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Classical and NeoClassical Criminology


Challenge of the aristocracy and ... Classical criminology was created from writings about law and ... of punishment is deterrence rather than vengeance ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Classical and NeoClassical Criminology

Classical and Neo-Classical Criminology
  • Kelly Cheeseman Dial
  • AJ 325

The Backdrop of Classical Criminology
  • The prior church regime/demonology
  • Challenge of the aristocracy and reign of church
  • Began to examine human nature and social
  • Rise of the cities and fall of the agricultural
  • Classical criminology was created from writings
    about law and society less than from thinking
    about criminal behavior

Enlightenment Thinking
  • Hedonism
  • Social contract
  • Secularization of Society
  • Human Dignity

FoundersCesare Beccaria 1738-1794
  • Wrote On Crimes and Punishments ( 1764)
  • Beccaria believed people want to achieve pleasure
    and avoid pain
  • Crime and its outcomes provide some pleasure
  • Thus to deter crime pain on some level must be
  • What types of pain? Who administers it?

FoundersJeremy Bentham 1748-1833
  • British philosopher who helped popularize
    Beccarias views.
  • Believed that punishments are in themselves
    harmful, so what they try to prevent must be more
    evil than the punishment.
  • Father of utilitarianism
  • Creator of deterrence theory

Classical Criminology
  • Decisions to violate the law are weighed against
    the possible punishment for such a violation
  • To deter crime, the pain of punishment must
    outweigh the benefit of illegal gain.

Assumptions of Human Nature
  • Individuals have free will Freedom to make
    personal behavioral choices unencumbered by
    environmental factors such as poverty or
    ideological beliefs
  • Individuals maximize utility (i.e., happiness,
    food, resources) by weighing the benefits and
    costs of their future actions before deciding on

Four Utilitarian Objectives of Punishment
Classic Deterrence Theory
  • Primary Purpose of punishment is deterrence
    rather than vengeance
  • Severity Punishment must be just severe enough
    to overcome the gain from a crime. Punishment
    that is too severe is unjust, and punishment that
    is not severe enough will not deter
  • Without proper proportionality, people will not
    be deterred from committing more serious crimes (
    i.e. if rape and murder were both punished with
    death, a rapist would have little reason to
    refrain from killing the victim

Classic Deterence Celerity and Certainty
  • Celerity swiftness with which criminal sanctions
    are applied after the commission of crime ( where
    does apprehension fit in?)
  • Certainty probability of apprehension and
    punishment for a crime.
  • If I am caught will they really punish me? ( mere
    threats versus carrying out)

What is proportionality?
  • Rape
  • Theft of a cell phone
  • Theft of a car
  • Killing a husband/mistress when you catch them in
    bed together
  • Assault
  • People who neglect/abuse those in a nursing home

  • General Deterrence
  • Depends on fear of penalties
  • Convincing potential offenders that the potential
    pain outweighs the potential benefits
  • Specific Deterrence
  • Focuses on the individual offender
  • Convince him/her not to repeat their criminal

Absolute and Marginal Deterrence
  • Absolute Deterrence A particular punishment can
    deter a type of crime completely.
  • Marginal Deterrence A relatively more severe
    penalty will produce some reduction in crime
  • State vs. informal control

The Purposes of Punishment
  • General Deterrence By punishing the offender we
    hope that others considering committing the same
    crime will not think it worth it
  • Specific Deterrence same as above, but with
    respect to that offender themselves, not others
  • Incapacitation if the offenders is in jail,
    society is safe
  • Retribution offenders deserve punishment as a
    payment to society for their crimes
  • Moral Outrage Catharsis and relief for society
  • Rehabilitation may provide and opportunity to
    help/change the offender
  • Restitution offenders should compensate their

Classical Crim. Today
  • Are criminals today influenced by a theory that
    is rooted in the 17th/18th century?
  • Historically
  • Bill of Rights
  • Thomas Jefferson desire to end death penalty in
  • Prisons
  • Punishment fit the crime
  • Neo-classical criminology/Rational Choice/Routine
    Activities Theory

Rebirth of Classical thoughts in the 70s and 80s
  • National surveys fail to find rehabilitation
    programs that work end of rehab in 70s
  • Thinking About Crime by James Q. Wilson debunks
    view that crime was a function of external forces
  • Wilson proposes a forceful reaction to crime,
    otherwise, those sitting on the fence will get
    the idea that crime pays
  • get tough on crime

The Deterrence Hypothesis
  • When the certainty, severity, and celerity of
    criminal sanctions are high in a population,
    criminal behavior will be low.
  • Should be a significant decrease in violent crime

Food for thought
  • The 5 countries with the highest homicide rates
    that do not impose the death penalty average 21.6
    murders per every 100,000 people.
  • The 5 countries with the highest homicide rate
    that do impose the death penalty average 41.6
    murders every 100,000 people.
  • States with DP have higher murder rates than
    those without the DP.
  • Does this show that deterrence theory does not

Rational Choice TheoryBorn out of economics
  • Assume individuals desire utility (e.g.
    happiness, wealth, etc.)
  • Operating within their means ( or constraints)
    individuals attempt to achieve their desires
  • The rational Choice is the one that obtains
    desired goals (e.g., the most utility) for the
    lowest cost.

  • Material or monetary benefits
  • Non-pecuniary benefits ( psychological gains,
    excitement, revenge, sense of accomplishment,
    reputation and honor)

  • Material costs
  • Psychic costs possible feelings of guilt from
    committing crime, shame from friends
  • Opportunity costs time that could be spent doing
    something else
  • Expected punishment costs ( the main focus of
    deterrence theorists)

Research indicates that crime pays relatively
little. Then why do so many criminals continue
to commit crime?
Structuring Crime
  • Not only do criminal structure their career but
    they rationally choose
  • The type of crime to commit
  • Where it occurs
  • Who or what will be the target
  • The time the crime will be committed

Routine Activities Theory
  • Crime will occur if the following three factors
  • Motivated Offenders
  • Suitable targets
  • Lack of capable guardians
  • theory assumes this will always be

What are our modern day Routine activities vs.
  • 1950
  • Women stayed at home
  • Social activities are more home based
  • What would people steal?
  • 2000
  • Many women work outside of home
  • Social activities are more often away from home
  • What would people steal?

How do you stop crime according to RAT?
  • Target hardening ( suitability)
  • Surveillance (guardianship)
  • Target removal
  • Reducing temptation
  • Surveillance by employees
  • This is situational crime prevention

  • Is this a good or bad theory?
  • Does it influence how we view crime and criminal
    justice in America
  • Does it answer the 2 basic questions?
  • Is it useful?