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Schools of Criminology

The word Criminology is derived from the combination of two Latin words, crimen which means crime and logus which means study or knowledge in the year 1890.
Criminology is a socio-legal study which strives to discover the causes of criminality and suggests appropriate remedies.

Definitions of criminology:

Edwin Sutherland; Criminology is the body of knowledge regarding crime as a social phenomenon.

Donald Taft; Criminology in a general sense is the study of crime and criminals. In a specific sense it seeks to study criminal behavior its goal being to reform the criminal behavior or conduct of the individual which society condemns.

Criminology as a subject deals with the following:

  • Criminal acts
  • The criminals
  • The victims of the crime (directly or indirectly)
  • Crime causation theory
  • Detection and prevention of crimes from potential offenders
  • Effectiveness of criminal justice system

Schools of Criminology:

The schools of criminology developed majorly during the 18th and 19th century. There are four popular schools of Criminology, they are:
  1. Pre-Classical School
  2. Classical School
  3. Positivist School
  4. Neo-Classical School

Pre- Classical School

The pre-classical school is also known as demonological school. During the 17th century, the demonological theory flourished in Europe with the dominance of the church and religion. During this time there were not much of scientific explanations for the causation of crime and the concept of crime was vague and obscure.

Hence, the explanations for criminal behavior were sought through spirits, demons and unknown power. The principle behind this concept was that a man commits a crime due to the influence of some external force and is beyond the control and understanding of man. The wrath of god was considered to give punishment to the offenders. The trail of the offenders was through battles, pelting of stones and was believed that no harm would be caused if the offender was innocent.

Classical School

The pioneers of the classical school of criminology are Cesare Beccaria, Jeremy Bentham and Romilly. The main belief of this school is that all men are self-seeking and therefore they tempt to commit the offence. According to this school, men possess free will and act as per their pleasure and pain (hedonism). The theory of demonism; act of men under the influence of spirit is rejected by this school.

Beccaria proposed that, punishment of crime should be proportionate to its seriousness. Beccariaís thought was such that, torture was inappropriate and thus allowed weak to incriminate and the strong would be found innocent before the adjudication. The ideology of Beccaria is followed by the classicalists, who focus on crime, rather the criminal. The classical school focuses on the principle of deterrence in place of punishment.

The classical school has come up with three important theories that are still used even to this day. They are:

Rational Choice Theory

According to this theory, crimes are committed as a result of conscious choice. It is said that, individuals choose to commit a crime based on their free will decision. As per this theory, individuals choose to commit a crime when the benefits outweigh the costs of disobeying the law.

Routine Activities Theory

As per this theory, there are three key elements for the routine activities theory, they are; motivated offender, an attractive target and lack of capable guardian. It is believed that, a personís everyday routine activities affect the chance that there might be an attractive target who may encounter an offender in a situation where there no presence of an effective guardian. Changes in routine activities in society can affect the rate of crime.

Situational Choice Theory

The situational choice theory is based on the ideas of rational choice theory. As per this theory crime is committed based on situational constrains and opportunities. In simpler terms it means that a personís behavior is based on the given situation. The offender behaves in a certain way due to the situation he is place. It is very unlikely that he may behave in a different situation.

Positivist School

The positivist school is also known as Lombrosian School. The propounders of this theory are Cesare Lombroso, Enrico Ferri, Raffaeleo, and Garofalo. Positivists focus on criminals rather crime. The positivists oppose the classical schoolís understanding of crime. As per positivist, every person is different so is their understanding of right and wrong hence, the person and not the crime should be punished.

This school was started by considering crime as a product of heredity and environmental factors. The positivist school of criminology is linked with biological, psychological and sociological theories to criminal behavior.

Neo-Classical School

According to this theory, there is a difference between total free will and determinism and argues that, no person has total free will. The neo classical school allows for mitigating factors to be reviewed by a Judge as per his discretion.

Before the advent of this school, all the offenders were treated alike no matter what age, mental condition, gender and so on. Neo-Classicalists saw this as unfair and unjust and thus allowed for change to transpire. This theory allows for the consideration of mitigating factors like physical and social environment where the individual was placed.††

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