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Chapter 2

SOC*2700 Chapter 2

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University of Guelph
SOC 2700
C Yule

Monday, Jan 14, 2012 Chapter 2: Classical Criminology - most often associated with Cesare Bonesana, marchese de Beccaria - his work was based on a kind of free-will rationalistic hedonism - proposed rational calculation of costs and benefits - argued that punishments should be proportional to the seriousness of offenses which would deter potential offenders - today, classicism includes 3 different but related strands, the first focuses on theory and research about the deterrent effect of criminal justice policies, the second argues that rationally calculating potential offenders respond to opportunities to commit crimes and that these opportunities are systematically related to the “routine activities” by which people live their lives, finally, the “rational choice” approach developed a more complex view of how offenders in particular situations calculate their costs and bene- fits The Social and Intellectual Background of Classical Criminology - classical criminology was originally a protest against criminal justice policies and the spiritual explanations of crime on which they were based - one of the most important sources of spiritual explanations was from St. Thomas Aquinas who argued that there was a God-given “natural law” that was revealed by ob- serving, through the eyes of faith, people’s natural tendency to do good rather than evil - because crime was identified with sin, the state claimed the moral authority to use many horrible and gruesome tortures on criminals - beginning with Thomas Hobbes, “social contract” thinkers substituted naturalistic argu- ments for the spiritualistic arguments - Hobbes argued that people naturally pursue their own interests without caring about whether they hurt anyone else - “war of each against all” - “social contract” - something like a peace treaty that everyone agrees to because they are all exhausted form the war of each against all, but the social contract needs an en- forcement mechanism in case some people cheat - Beccaria was a protest writer who sought to change excessive and cruel punishments by applying the rationalist, social contract ideas Beccaria and the Classical School - Beccaria wrote an essay about how to make the criminal justice system both just and effective, his main points were: Monday, Jan 14, 2012 1. the role of legislatures should be to define crimes and to define specific punishments for each crime 2. the role of judges should be to determine guilt 3. the seriousness of a crime is determined by the extent of harm that it inflicts on soci- ety 4. the purpose of punishment is to deter crime so they should be proportionate 5. punishments are unjust when their severity exceeds what is necessary to achieve de- terrence 6. excessive severity not only fails to deter crime but actually increases it 7. punishments should be prompt 8. punishments should be certain - laws should be published sot hat the public may know what they are and support their intent and purpose, torture should be abolished and replaced by imprisonment, jails should be more humane, and the law should not distinguish between the rich and poor From Classical Theory to Deterrence Research - Gibbs published the first study that actually attempted to test the deterrence hypothe- sis - he defined the certainty of punishment as the ratio between the number of admissions to state prisons for a given crime and the number of those crimes known to the police in the prior year - severity was defined as the mean number of months served by all persons convicted of a given crime who were in prison that year - greater certainty and severity of imprisonments was associated with fewer homicides - lots of other stuff about researchers - there was a cautious conclusion that a deterrent effect was greater than the evidence against it Three Types of Deterrence Research - first looks at the effects of policies that target specific crimes in specific places - these policies generally achieve an initial deterrent effect but this tends to deteriorate rather quickly, even while the crackdown is still in operation (initial deterrence decay), and the deterrent effect persists after the crackdown has ended (residual deterrence) - the second type focuses on a distinction between objective risks and the perception of these risks by potential offenders - “perceptual deterrence” Monday, Jan 14, 2012 - found
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