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SOC 2700 Chapter Summaries.docx

Course Code
SOC 2700
Scott Brandon

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Chapter 1: Theory and Crime
Discuss the extent and distribution of criminal behaviours in society; the
characteristics of criminal law and procedure; the characteristics of
criminals; and the history, structure, and functioning of the criminal justice
Theory: Sensible way of understanding something, of relating it to the whole
world of information, beliefs and attitude that make up the intellectual
atmosphere of people at a particular time or place
Spiritual Explanations
View of life in which many criminal events are the result of otherworldly
Primitive people regarded natural disasters like hurricanes or floods as
punishments for wrongs they had done
In history methods such as trial by ordeal were used to determine guilt
they would put people through difficult and painful tests, and if innocent God
would protect them and leave them unharmed
The Pope banished trial by ordeal in 1215 it was replaced by
compurgation, where the accused would gather a group of 12 reputable
people who would swear that he or she was innocent they would not lie or
they would face the wrath of God this ultimately evolved into testimony
under oath and trial by jury
Natural Explanations
Objects and events in the material world as an explanation for crime
Early ideas were things like the braing is the organ of the mind
Hippocrates, and the idea of the indestructible matter, the atom
Early Roman law combined spiritual and natural explanations to come
up with a natural basis for penalties and rights looked at the “nature of
things” for its principle justification
Scientific Theories
Make statements about relationships between observable phenomena
for example the relationship of certainty and severity of punishment &
the volume of criminal behaviours in a society
Key characteristic about scientific theories is that they can be falsified,
since they are observable falsified through thorough research
o If the observations are consistent with the theory than the theory
is more credible, if not they are falsified
Causation in Scientific Theories
Causation in sci-theories means 4 things:
o Correlation things vary systematically in relation to each other
o Theoretical rationale - good reason to believe the that a causal
relation exists
o Time sequence Determine the “direction of causation” – ex/ does the
discipline cause the deviance, or the deviance cause the discipline?
o The absence of spuriousness The factors that are being studied are
the only possible factors acting on the people in the study

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The final statement that a causal relationship exists is a statement of
probability, not certainty
Three frames of reference
1. Criminal behaviour as freely chosen
Intelligence and rationality are fundamental human characteristics and
are the basis for explaining human behaviour
Each person is the master of their own fate
This is classical criminology
2. Caused by forces beyond control of the individual
Humans are not self-determining agents who are free to do as they wish
This is positivist criminology
3. Crime as a function of the way law is written and enforced
Means the search for crime is ultimately futile
Attempt to explain why some behaviours are legally defined as criminal
and some similar behaviours are not
“Theories and behaviour of criminal law”
Relationships among the three frames of reference
The points of view seem different from one another however they are not
contradictory no contradiction between spiritual & the various natural
Chapter 2: Classical Criminology
Most commonly associated with Beccaria
Based of the rational calculation of benefits and it’s cost
On that basis punishments should be proportional to the crime so the cost of
the benefit outweighs the award
Classical crim. went against the commonly held spiritual explanations of
crime Aquinas explained that there was a natural law, people’s tendency to
do good rather than evil Crime was also a sin therefore punishable by
Beginning with Hobbes social contract thinkers began to substitute the prior
- Aquinas though people naturally do good rather than evil while Hobbes
believed people only took self-interest into account and did not care
about harming others
Hobbes argues that people realized that this wont work so everyone agrees
to stop this hedonism as long as everyone else does social contract
- State enforces this contract by agreeing to the contract you transfer
power to the state
Beccaria’s book resulted in many countries designing their criminal justice
system after his beliefs
Beccaria & the Classical School
With no experience in the field Beccaria was supposed to write an essay on
penology it was titled “On Crimes and Punishments” – He objected to the

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barbaric methods of punishment during his time and came up with ideas to
make a justice system effective and just:
1. The role of legislatures should be to define crimes and specific punishments
for those crimes.
2. The role of judges should be to determine whether one is guilty of a crime
once it is determined the judge should follow the laws to determine
3. The seriousness of a crime should be determined by the extend of harm it
inflicts on society other factors like intent were irrelevant
4. Purpose of punishment is to deter crime punishments should be
proportionate to the crime
5. Punishments are unjust when their severity exceeds what is necessary to
deter the crime
6. Excessive severity not only fails to deter crime but actually increases it they
are driven to commit several crimes to avoid punishments for a single one
7. The more prompt a punishment is awarded, the more just and useful it will
8. Punishments should be certain the certainty will make a stronger
impression than the possibility of another
Beccaria also believed that laws should be published, torture and secret
accusations should be abolished, capital punishment be replaced by
imprisonment, that jail be more humane, and law not differ between the rich
and poor
Church was against Beccaria’s ideas throughout
Types of Deterrent research
1. Looks at the effects of policies that target specific crimes in specific places,
such as police crackdowns on drug markets
- Studies show that these achieve and initial deterrent but tends to
deteriorate rather quickly
- Initial deterrence decay offenders learn through trial and error that
they may have overestimated the crackdown
- Residual deterrence takes time for offenders to realize that it is safe to
offend again
2. Looks at the distinction of the objective risks and the perception of these
risks by potential offenders
- Most studies involved survey research asking participants about their
perceptions of the risk of being punished for specific offenses & whether
they committed or intend to commit those crimes
- Research found associations between offending and the perceptions of
certainty of punishment but less between offending and severity
3. Looks at Criminal Justice policies in different jurisdictions and at the crime
rates associated with these policies
- This suggests that areas with more police officers, imprison more people
and the death penalty in place should have less crime- results have been
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