peculiar size and shape of head, eye, enlarged jaw and cheek bones, fleshy lips, abnormal teeth, long or flat chin, retreating forehead, dark skin, twisted nose and so on. Though he moderated his theory of physical anomaly in later years but his emphasis throughout his work was on human physical traits which also included biology, psychology and environment. He revised his theory of atavism in 1906 and held that only one-third of criminals were born criminals and not all the criminals. Finally, he conceded that his theory of atavism was ill-founded and held that they were in fact occasional criminals.
2.Insane Criminals The second category of criminals according to Lombroso consisted of insane criminals who resorted to criminality on account of certain mental depravity or disorder.
3.Criminoids The third category of criminals, according to him, was those of criminoids who were physical criminal type and had a tendency to commit crime in order to overcome their inferiority in order to meet the needs of survival.
Enrico Ferri (1856-1928) Another chief exponent of the positive school of criminology was Enrico Ferri. He challenged Lombrosian view of criminality. Through his scholarly researches, Ferri proved that mere biological reasons were not enough to account for criminality. He firmly believed that other factors such as emotional reaction, social infirmity or geographical conditions also play a vital role in determining criminal tendencies in men. It is for this reason that he is sometimes called the founder of ‘criminal sociology’.The major contribution of Ferri to the field of criminology is his ‘Law of Criminal Saturation’.
This theory presupposes that the crime is the synthetic product of three main factors:
- Physical or geographical;
- Psychological or social.
Thus Ferri emphasized that criminal behavior is an outcome of a variety of factors having their combined effect on the individual. According to him social change, which is inevitable in a dynamic society, results in disharmony, conflict and cultural variations. As a result of this, social disorganization takes place and a traditional pattern of social control mechanism totally breaks down. In the wake of such rapid social changes, the incidence of crime is bound to increase tremendously. The heterogeneity of social conditions destroys the congenial social relationship, creating a social vacuum which proves to be a fertile ground for criminality.
Many critics, however, opposed Ferry’s law of criminal saturation stating that it is nothing more than a statement that the law of cause and effect equally applies to criminal behavior as well. Ferri emphasized that a criminal should be treated as a product of the conditions which played his life. Therefore, the basic purpose of crime prevention programme should be to remove conditions making for crime.
Ferri worked out a five-fold classification of criminals, namely: a. Born criminals; b. Occasional criminals c. Passionate criminals d. Insane criminal and e. Habitual criminals. He suggested an intensive programme of crime prevention and recommended a series of measures for treatment of offenders. He asserted that punishment could be one of the possible methods of reforming the criminal. He favored indeterminate sentence keeping in view the possible chances of inmate‘s re-adjustment in the community.In his ‘Penal Project’, Ferri denied moral responsibility and denounced punishment for retribution and moral culpability.
•Gabriel de Tarde (1843-94) Gabriel de Tarde was a critic of positive school of criminology. He asserted that influence of social environment was most emphatic on the criminal behaviour out that law of insertion and imitation was responsible for the incidence of crime. The members of society are prone to imitate the behaviour of their associates. Likewise, the subordinate or inferior members have a tendency to imitate the ways of their superiors just as the children imitate their parents and elder members of the family.
Consequently, as regards crimes, the beginners have a tendency to imitate the acts of habitual criminals and thus they lend into criminality. The effect of imitation is still worse on youngsters who are prone to fall an easy prey to criminality. Particularly, the impact of movie, cinema and television is so great on teenagers that it perverts their mind and actions which eventually makes them delinquents .
Thus there is considerable truth in Tarde’s assertion that, crime, like other social phenomenon starts as a fashion and becomes a custom. He classified criminals into urban and rural types and expressed a view that crimes in urban areas are far more serious in nature than those of rural places. Despite the fact that the views of Tarde were logical and nearer to truth, they were discarded as over simplification of facts.
Major Contributions of Positive School of Criminology It would be seen that the positive school of criminology emerged essentially out of the reaction against earlier classical and neo-classical theories. The merits of this school were:
1. The advocates of this school completely discarded the theories of omnipotence of spirit and free will on the ground that they were hypothetical and irrational. Alternatively, they attributed criminality to anthropological, physical and social environment.
2. The greatest contribution of positive school to the development of criminal science lies in the fact that the attention of criminologists was drawn for the first time towards the individual, that is, the personality of criminal rather than his act (crime) or punishment. This certainly paved way for the modern penologists to formulate a criminal policy embodying the principle of individualization as a method and reformation. Thus positivists introduced the methodology and logic of natural science in the field of criminology.
3. With the predominance of positive school, the emphasis was shifted from penology to criminology and the objects of punishment were radically changed in as much as r