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Chapter 2

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SOC 2700
C Yule

Chapter Two Notes – Classical Criminology - Most often associated with Cesare Beccaria, because of his work which was based on free-will rationalistic hedonism. Beccaria proposed that people weighed the pros and cons, and if they found the rewards to be higher than the costs, they would offend. Therefore, punishments for the crimes should always be proportional, i.e. always exceed reward. - Includes three related but different strands of theory & research which are related to practical policy recommendations to reduce crime; first: focuses on theory and research about the deterrent effect of criminal justice policies; second: argues that rationally calculating potential offenders respond to opportunities to commit crimes and these opportunities are systematically related to the “routine activities” by which people live their lives; third: the “rational choice” approach developed a more complex view of how offenders in particular situations calculate their costs and benefits – leads to policy recommendations that focus on changing situations in order to influence potential offender’s calculations. Social & Intellectual Background of Classical Criminology - Classical criminology was a protest against those criminal justice policies and against the spiritual explanation of crime on which they were based. - Thomas Hobbes – “Social Contract” – people naturally pursue their own interests without caring about whether they hurt anyone else – “war of each against all.” - Argued that people are rational enough to realize that this situation is not good for anyone, so everyone agrees to give up selfish behaviour, as long as everyone else does too – Social Agreement (Contract) – This contract needs enforcement: state. - Other social contract philosophers include: Locke, Montesquieu, Voltaire & Rousseau. - By the middle of 1700s these naturalistic ideas were well known, and widely accepted by intellectuals of the day, but did not represent the thinking of the powerful political groups that ruled various states in Europe. - Beccaria sought to change the punishments of this time, and his book was well- received; shortly after its publication, both the French and American Revolutions occurred, which were guided by naturalistic ideas of philosophers, including Beccaria Beccaria & The Classical School - In 1764, he wrote an essay titled “On Crimes and Punishments,” in which he proposed the following ideas about how to make the criminal justice system both just and effective: 1. Role of legislatures should be to define crimes and to define specific punishments for each crime (rather than allow the implementation in the hands of judges). 2. Role of judges should be to determine guilt (whether or not the defendant did, indeed, commit a crime). After making the determination, he should then consult the law on how best to punish the criminal. 3. Seriousness of crime is determined by extent of harm it inflicts on society. Argued that other factors, including intent, are irrelevant: “Sometimes, with the best intentions, men do the greatest injury to society; at other times, intending the worst for it, they do the greatest good.” 4. Purpose of punishment should be to deter crime. Punishment, therefore, should fit the crime: “…the obstacles that deter man from committing crime should be stronger in proportion as they are contrary to the public good.” 5. Punishments are unjust when their severity exceed what is necessary to achieve deterrence: “one should include the certainty of punishment and the loss of the good which the crime might have produced….beyond this is superfluous and…tyrannical.” 6. Excessive severity fails to deter crime, and increases it: people are driven to commit more crimes to avoid initial one. 7. Punishments should be prompt: “…the more just and useful it will be,” “…so much stronger and more lasting in the human mind is the association of crime and punishment.” 9. Punishments should be certain: “The certainty of a punishment even if it be moderate, will always make a stronger impression than the fear of another which is more terrible but combined with the hope of impunity; even the least evils, when they are certain, always terrify men’s minds.” - Also emphasized that laws should be published so that public may know what they are, and support their intent and purpose, that torture and secret accusations be abolished, capital punishment should be replaced by imprisonment, jails be more humane, and the law should not distinguish between rich and the poor. From Classical Theory to Deterrence Research - During 1800s naturalistic approach of classical criminology became basis for all criminal justice systems in the world. Beccaria’s theory was not subject to empirical tests until 1968, when Gibbs published the first study to attempt to test deterrence hypothesis. -Gibbs found that greater certainty and severity of imprisonments was associated with fewer homicides in the fifty states for 1960. Therefore, he concluded homicide might be deterred by both certainty and severity of punishment. - Following year, Title computed similar stats. His results indicated that more certainty was associated with less crime for all seven offenses (index offenses). With the exception of homicide, however, more severity (time in prison) was associated with more crime. Concluded that certainty of imprisonment deters crime, but severity only deters crime when certainty is high. - 1970, Chiroicos and Waldo argued that Tittle’s results on certainty could be explained by variations in police record-keeping – i.e., handling offenses informally without making an official record because then that jurisdiction will have what appears to be a lower crime rate. Only the more serious offenses would be made official, influencing what their certainty of punishment actually is. - 1974 Glaser and Zeigler challenged Gibb’s conclusion that increased imprisonment deters homicide. Pointed our death penalty states have substantially higher murder rates than do non-death penalty states, but murders in death penalty states who are not executed serve shorter prison sentences than do murderers in non-death penalty states. Gibbs & Tittle found: shorter prison sentences and higher murder rates – vs. – longer prison sentence and lower murder rates. - Study concluded that the evidence favouring a deterrent effect was greater than the evidence against it. Three Types of Deterrence Research Nagin - 1. Effects of policies that target specific crimes in specific places (police crackdowns on drug markets, drunk driving, disorderly conduct, illegal gun usage). Research has shown these policies generally achieve an initial deterrent effect (initial deterrence decay) but that this effect tends to deteriorate rather quickly, even while the crackdown is still in operation. In addition, the deterrent effect often persists after the crackdown has ended (residual deterrence). 2. Distinction between objective risks and the perception of these risks by potential offenders. 3. Looks at criminal justice policies in different jurisdictions and at the crime and at the crime rates associated with these policies to see if there is a deterrent effect (e.g., the deterrence hypothesis would suggest that jurisdictions that have more police officers, imprison more people, and utilize the death penalty should have less crime. A large volume of research has been done on this, but results are unsatisfying). Problems with this research: - It is possible that an increased perception of risk leads to reduced criminal behaviour, but it is also possible that engaging in criminal behaviour leads to a more realistic (i.e., decreased) perception of risk. Research suggests that there is little or no deterrent effect associated wi
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