Classical Causes of Criminal Behavior Term Paper

  • Length: 4 pages
  • Subject: Criminal Justice
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #88141669

Excerpt from Term Paper :


Foundation and Focus The foundation for the Classical Theory to crime focused less on the criminal and targeted more on securing a rational, fair system for controlling and putting punishments in order. Little concern was given to causes of criminal behaviors. Significant words/definitions related to this theory include:

Classicism - The Enlightenment view of crime that stresses free will and rationality and the corresponding rationality of the justice system....

Free will - According to the classical school, people possess reason. This means that they can calculate the course of action that is in their self-interest. This in turn gives them a degree of freedom....

Just deserts - A justification for punishment which insists that offenders should be punished only as severely as they deserve. It was a reaction against the unfair excesses of rehabilitation and the 'get tough' drive from conservatives during the 1970s." (Carrabine, Iganski, Lee, Plummer & South, 2004, p. 375-376)

Causes Contributing to Frank's Crimes?

Contemporary criticisms of the classical theory challenge several of its contentions. One specific, "The idea of punishment as deterrent - rational beings will choose not to commit crimes if the punishment fits the crime, (Carrabine, Iganski, Lee, Plummer & South, 2004, p. 41) could be challenged in regard to Frank's crimes. Despite textbook principals that propose to validate the values of classical theory and positivism as the origin of today's theories in criminology and crime causations, no clear-cut records supporting this supposition exist. Classical school concepts,.".. By Beccaria... linked to Enlightenment ideas of rationality, free will, choice, progress," (Carrabine, Iganski, Lee, Plummer & South, 2004, p. 42) nevertheless, could be utilized to factor into possible determinations for causes contributing to Frank's identity theft crimes. "The view that human beings have 'free wills' - human actions are not simply determined by inside or outside 'forces' but can be seen as matters of free decisions," (Ibid, 41) seems particularly relevant. Also applicable to be considered as a possible causation criteria contributing to Frank's crimes is that the classical model argues that individuals' actions are rooted in self-interest; in a "free" mode. If/when a criminally inclined individual perceives, he/she will be punished, he will be deterred, the classical theory argues. If he/she thinks he/she will not get caught, he will proceed to commit crime. Some critics consider this concept "too simple." (Ibid, 35)

Conclusion As knowledge produced by scientific research is continually being refined, experts contend that no determination is everlasting, that accompanying each theory is the chance to disprove it. All theories are open to not only being invalidated - they are regularly refined by new discoveries and/or findings. During 1993 (Sherman, Farrington, Welsh, & Mackenzie, 2002, p. 7), the U.S. Supreme Court,.".. concluded hypotheses about cause and effect cannot be 'proven' conclusively like a jury verdict; they can merely be falsified using a wide array of methods that are more or less likely to be accurate." ("The Uncertainty of Science," p.1-9) Today, as in times past, causation determinations can, at times, be considered rhetoric rather than fact. In fact, "Few modern criminologists would claim that any single theory constitutes a universal explanation of criminality or a valid predictor of future criminal behaviour (sic) in a particular population." (Crime and punishment, 2006) Instead, various theories, including the classical theory, could be construed to compliment each other as they may offer insight into varying criminal aspects - whether they can be defended by rational ground or not.


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Sherman, L.W., & Eck, J.E. (2002). 8 Policing for Crime Prevention. In Evidence-Based Crime Prevention, Sherman, L.W., Farrington, D.P., Welsh, B.C., & Mackenzie, D.L. (Eds.) (pp. 295-329). London: Routledge.

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