Class 1 - The history of crime and Criminology in a nutshell
Early societies: Before the MiddleAge
• While crime as a violation of official laws sometimes did not exist in early societies, basic ideas
of what is “right” and “wrong” did exist (i.e. basic morality). Need for basic morality even if
the law is not formally written.
• Differences between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors were also learned in traditions,
mores, and folkways. People will spend their evening exchanging stories through
communication and that’s how they learn what’s acceptable and unacceptable.
• Evidence of laws in some early societies, however, including overlap with religious scriptures:
- The 10 commandments (root of Judaism and Christianity)
◦ To shall not kill, steal, etc. Scripture but they’re also a set of laws and rules and people
were expected to respect this behavior or they’d face consequences from their
- The Code of Hammurabi (King in ancient Babylon)
◦ 282 laws and punishments officially displayed on a monument for public knowledge.
Wanted everyone to know the rule of the kingdom, law and had a big stone in the
center of the city where all of his laws were written for everybody to see and nobody
in the kingdom were to ignore the law. The idea of the rules on the stone in the center
of the city were a great idea since it was like a big display. The king were being honest
with his people and that if the rules were broken then they’ll face punishment.
• Also common beliefs in “Good” and “Evil” as supernatural forces: varieties of gods, angels,
demons and spirits, etc.
- Evil behavior was sometimes seen as the result of supernatural influences, demonic
possession, etc. Many people believed that supernatural forces played a role in the lives
of humans. Like if they got sick, they’d think that it was from the supernatural evil.
◦ Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, is referenced in the Bible as “the Third
Beast” and in the Koran as “The Two-Horned One” who will ravage the earth with
Satan in the last days. This is how people interpreted the world, and saw the King who
was evil to take over the world.
◦ Attila the Hun, King of the Huns, was simply known as “the Scourge of God”.
• Importance of retribution: morally and socially acceptable to take revenge against perpetrators
of evil/crime in an “eye for an eye” manner. Ex) You hurt me, I hurt you back
- Strategic value: deters future harm
• Stratification of rules/laws: all of the laws depend on your social status
- People were far from equal in early societies, and rules applied differently based on social
- Many people were slaves, and had no right. For example, forcing a slave to have sex was
not a rape, it was a right of the owner. The owner of the slave could do whatever they
wanted with them, and that having sex was not seen as a form of rape but that it was seen
as a rightful behavior of the owner.
- Social class could change radically as a result of losing a war. Slavery for defeated groups
was common. The MiddleAge
• Continuation of beliefs regarding supernatural evil (e.g. witch-hunting) and the importance of
retribution. Crime, however, was often considered a form of sin: the conscious decision to sin
against God and to live in immoral life. By choosing to live a life that was immoral and that
crime in general were seen as sin.
• Laws were used in part to protect the interests of the aristocracy (i.e. the land owners) against
the interests of the peasants (i.e. the workers)
- Ex: the carrying of weapons such as swords was allowed for nobles but forbidden to
• Because crime was seen as both a sin against God and a threat to the aristocracy, punishment
was very severe and brutal
- There was also entertainment value: medieval folks enjoyed watching public torture and
execution of criminals
• Appearance of Common Law in English society: a tradition of unwritten legal precedents
created through everyday practice and used as guidelines in the administration of justice.
- Before the common law the judge or the king will just have to use their own point of view
to administer the law and then they’ll use a punishment out of their own choice. WIth the
common law there’s a standardization and that they’re comparing it between other people
in the situation and that the punishment is more standard instead of how the person is
feeling on that day.
◦ An important ancestor of modern criminal law
• Appearance of Habeas Corpus:- cannot arbitrary hold somebody without good reason. If
somebody gets arrested in the quickest time possible and that they can go talk to them and must
give them a legit reason for the arrest which is known as Habeas Corpus, if no legit reason is
given then they can be free.Arule of law that guaranties that an individual who is being
detained has the right to stand in court, and a reason must be given for the detention. If no
sufficient reason is offered, the individual must be set free (protection against unlawful or
abusive arrest and detention)
• The Enlightenment (i.e. theAge of Reason) is a social movement that arose during the 18th
century, and promoted ideas such as empiricism (something is true because you can experience
it, like see it, touch it, taste it, you are using your human senses to understand the world),
rationality, free will, humanism, and natural laws. Making big step forward and different
between the superstition and supernatural.
