SOCL 4461 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Canine Tooth, Philippe Pinel, Minority Group

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Test 2: Chapters 4,5,6,7,and 9
Chapter 4: Rational Choice Theory
The Development of Rational Choice
Development of Classical Criminology
Punishment has four main objectives:
oTo prevent all criminal offenses
oWhen it cannot prevent a crime, to convince the offender to commit a
less serious crime.
oTo ensure that a criminal uses no more force than is necessary
oTo prevent crime as cheaply as possible.
Cesare Beccaria
Has its roots in the classical school of criminology developed by Cesare
Beccaria
Rational Hedonism: humans are rational and choose to act certain ways in
pursuit of our pleasures/passions
Hedonism: seeking of pleasure
Criminals do these things to seek reward/pleasure;
it’s personal and the blame lies within that person;
People become more individualistic
Religion has lost its influence
Punishment stops people from committing crime
4 Basic Principles:
Free will: people can choose to be lawful or criminal
Crime is attractive for criminals: their choices are designed to bring them
pleasure and reduce pain. little effort = huge payoff; instead of working,
you can steal
Payoff needs to be greater than pain: Cost-Benefit Analysis; the benefits
and costs are weighed against each other, and make a choice; shows how
humans are rational. Criminal choices can be controlled by fear of
punishment.
Punishment should be severe, certain, and swift: the greater the ability to
control criminal behavior. Convinces criminals that crime does not pay.
Classical Criminology
By the end of the nineteenth century, the popularity of classical approach
declined
By the mid-twentieth century, positivistic views gained mainstream
acceptance
oPoverty, IQ, education, home life was believed to be true causes of
criminality.
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Contemporary Choice Theory Emerges
Prior to 1970s: went through a medical model of criminality. The medical
model was meant to heal a person. There was something wrong with
criminals (no education, no skills for a job, living in poverty because of
unemployment). This model claimed it could fix the problem by curing the
disease. It focused on rehabilitation.
Mid 1970s: People became frustrated that we were codling criminals. It
wasn’t working. Crime was on the rise and nothing seemed to be working.
We were giving criminals jobs and opportunities, but it didn’t seem to work
oA renewed interest in the classical approach to crime. It’s the idea that
criminals are still choosing to commit crime. So, if it is not a disease,
they must like it. Now, the punishment must fit the crime.
oThe modern version of rational choice theory is people have free will
to make choices, people are rational when they make their choices,
and people are basically hedonistic- they are going to seek pleasure
over pain (benefits outweigh the cost).
oRehabilitation failed to prevent future criminal activity. If they were
still committing crime, we needed to raise the penalties.
oA significant increase in the reported crime rate, as well as serious
disturbances in the nation’s prisons, frightened the general public.
oA lot of changes in every aspect of our life happened in the 1960s and
70s.
oWithin 5 years, 75% of criminals commit crimes again.
Thinking about crime
oCriminals are rational actors who planned their crimes, feared
punishment, and deserved to be penalized for their misdeeds.
Impact on Crime Control-1980s:
oConservative views shaped justice policy to pass tougher laws and
mandatory sentences.
oViews the decision to commit crime as being shaped by human
emotion and thought processes.
The Concepts of Rational Choice
Why Crime?
The core premise of rational choice theory is that some people choose crime
under some circumstances.
oEngaging in risky behavior makes people feel alive.
oCriminals are not criminal all the time (they have to go to the grocery
and buy food).
Choosing Crime
Law-violating behavior occurs when an offender decided to risk breaking the
law after considering both personal factors and situational factors.
oPersonal factors: money, revenge, its fun, attention, pressure, etc.
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oSituational factors: car window is down with cash in the front seat, an
elderly woman walking down the street at night, etc. Certain
situations present themselves and crime is more likely to happen.
Offense and Offender
Offense-specific crimes:
oOffenders will react selectively to the characteristics of an individual
criminal act.
oWhether or not to commit a burglary against a big guy and small
woman. Where do I go after? Where do I stash the property? These
are all things people consider before committing a crime.
oIf you were going to shoplift, what kind of characteristics of the
criminal act would you consider? A place with no security. A crowded
store during Christmas time where a lot if going on. The store has to
have something worth taking.
Offender-specific crimes:
oIndividuals must decide if they have the prerequisites to commit a
successful criminal act.
Crime is an event (offense); criminality is a personal trait (offender). Both of
these have to be present when choosing a crime. They are both personal
factors and situational factors.
Structuring Criminality
A number of personal factors condition people to choose crime:
oPeers and guardianship: guardianship here means there is a lack of
guardianship and no one to keep you from committing crime. Hanging
out with adolescent friends increases the risks of committing crimes.
Differences in guardianship and peer relations help explain
gender differences. Adolescent girls are more likely to
experience direct and indirect supervision, including their
parents knowing where they are, with whom they socialize,
and where and how the socializing is taking place. Adolescent
boys are given more freedom to socialize and find more
opportunities to engage in criminal behavior.
oExcitement and Thrills: shoplifting and vandalism are attractive
because getting away with crime is a thrilling demonstration of
personal competence. The need for excitement may counter fear of
apprehension and punishment. Some offenders will seek out
particularly risky situations.
oEconomic Opportunity: some offenders need the money to support
their lifestyle. People who begin taking drugs also increase their
involvement in crime. Crime also becomes attractive when an
individual becomes convinced that it will result in excessive profits
with few costs. The typical drug dealer earned less than $800 per
month.
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Document Summary

Has its roots in the classical school of criminology developed by cesare. Rational hedonism: humans are rational and choose to act certain ways in pursuit of our pleasures/passions. Criminals do these things to seek reward/pleasure; it"s personal and the blame lies within that person; Free will: people can choose to be lawful or criminal. Crime is attractive for criminals: their choices are designed to bring them pleasure and reduce pain. little effort = huge payoff; instead of working, you can steal. Payoff needs to be greater than pain: cost-benefit analysis; the benefits and costs are weighed against each other, and make a choice; shows how humans are rational. Criminal choices can be controlled by fear of punishment. Punishment should be severe, certain, and swift: the greater the ability to control criminal behavior. By the end of the nineteenth century, the popularity of classical approach declined.

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