Theories of Crime 03/02/2014
Theories of Crime
We attempt to define factors that can explain why people break laws, become victims, or whether they can
Social class, poverty, the way you grow up.
Early theories of crime:
We attributed a lot of criminal activity to the devil, religious beliefs.
Classical Criminology Theory
Theorists moved beyond superstition and mystery
Deviance or Crime?
DevianceBehavior that departs from the social norm but is not necessarily criminal.
Cross Dressingdeviant but not illegal.
Theories of Crime Causation
Examine the forces producing criminal behavior and develop theories as to crime as a function of
personality development or cognition. Others investigate how biological factors correlate.
Classical School Theory
The school of thought that individuals have free will to choose whether or not to commit crimes and that
criminals should have rights in the criminal justice system.
People have the free will to choose criminal or conventional behavior
People choose to commit crime for reasons of greed or personal need Crime can be controlled only by fear.
Law should be clear
Law should be rational
Torture is wrong People are innocent until proven guilty
Certain Punishment is more effective then the threat of punishment
Proportionate to the crimedon’t over punish
A school of thought that is similar to classical school theories except for the beliefs that there are mitigating
circumstances for criminal acts such as the age or mental capacity of the offender and the punishment
Concept developed by Jeremy Bentham
Hedonistic People seek pleasure while trying to avoid pain
People make free will decisions to commit crime by weighing the disadvantages vs. disadvantages of
People commit deviant acts because they want to.
Concepts of rational choice theories
Careful thought and planning: serial killers
Personal needs and situational factors Utilitarianism
A rational system of jurisprudence provides for the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people
The Positive School
Modern theories of crime primarily based on sociology and psychology that people commit crimes because
of uncontrollable internal or external factors which can be observed or measured.
Elements of Positivism
Human behavior: external forces beyond individual control. Brain structure and bio makeup are influences.
Criminals have overhanging brows, big noses, big hands, etc.
Human behaviors is constitutionally or genetically determined.
Basic determinants of human behavior may be passed from generation to generation.
Some behavior is the result of propensities inherited from more primitive developmental stages in the
Twin Studies: born biologically criminal.
Psychological Explanations Freud
Behavior is not a matter of free will but is controlled by subconscious desires which includes the idea that
criminal behavior is a result of unresolved internal conflict and guilt.
The idea that social forces and social groups are the cause of criminal behavior
The idea that social forces and social groups are the cause of criminal behavior. Social Disorganization Theory
When you combine the socioeconomic, the groups they hang with, not much of a positive outlook leads to
Conflict in home
The Chicago School
Shaw and McKay
The closer you get to the industrial of the city the more crime you’l