• Important thinkers: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine. With
these scholars we reject the idea that crime is supernatural and evil activity and that it’s seen as
an ordinary rational behavior. But the problem is that crime is harmful to people and society.
• Reject ideas of crime resulting from supernatural evil. Crime is seen as an ordinary rational
behavior, but a behavior that is harmful to individuals and society • Social Contract (Hobbes/Locke/Rousseau):
- Necessity for society to make some behaviors illegal to ensure the safety and well-being
of individuals. We have a choice to abide to certain laws or the law of the jungle, and that
living by a few rules is better than living at free will.
- Everybody must sacrifice a small portion of their freedom so that they can live together in
society. Sacrifice for a bit of freedom in exchange for a quality of life.
- Without laws, life is “solitary, nasty, brutish, and short” - Hobbes
- In order for the laws to be effective, a society needs a government that will be responsible
for enforcing the laws with the use of force. Have to force them when they don’t want to
follow the laws and that they have to use force against them.
- People retain certain rights that the government must respect. Even if the government is
more powerful than the individual, doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want and that
the individual has certain rights without actual evidence and reasons.
• Progressive thinking regarding human rights and freedoms: the unrestrained torture and
execution of criminals is questioned.
The Classical View
• The Classical view of crime is a direct product of the Enlightenment. Often considered the first
formal theory in criminology.
• Basic principles:
- Rationality: Humans are rational (evaluate rewards and costs), and human behavior
(including crime) is the result of free will and rational choice. The criminal is not that
different from other people and that they’re making a rational choice to commit choice
and that the reward will be bigger than the cost.
- Increasing pleasure and decreasing pain are two central motivations of human behavior
- Humans have basic inherent rights
- Some behaviors are inherently “wrong”
- Punishment, a necessary evil, is required to deter criminals and to serve as an example to
others who would consider committing crimes
- Punishment should fit the crime: over-punishing is a violation of basic human rights,
while under-punishing will have no deterrent effect.
◦ Ex) If somebody committed a small crime and you punished them with a big
punishment, you’re not respecting them of their human rights. Being under punished is
not making the people better either and that we need to find the right amount of
- Society provides benefits to individuals that they would not receive in isolation, but also
requires individuals to forfeit some freedoms. Cannot have your cake and eat it too.
- Crime is a harmful and immoral behavior because it reduces social bonds between
members of a society. The more crime there is the more difficult it is to trust other people.
- Principle of due process: an accused should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise,
and should not be punished prior to guild being lawfully established
• Important scholars
- Cesare Beccaria: Essay on Crimes and Punishments (1764)
- Jeremy Bentham: Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) The Neoclassical View
• Neoclassical criminology is based on similar principles as the classical view, but with greater
emphasis on sentencing issues: how and why punish lawbreakers?
• Criminals should be sanctioned for many reasons, but mainly:
- So that the costs of crime overweight the rewards for criminals: specific deterrence
- So that the general population is “scared away” from crime like this could be you:
- Because criminals violate the values of their society, and therefore deserve the
punishment they receive like unacceptable to steal from people, rape a woman, etc and
that they earned to be punished since they violate the norm of their society: justice/
- So that the general population know that the values of society are important and “alive”.
Want to convince them that the system is strong and that the value of society is respected:
The Birth of Crime Statistics
• The first half of the 19th century saw the emergence of a new approach to the understanding of
crime: comparative statistics
• Main idea: crime is not simply the result of free will and rational choice, but is caused by a
variety of social and economic factors. By comparing statistics on crime, these factors can be
- Possible causes: population density, lack of education, and poverty
◦ Use city maps divided in sections (e.g. neighborhoods)
◦ Calculate the rates of crime and other variable across the sections
◦ Look for patterns of relationships
• Main conclusion: People in unfavorable social/economic circumstances are more likely to
• Problem: crude analysis and poor data
• Important scholars
- Adolphe Quetelet (Belgium)
- Andre-Michel Guerry (France)
- Henry Mayhew (England)
Early Positivism: Lombroso’s theory of Atavism
• Positivism refers to the application of scientific techniques to study crime and criminals. Use
the same methodology like how they use in biology for example and to understand criminal
behavior and that it could be the same in animals and humans.
