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Classical School, Deterrence, and Rational Choice Theories of Crime


Classical School, Deterrence, and Rational Choice Theories of Crime And discussion of The Enlightenment. Chapter 5 Preclassical Notions of Crime and Criminals Prior ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Classical School, Deterrence, and Rational Choice Theories of Crime

Classical School, Deterrence, andRational Choice
Theories of Crime
  • And discussion of The Enlightenment.
  • Chapter 5

Preclassical Notions of Crime and Criminals
  • Prior to the 18th C explanations for many things
    including behavior and crime tended to be based
    on religious or spiritual understandings
    supernatural forces
  • Crime was the result of demonic possession or the
    evil abuse of freewill interestingly, because
    of the legacy of original sin in that all
    people were considered born sinners it made no
    sense to ask the question what causes crime?
    The gift of the grace of God kept people
    obeying the law and if they deviated it was
    because God was no longer their guide.
  • This demonological explanation began to wane with
    the advent of a period of time historians refer
    to as the Enlightenment (18th C). - paradigm
    shift led people question the role of religion,
    demonic possession shift to new ideas of
    rationalism, humanism, and the belief in law over
    the supernatural.

Pre-Classical Views of Crime contd
  • Rationale for punishment has often been
    retribution payback and revenge
  • Blood Feuding kinship groups would fight back
    and forth widening and escalating the situation.
  • To gain control Lords began capitalizing on
    superstition and declaring people possessed and
    imposing punishments in the name of religion
    punishment was seen as appeasing God and victims
  • The Holy Inquisition diminishing authority of
    the Catholic Church punish heretics through
    brutal means church wasnt allowed to spill
    blood so the state handled it pre separation
    of church and state many crimes resulted in
  • Brutal punishment and torture burning alive,
    drowning, burying alive, beheading, stoning, and
    breaking on the wheel.

  • Thousand of innocent people were labeled witches
    and the state only became more brutal when the
    church wasnt involved eventually death was the
    punishment for ALL felonies in England in the
    17th C.
  • Death penalty was not used humanely but rather
    was brutal burning alive was the most common
    form for heresy (opinion contrary to the church
    and or state)
  • Pg. 174 has a terrible tale of a victim and the
    torture and death he experienced brutal

The Classical School of Criminology
  • The arbitrary administration of justice and the
    cruel punishments in medieval Europe provided
    fertile ground for the emergence of the Classical
    school of criminology.
  • The Classical school must be interpreted in the
    context of the Enlightenment. began in FP
  • Charles Montesquieus - Espirit deslois (The
    Spirit of the Laws) 1748 expressed hatred of
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau Thomas Hobbes - The
    Social Contract
  • Demonological explanations of crime began to wane
    leading into the Enlightenment

The Enlightenment
  • 18th C. is known as the Age of Enlightenment
  • Both an end and a new beginning (emerging
    revolutions) characterized by reason and logic.
  • Enlightened intellectuals would lead people out
    of the skeptical Dark Ages which was
    characterized by superstition, magic, demonic
  • Autonomy of reason, confidence in the discovery
    of causality, assault on authority, solidarity of
    intellectuals philosophes

Age of Enlightenment contd
  • Main figures of Enlightenment included some
    recognizable folks Descartes, Pascal,
    Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau
  • Largely a French movement because French culture
    dominated Europe
  • Feudal ideals were crumbling and by 1750 the
    reading public came into existance due to
    increased literacy. Philosophes never knew if
    their ideas would be embraced or rejected and
    they imprisoned.
  • Despite, they assumed the air of an army on the
    march (hippies?)
  • Many of the Philosophes rebuffed religion and
    tried to show its importance and relevance but
    without the supernatural powers of the Middle
    Ages embraced rationality to explain behavior
    including crime.

The Classical School of Criminology, cont.
  • Cesare Beccaria - Father of Classical Criminology
  • Wrote On Crimes and Punishments (1764) academy
    of fists Verri brothers contribution to the
  • Advocated the principle of no crime without law
    and specified the criteria for the enactment and
    administration of criminal codes.
  • Staunchly supported the separation of powers in
    criminal law.
  • Asserted that the essence of crime was harm done
    to society.
  • At the heart of Classical thought was the notion
    that it is better to prevent crimes than to
    punish them (Beccaria, 1764/196393). Out of
    this idea arises Deterrence. Also, better to let
    a guilty man go free than to punish an innocent
    man very contrary position to the old ways of
    torture of the innocent to extract confessions

Beccaria and Deterrence Theory
  • The deterrence doctrine and its assumptions
    regarding human nature permeate social relations
    and institutions.
  • Deterrence employs threats of punishment to
    influence behavior. It assumes that
  • people are rational
  • peoples behavior is a product of free will
  • people are hedonistic, i.e., that their goal is
    to increase pleasure and/or to reduce pain
  • Three principles of punishment that became the
    hallmark of classical deterrence doctrine
  • gtgt Swift, Certain, Severe, (Public) NYT
  • Punishment must also be proportionate to the harm
  • Punishment used to keep order not avenge crime.

