Criminological theory is the explanation of the behavior of criminal offenders, as well as the behavior of police, attorneys, prosecutors, judges, correctional personnel, victims, and other actors in the criminal justice process. It helps us understand criminal behavior and the basis of policies proposed and implemented to prevent and control crime.
State the causes of crime according to classical and neoclassical criminologists and their policy implications.
Classical and neoclassical criminologists theorize that human beings are free-willed individuals who commit crime when they rationally calculate that the crime will give them more pleasure than pain. In an effort to deter crime, classical criminologists advocate the following policies: (1) establish a social contract, (2) enact laws that are clear, simple, unbiased, and reflect the consensus of the population, (3) impose punishments that are proportionate to the crime, prompt, certain, public, necessary, the least possible in the given circumstances, and dictated by law rather than by judges' discretion, (4) educate the public, (5) eliminate corruption from the administration of justice, and (6) reward virtue. Neoclassical criminologists introduced the concepts that mitigating circumstances might inhibit the exercises of free will and that punishment should be rehabilitative.
Describe the biological theories of crime causation and their policy implications.
The basic cause of crime for biological positivists has been biological inferiority, which is indicated by physical or genetic characteristics that distinguish criminals from noncriminals. The policy implications of biological theories of crime causation include a choice of isolation, sterilization, or execution. Biological theorists also advocate brain surgery, chemical treatment, improved diets, and better mother and child care.
Describe the different psychological theories of crime causation and their policy implications.
According to psychological theories, crime results from individuals' mental or emotional disturbances, inability to empathize with others, inability to legally satisfy their basic needs, or oppressive circumstances of life. To combat crime, psychological positivists would isolate, sterilize, or execute offenders not amenable to treatment. For treatable offenders, psychotherapy or psychoanalysis may prove effective. Other policy implications are to help people satisfy their basic needs legally, to eliminate sources of oppression, and to provide legal ways of coping with oppression.
Explain sociological theories of crime causation and their policy implications.
Sociological theories propose that crime is caused by anomie, or the dissociation of the individual from the collective conscience; by social disorganization; by anomie resulting from a lack of opportunity to achieve aspirations; by the learning of criminal values and behaviors; and by the failure to properly socialize individuals. Among the policy implications of sociological theories of crime causation are containing crime within reasonable boundaries; organizing and empowering neighborhood residents; reducing aspirations, increasing legitimate opportunities; providing law-abiding models, regulating associations, eliminating crime's rewards, rewarding law-abiding behavior, punishing criminal behavior effectively; and properly socializing children so that they develop self-control and a strong moral bond to society.
Distinguish major differences among classical, positivist, and critical theories of crime causation.
Unlike classical theories, which assume that human beings have free will, and positivist theories, which assume that human beings are determined, critical theories assume that human beings are both determined and determining. In contrast to both classical and positivist theories, which assume that society is characterized primarily by consensus over moral values, critical theories assume that society is characterized primarily by conflict over moral values. Finally, unlike positivist theorists, who assume that social scientists can be objective or value-neutral in their work, many critical theorists assume that everything they do is value-laden by virtue of their being human, that it is impossible to be objective.
Describe how critical theorists would explain the causes of crime and their policy implications.
Depending on their perspective, critical theorists explain crime as the result of labeling and stigmatization; of relative powerlessness, the class struggle, and the practice of taking advantage of other people; or of patriarchy. Those who support labeling theory would address crime by avoiding labeling people as criminals or by employing radical nonintervention or reintegrative shaming. Conflict theorists would address crime by having dominant groups give up some of their power to subordinate groups or having dominant group members become more effective rulers and subordinate group members better subjects. Radical theorists would define crime as a violation of basic human rights, replace the criminal justice system with popular or socialist justice, and (except for anarchists) would create a socialist society appreciative of human diversity. Left realists would use police power to protect people living in working-class communities. Peacemaking criminologists would transform human beings so that they were able to empathize with those less fortunate and respond to other people's needs, would reduce hierarchical structures, would create communities of caring people, and would champion universal social justice. Feminist theorists would address crime by eliminating patriarchal structures and relationships and promoting greater equality for women. Postmodernist criminologists would replace the prevailing description of the world with new conceptions, words, and phrases, that convey alternative meanings, as experienced by historically subjugated people. They would also replace the formal criminal justice system with informal social controls handled by local groups and local communities.