• According to early positivist scholars, crime and biological/evolutionary roots, and criminals
are physically different from non-criminals
- Ex: Body types, skulls shape and size, facial features- like if you had facial hair then you
could be more violent, etc.
- Because of the emphasis on biological factors, the notion of “born criminal” was popular
at the time - Important scholars: Cesare Lombroso (1876); Franz Joseph Gall (1800s), Charles Darwin
• The theory of Atavism posits that criminals are physiological throwbacks from earlier stages of
human evolution. The same way we have evolved from earlier species and that evolving was
negative to animal state instead of human
• Where do atavism come from?
- Not clear; seen as an evolutionary disease and instead of being fully human, they were
mixed of animals as well.
• How atavism predisposes to crime?
- Ferocious animal instinct - more violent because they had the animal instinct in them
that’ll make them more violent
- Low intelligence -Also more prone to crime because they didn’t understand how to fit
- Inability to fit properly in a modern society
• Because of evidence that many criminals did not fit the theory of atavism, Lombroso proposed
other types of criminal: insane criminals, criminals “of passions” like if you catch somebody
sleeping with your s/o and you’re just so mad from that situation that you decide to kill them,
occasional criminals (a.k.a. opportunistic)
• Overall, whileAtavism was a revolutionary idea for some time, it did not stand the test of time.
Many flaws in the methods and the theory itself.
- “Cherry-picking” the evidence, pre-selected samples, discounting alternative evidence
• Modern biological theories of crime focus on more specific factors, testable hypotheses, and
probabilistic causal effects
- Modern criminology is based on theories and research from many fields, including sociology,
psychology, economics, biology and others.
- During the semester, we will discuss in details these various approaches relevant to modern
criminology. Class 2 - Definitions of Crime
Statistics canada or correction canada
Definitions of Crime- more than one definition
• Legal definition: what does the law says about crime
- Acrime is a behavior forbidden by the law and subjected to a sanction: Some thing is a
crime if there’s an official law saying that the behavior is illegal and there’s a sanction to
it and that if you do it then there’s a consequence to it.
◦ Strengths: Definition is simple and technically accurate for most people
◦ Limitations: Not informative about the historical/philosophical/sociological
justifications of labeling of some behaviors as “crimes”.
»Why is this behavior a crime anyway? Why is this other behavior not a crime?
- There are always different exceptions; no crime when an illegal behavior is justified by
law like self defense
◦ Right to defend yourself and others against mortal dangers
»ex: If you’re at the bar on richmond row and somebody tries to pick a fight, can you
fight them back and get away with it? In our law, you just have to walk away from
anything that’s not mortal dangers)
◦ Vigilantism (not a form of self defense it’s right here right now and it’s an emergency,
vigilantism is where you plan it and it’s like revenge, which is illegal) is not justified
by law, however
- No crime without criminal intention, also judging our intents and not our behavior
◦ Accidental wrongdoing
»ex) if somebody walks in front of you and you hurt them and kill them and you
were safe, then it’s not your fault
◦ Negligence can be criminal, however: it wasn’t fully intentional but you were careless
»ex) if you hit somebody and you hit them and you were drinking, texting, speeding,
- No crime without capacity are special circumstances
◦ Being forced to commit a crime
»ex) kidnapping the bank manager and hold the family hostage, to get them to open
the safe and if they’re trying to do something to help them then the family will be
hurt. The manager is being forced and it’s not intentional.
◦ Being too young to be considered responsible
»ex) the kid who you’re baby sitting attacks you and kisses you and grabs you’re
breast, the police aren’t going to charge the child for sexual assault
◦ Insanity defense more difficult to plead than people think, at the time of the crime you
suffer a mental illness then you’re not responsible for the crime, they blame it on their
»ex) starting to believe that their neighbor is satan and that at some point they have a
morality responsible to go and kill them and that they have to prove it
◦ Ignorance of the Law is NOT accepted as a defense, if it was then everybody would do
it. If it’s an obscure law that nobody knows about then they might be more lenient, but
if it’s a law that everybody knows then you can’t use that excuse. • Consensus definition
- Acrime is a behavior that violates the basic values, beliefs, and social needs of a society.