Jeremy Bentham - Utilitarianism and Classical
  • A contemporary and admirer of Beccaria
  • He was a child prodigy and wrote extensively
    throughout his lifetime with most works not
    published during his lifetime.
  • Body was preserved at University College London
    still on display.

Bentham contd
  • At the heart of Benthams punishment philosophy
    was Utilitarianism all action must serve a
    purpose (the greatest happiness principle) (all
    action should be judged by its effect on the
    happiness of the community)(greatest happiness
    for the greatest number).
  • People serve two masters pleasure and pain
  • Hedonism (?)
  • The weighing of pleasure versus pain is known as
    hedonistic (felicific) calculus.
  • Freewill allows people to make calculated and
    deliberate decisions

Bentham contd
  • Principle of morals and legislation(1789) this
    is a philosophical piece on the social control of
    individuals based on the principle of utility
    (the creation of happiness in the party
    concerned) the association by Bentham is the
    greatest happiness for the greatest number.
  • Human action should be judged based upon its
    effect on the happiness of the community as a
    whole. Punishment falls under this philosophy.
  • W/ regard to each action it is imp. to consider
    1) the act itself, 2) the circumstances of the
    act, 3) the intentionality, 4) the consciousness
    of the act, 5) the motive, 6) the general outcome
    of the act.
  • W/ regard to punishment the punitive action must
    be considered in terms of intensity, duration,
    certainty, proximity, productiveness, purity, and
  • The act of legislation is vital to maintaining a
    balance between personal pleasure and a minimum
    degree of pain for the greatest number of people.

Impact of Classicism on Criminal Law and
  • Classical school emergence of modern
    criminological thinking.
  • Criminal law and procedure, penology, policing -
    were profoundly affected by Classical School
    reform movement were made more civilized with a
    deterrent purpose in mind.
  • Many contributions were in the reform of criminal
    codes and procedures.
  • Legal reforms and protections for the accused by
    classical theorists spread throughout the Western
  • John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson

The Impact on Penology and Policing
  • Penology
  • Brutal Incarceration to imprisonment under
    relatively humane conditions.
  • Segregation by sex, age, or reason for
  • Bentham and Panopticon.
  • Policing
  • Reforms took longer in policing than in penology
  • Sir Robert Peel - the London Metropolitan Police
    Act of 1829
  • Bobbies or Peelers
  • Deterrence via police patrol.
  • Boston Police Dept. in 1838 adopted the ideas of
    the LMPA

Contemporary Deterrence Theory and the
Conceptualization of Deterrence
  • Research on deterrence has focused on certainty
    of punishment - a dimension emphasized by early
  • How swift must punishment be to deter crime?
  • Crime should decrease as punishment severity
    increases. However, Beccaria and Bentham were
    cautious about declaring that deterrent effects
    are contingent upon the severity of punishment.
  • For punishment to have the desired effect, the
    individual must be cognizant of the punishment.

General and Specific Deterrence
  • General Deterrence - involves punitive sanctions
    (real of perceived) designed to influence the
    behavior of individuals other than those
  • Specific Deterrence - (also called special or
    individual deterrence) seeks to discourage the
    sanctioned individual from engaging in future
    misconduct again.

  • Deterrence
  • Wide range of potential impacts of punishment
  • Threat of sanctions can completely deter
    individual action.
  • Reductions in rule violations can occur
  • Crime Displacement
  • Differences by Crimes
  • Instrumental crime and Expressive crime (which is
    more deterrable?)
  • Differences by Persons (impulsive, low
    self-control, optimistic, young, lower class,
    male, little to lose w/ much to gain)
  • Extralegal Sanctions Shaming both verbal and
    nonverbal cues by family and friends can have
    deterrent value

Group Exercise
  • Decide an appropriate punishment for the
    following crimes
  • Adultery
  • Theft of personal property of 10,000
  • Vandalism
  • Drug dealing
  • Attack on ones honor

A Rational Choice Perspective
  • Punishment does not deter under all circumstances
    though it does some (rape w/o getting caught?)
  • The rational choice perspective incorporates many
    more variables and expands on conventional
    deterrence by considering the choices of both the
    offenders and the victims
  • Offense and offender specific choices,
  • The rational choice perspective has paved the way
    for additional practical crime prevention focus
  • studies of victimization
  • defensible space designs
  • crime displacement
  • hot spots
  • routine activities

Routine Activities
  • Introduced by Cohen and Felson to explain
    escalating official crime rates during the 1970s
  • Three premises are at the heart of Routine
  • Assumed there is an abundance of motivated
  • There is a suitable target
  • An absence of capable guardians
  • The focus is on the lifestyle choices of
    potential victims - focuses on victimization.
  • Target hardening examples
  • deterrence