criminology, criminals were seen as rather than that as just ‘harmful’ and
‘dangerous’, but as “evil” people, who committed sin and were corrupted. This
meant that not only would the legal system at the time label criminals as these
sinful beings, but also to treat them like it with their punishments – in
thought that these were the commandments of God. This was the crime control
before the enlightenment; instilling fear, shame and guilt to those who were
seen as evil. Enlightenment philosophers Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Baron de
Montesquieu (1689-1755) were very influential on the lead up to new criminology
theories, and created the motto for the enlightenment period as “Dare to wise!
(Sapere aude.) “Have the courage to
use your own understanding”.
(1748-1833) and Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794) were the two main theorists for
classical criminology, and who made a huge impact on the legal system and who
really introduced criminology, after being influenced by Kant and Montesquieu’s
enlightenment. Beccaria founded the Classical School and book “Of Crime and Punishment” (1764) which
fully showed a greater understanding for what negatives the Justice System at
the time had, and that was unjust, focusing on the physically punishing
criminals – prison was a place to hold offenders before their punishment rather
than holding them there as punishment. Beccaria was against the way in which
the justice system dealt with criminals at the time, especially torture and
death penalty, arguing “A strange consequence which necessarily follows from
the use of torture is that the innocent are put in a worse position than the
guilty. For, if both are tortured, the former has everything against him…
Therefore, the innocent man cannot but lose and the guilty man may gain’.
Beccaria (1995, p. 67). Beccaria believed that the legal system should focus on
preventing crimes rather than punishing them with actions such as the death
penalty, as “they are not useful because they are not a reparation and offer no
safeguard to society in the prevention of crimes, which are the proper grounds
for punishment” Beccaria (1995) On Crimes
and Punishment. He understood the fact that many may be opposed to the
idea, especially considering original punishment related to God and his commandments,
however explained that punishments should be kept proportionate to the crime in
which is committed, and that that the criminal law should be reformed
considering to the criminal, the pleasure of criminal activity overweighs that
of the pain.
(1748-1833) was the founder of ‘utilitarianism’
and the creator of “the Panopticon” –
he believed that the prison should also be the punishment for crime, and for it
to punish mind, soul and body, rather than physical punishment – meaning that
once leaving prison the offender would have changed, and be unwilling to
reoffend. Bentham believed that crime was committed due to the benefits – that criminals
seek excitement, money, sex, and to discourage this, the pain of punishment should
overweigh the benefit of the crime committed.
Both Beccaria, Bentham
and the founding of the Classical School of criminology have made huge advancements
in our criminal justice system and legislations, understanding the criminal, the
victim and crime control with a progressive to the earlier, medieval idea of
criminals being “evil”. They understand that people are rational beings; that they
are aware of their doings and have the free will on whether to abide or break criminal
law and the social contract, and with just torture and death penalty will not prevent
this crime from occurring. This lead to the birth of a modernised society, and
scientific enquiries into crime.
However, this criminological
theory is challenged by the positivist theory; Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) and ‘The Born Criminal’, shifting the view of
‘free will’ towards scientific views, experimentations and based on the Charles
Darwin Theory. Classical criminology focuses on the philosophy of criminal
justice, whereas positivist criminology is focussed on ‘science of the criminal’.
Lombroso described the criminal as pre-modern – that people are born into
criminality and that there are physical and psychological abnormalities to
define those who are criminal, and that opposed to Beccaria, Lombroso believed
that “punishment be tailored to individual criminals rather than to
their crimes. He explicitly rejected the principle of moral responsibility,
arguing that criminals acted out of compulsion from either their innate
physical and psychological degeneracy or from the social environment” Gibson
and Rafter (2016, pp. 70). However, despite this opposing view from Lombroso, it
did not disprove the Classical principles, but did bring up a couple weaknesses.
Classical criminology does not consider the fact that not everyone
may be rational – some people may be born with a distorted mind, or may become
irrational due to mental illnesses, schizophrenia or if they’ve been drugged.
At this point, individuals may be unaware of what they’re doing. Alongside
this, not everyone has the same reasoning – some may be too young to understand,
may have learning difficulties or other issues which hinder their understanding.
An important question is ‘how is rationality defined? There may be a poor
parent who steals on regular occurrence in order to feed their children, but do
they have the choice, otherwise they may starve. Another point to bring up is
that although Classical criminology focuses on the criminal and crime control,
they do not mention the victim or how certain things may affect them – the idea
is to create a punishment equal to the crime which has been committed, however,
the victim or family of the victim may think the punishment given is too forgiving.
There’s also the issue that ‘is everyone equal before the law’? as Classical criminology
does not mention anything about gendered criminologies – females tend to be let
off more lightly than when males commit crimes.
The Classical School of Criminology did result in the removal
of capital punishment, torture and corporal punishment – which Beccaria and
Bentham believed are useless punishments, except for in the case of murder in