Asociety has a value and belief that is important to some people that come to a
◦ Strengths: The definition seems adequate for many crimes, particularly the serious
crimes: homicide, rape, robbery, theft. Most people find that these behaviors are
unacceptable and harmful. Very different societies tend to criminalize the same
» The law is not as random as some people think, the same behavior is often
criminalize in the same society. Many of the core crime is criminalized in different
societies which means that there are the same core values between the majority.
◦ Limitations: There is significant disagreement across individuals and groups regarding
values, beliefs, and social needs. Some behaviors are seen as crime by some people but
not by others (ex: defensive violence- other person started it, do you have a right to
defend yourself? in the canadian law defensive violence is illegal unless of mortality.
The criminalization of drugs)
»We can find a lot of criminal behavior where we are far from consensus.
• Libertarian definition- emphasizes individual freedom and also believe in individual
- Acrime is an act of force or fraud (will trick your will to do something for them) against
the will of someone else
»ex) what’s the difference between sexual assault and consensual sex; which is the
will of the person
◦ Strength: The definition includes most behaviors that are seen as unacceptable and
harmful by most people.
◦ Limitations: Does not explain why so many behaviors not related to the definition are
criminal: drugs, gambling, weapon carrying, etc.Also, some forms of “force or fraud
against the will of someone else” are not criminal: spanking by parents, cheating on
your partner (it’s a fraud since they won’t tell you because they don’t want you to
• Conflict definition
- A“crime” is the label given to some behaviors by people in position of power in order to
enforce their interests over the interests people with less power.
»It’s not politically neutral and that the law is tweaked towards the powerful people
and more interest in the powerless people.
◦ Strengths: Useful to understand the arbitrary nature of certain criminal laws (or the
absence of criminal laws). Many historical evidence of changes in the law to support
the conflict perspective.
◦ Limitations: Many behaviors labeled crimes have nothing to do with the interest of the
powerful. Many people across more privileged and less privileged groups agree with
the labeling of some behaviors as “crime” (e.g. homicide, sexual assault)
• So, what is a crime? Which definition is right?
• The different definitions all have merits and shortcomings. • We should keep these definitions in mind when we study criminology, and be able to
understand crime from multiple viewpoints. Mainstream criminology is more legal and the
other one is the conflict and there’s no right or wrong way to look at crime.
Victimless Crimes and Vices
• Should behaviors be criminalized when:
- There are no direct victims?
- Those involved are willing to be involved?Anybody who’s taking part of the action is
actually willing to be a part of it.
• Victimless crimes and vices:
- Drug use and trafficking: buyers and sellers, as long as they don’t hurt anybody we
should just let them do whatever they want
- Sex trade: When it’s done freely and done out of their own will
- Violent entertainment: UFC since everybody’s willing to do it
- Gambling: Government won’t be happy if people are starting to do it outside of their
• Arguments for legalization
- Right to freedom:As long as you don’t hurt other people
- Criminal justice resources could be better used: Why don’t we catch real criminals
instead of cracking down on prostitutes or people with pot, and crack down on the real
- Arbitrary nature of the law: many harmful and annoying behaviors are not criminal:
either you’re harming ourself or other people
- Opportunity for legitimate business and government taxation: needs money to keep
operations going, but if you make some services legal then you can tax them like
- Better protection for “customers” and “service providers”: Must happen behind closed
doors if it was illegal, if it was legal then we could provide help and insurance for them
• Arguments for Criminalization
- Not truly victimless: participants may hurt themselves, their dependents, their community:
Parents if somebody has a responsibility of children, like when they get their paycheck
and spend it on something else and have no money left, then the children are like victims
because it’s hurting them
- Could lead to increasing participation: Once you make something legal, you make the
thumbs up to the rest of the society..what used to be a rare behavior will become a
common behavior later
- Vulnerable people are more at risk of negative consequences: The people who are poor
and don’t have much money and they decide to get into these behaviors will be more
affected than the rich
- Bring extra costs to society in terms of lost productivity and healthcare expenses: These
bad behaviors will have an affect on yourself and society - Moral education: By keeping it illegal, we send a moral message to the people that it’s
bad and that we should avoid it if possible
Freedom vs. Social Order:AComplex Tradeoff
Freedom vs. Social Order:Acomplex tradeoff
• Freedom and social order are two fundamental values of Canadian society and most modern
democracies in the world: we want to live a free life in a safe and secure environment
• Problem: these two values are competing
- We cannot have a 100% of both at the same time because social order and freedom are
competing against each other
- More freedom means less social order, and more social order means less freedom
• By labeling some behaviors as crime, we promote social order at the expense of less freedom
• Would it be interesting to live in an environment of total freedom with no behavior labeled as
• Or in an environment of total social order where every behavior is labeled as crime except for a
series of routine actions? Too much social order is like slavery since you’re a slave to the
- Ex) If your life was socially structured and that you have certain times to do things and
restrictions, and that any variation of that schedule was a crime
• What is the moral of the story?
