Criminology is the scientific study of crime, criminals, criminal behavior, and the criminal justice system. In the United States, it is taught chiefly in departments of criminology and criminal justice of colleges and universities. Criminologists study factors related to crime. Research in criminology involves fields such as sociology, psychology, and psychiatry.
Law enforcement greatly depends on criminology. Often, the best method of treating offenders and ways to prevent crime are determined by criminologists.
There are different things to study in criminology. Most criminological research examines environmental conditions. Others concentrate on the connection between crime and biological factors such as brain structure and chemical imbalances. And others emphasize people's emotions and motives. Some study the ways which individuals learn criminal behavior through association with people.
Criminologists also study penology, which is the science of punishment and treatment of offenders. They try to make punishment more certain than ever, bringing people to trial quickly, imposing fair sentences, and providing adequate prisons.
Criminologists use a wide variety of research techniques. Statistics are often used to study the crime rate and the characteristics of criminals. Criminologists find relationships between crime rates and certain physical or social conditions. For example, such studies may show that the crime rate increases when poverty and unemployment rise. Criminologists generally use statistics compiled by government agencies. Criminology is extremely important in determine numerous factors in trials. It played many important roles in the recent OJ Simpson murder trial.
Criminologists also use statistics to learn about personality traits or social conditions that are more common among criminals than other people. Researchers usually compare a group of criminals with a group of non-criminals who are similar to the lawbreakers in most ways. Differences between the two groups can be measured in this manner. Any personality trait or social condition that occurs more frequently among criminals maybe one of many causes of criminal behavior.
Case studies is another technique criminologists use. In a case study, a criminologist examines all the personality traits and social conditions that affect one criminal. The researcher studies the person's family history, environment, physical condition, psychological state, and many other characteristics. All these details help determine how certain conditions produce criminal behavior in an individual. Some case studies are conducted on certain groups of criminals, such as rapists or juvenile gangs. A criminologist may use the results of a case history to work out a theory about the development of criminal behavior.
Most criminologists have university training in criminal justice, sociology, psychology, psychiatry. or related areas. Requirements vary for a career, but most criminologists have a master's or doctor's degree. Many of these experts conduct research and reach criminology at universities and colleges. Many social workers are employed in the general area of criminology. Parole and probation officers must have a knowledge of criminology. Personnel trained in criminology also work in crime prevention programs and in the treatment of offenders. Lawyers, judges, and prison superintendents also should have some knowledge of criminology.
In the United States, the major professional organization for criminologists is the American Society of Criminology, which was founded in 1941.