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SOC 2700 – Criminological Theory
January 11th 2012
Criminological Theory: What is it?
-> Linking facts together in order to understand components of crime:
understanding behaviors and individual characteristics
->Recognizing serial killers and their motives
->Understand how and why crime occurs
->Understanding society and how it relates to crime
->We look at things within the Criminal Justice System and how it relates to
criminal behaviors etc.
->How to solve problems by using different types of theories
Explain and Predict
-Most theories of crime do both:
->Indicators to identify crime and predict it
->Back in the day, they used to use physical appearances to predict crime; it is
->Society writes a person’s life: social and physical elements. It is used to predict
future behavior in, for example, children years down the road
->Broken Windows Theory-> low-income neighborhoods (mattresses on the
sidewalk, broken windows, trash, etc.) Certain neighborhoods thrive and some decay:
bad and good elements of society.
The Creation and Evaluation of Theory
-Theories of crime either explain crime or attempt to predict crime
-Evidence helps to verify a theory
->Mental illness, family dysfunction, no education, low socio-economic, etc.
Does criminological theory have a use?
-Helps to explain why crime occurs
-Crime prevention may also be a result
-Example: Conflict theory ->not being able to attain certain things (education,
materialistic things, etc.) There’s different groups that are more powerful and maintain
their position by denying those access to education and other things.
->It is useful to understanding why robberies take place and why the witnesses
might chase them.
->Understanding the sense of why people commit crime
->Why do we look negatively as a society towards certain types of drugs?
Criminological Theories as Explanations
-Spiritual -> evil, witchcraft, possessed by the devil, etc.
-Natural ->natural laws
-Scientific ->connections of data and theory, various types of ways of observing data
Why theories cannot be proven
-Issue of falsification
->How easily can a theory be falsified?
January 13, 12
Film: “Insider the Killer’s Mind”
1-What are the claims made by Dr. Dorothy Lewis and Dr. Jonathan Pincus about the
origins of violence and murder?
The frontal lob, if it is damaged, it releases inhibition and it is like being drunk all
the time and impairs judgment. Mental illness was found in children; their parents
passed it on. They found the children severely abused as well, physical and emotional.
Three factors: brain damage, abuse, and mental illness.
2-What goes wrong socially in the early life of an offender that leads them to commit
Abuse. Abuse makes people violent causing brain damage. Sexual abuse was a
big reason why most sexual predators do such things to other individuals. Extremely
abusive parents caused them to act in the same manner they did towards others, except
they killed them.
3-What do the critics say about these arguments?
Most brain damaged, abused and mental illnesses people are not all murderers.
IF you combine these with a “spark” it can be lethal. You cannot find out the truth from
criminals, because they are wrong and there aren’t any excuses. A lot of criminals lie
about being abused and suffer from post-traumatic stress.
4-What prevention strategies does Dr. Lewis offer to stop people from becoming adult
-Identifying abuse early and prevent it
January 16, 12
Three types of Crime Explanation
-External forces: nature (weather – criminal behavior can be explained by weather
patterns: lunar eclipse, full moon, etc.), cosmology (astrology and how the stars are
positioned), and demonology (the devil made me do it)
-Internal causes-> Physiology and Biology components of crime. Doctors would give
them treatments because of their physiology. Something can be cured rather than
punished was their mentality.
-Group association -> Refers to law. Crime is not something is not held by external
forces but looking at the various things that happen in society. Social factors help
The objective-subjective debate
-Objective: behavior is real
-Subjective: behavior is constructed
The Classical School of Criminology (1680-1800)
-Ties to the enlightenment period
-Role of Hedonism (self-interest)
-Importance of free will ->difference between right and wrong
-Role of punishment
-Philosophers (Voltaire, Arouet, Hobbes, Kant and Hume)
January 18, 12
-Punishment is a very big aspect in classical school
4-Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794)
->Book: “On Crimes and Punishments”
->Classification of crimes: high treason, personal security, and public tranquility
->Measure of crime: social harm
->Punishment and the right punish: law and authority of judges
->Evidence and forms of judgment
->Punishment as a deterrent: promptness, severity, and certainty
->The death penalty: potential problems
-Prisons had a lot of inequalities
-He wrote on the principles on an idea justice system
-Greatest good for the greatest number
-Crimes destroys society, is what he thought. Social harms exists