- As educated citizens, and probably even more as criminologists/sociologists, we need to
be well aware of the delicate balance between freedom and social order. We never find
the perfect balance and it’s always in flock.
- Both values are important to society, but more of one means less of the other, and it is
very difficult to find the right equilibrium.
- Perhaps the best we can hope for is minor disequilibrium from one to the other Methods in Criminology
Methods in Criminology: QuantitativeApproaches
• Quantitative methods in criminology rely on measuring information about the social world with
numbers. Statistics are the main tools of quantitative methods. Not all statistics are equal and
we need different methodologies to measure.
- Experiment is a gold standard
◦ Treatment effect (variable of interest) is controlled by the researcher ex) if a crime
invention program is going to work before spending a lot of money on it, one way to
do it is to find a bunch of random neighborhoods and then randomly assign them to be
in which groups (treatment or no treatment), and then after you compare it to see if
there’s any difference or not. If the program worked then you should see difference in
the neighborhood that was in the treatment group, if it didn’t work then you’d see no
◦ Inclusion in experimental vs. control groups is random, ensuring comparability: If it’s
not random then you lose the power of the experiment
◦ Causal effects can be inferred: this pattern is causal and that the experiment is the
cause, but if you screw it up then you can no longer say that
- Quasi- Experiment silver medal, it’s not that good but it’s still good and you’ll see a
◦ Treatment effect (variable of interest) is controlled by the researcher: will assign some
people to the research and control group
◦ Control groups similar (not identical) to experimental groups are determined
»Not a random selection, however
◦ Causal effects could be inferred, with reservations but still not 100% sure since there
could be a difference that could explain the pattern in the experiment
- Statistical modeling of non-experimental data is bronze, when you take the world as it is.
Use the statistical model to find the observation
◦ Multivariate statistical analyses are used to isolate the relationships between the
explanatory variables of interest and the outcome variables
◦ This approach is very dependent on our ability to control adequately for alternative
explanations in the model, and not to violate the assumptions of our statistical analysis
◦ Typically, causal effects cannot be inferred, only relationships: but it doesn’t mean it’s
a cause of it, it’s just a relationship of it. Causal relationship you need an experiment. Advantages of Quantitative Methods
• Useful for hypotheses testing - If you want a yes or no, true or false answer, then statistics is
• Useful to make sense/make generalizations about large quantities of data: you can summarize it
into smaller sections
• Our friends in the fields of statistics and computer software continually provide us with new
techniques and new software to improve the use of quantitative methods in the social sciences
Limitations of Quantitative Methods
• The process by which information about the social world is transformed into numbers (i.e.
operationalization) is often limited and sometime quite inaccurate
- we are losing information something complex and try to transform it into a number,
which might not be representative of reality
• Quantitative methods are not very useful to understand more profound experiences and
perceptions of individuals, the rich history of a community, the emotions associated with an
important event, etc.
- Trying to find these are more qualitative than quantitative methods
• Babies with Bazookas: some users of complex quantitative methods don’t really understand the
powerful tools they are using, violate statistical assumptions, and report biased results
- Easier for people who don’t know how to do it and they try to find it, which could
provide bias results since it’s just random and they think it’s right since we have easy
access to it
Methods in Criminology: QualitativeApproaches
• Qualitative methods in criminology rely on understanding the social world through language.
Human senses (listening, observing) are the main tools of qualitative methods
• Qualitative interviews
- Open interview; this approach is good for about a topic that’s not rea