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LS 222 (19)
Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Classical School

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Legal Studies
LS 222
Jennifer Schulenberg

Chapter 2: The Classical School: Issues of Choice and Reasoning Historical Overview  Criminal culpability rests on issue of reasoning and criminal intent o Legal evidence based on degree which person is considered to have committed an act and either voluntary or not  Legal constructs of free will and reasoning capacity are products of school of thought o Classical school  Characterized by belief in influence of free will on commission of behaviour and use of punishment to deter criminality, but enough punishment to outweigh benefits of committing crime  Contemporary systems of criminal justice modified to include o Mitigating circumstances thought to reduce impact of free will on behaviour  Common mitigating factor is age Assumptions  Classical School argues that people act on exercise of free will and reasoning o Individual acts are used to accomplish some desired goals Key Concepts  Free will o Individual responsibility for behaviour o Doesn’t mean that they always accept responsibility for their actions, but society holds the person accountable o Result of conscious, calculating thought o Freedom to make personal behavioural choices unencumbered by external factors  Crime as a particular individual form of evil and as a moral wrongdoing that is fed by personal choice  Crime is a matter of choice, and people are motivated by personal reasons to commit crime independent of factors external to the individual  Motivation by self interests and subject to personal responsibility for their actions  Sanity an degree of voluntary action o Free will allows a person to exercise control over their actions, decisions and behaviour  Rational Choice o Method of reaching decision to commit behaviour o People act according to reasoned, logical set of planned calculations o Based on awareness of potential consequences of behaviour  Determinism: behaviour is caused by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences o Every event, action, decision or behaviour is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurences o Applied equally between adults and children o Opposite of free will  Utilitarianism: political and social actions should achieve the greatest good for the most people o Greatest happiness principle  Free will and rationality was the cornerstone of human behaviour and interaction 3 Defining Characteristics to understanding Juvenile Delinquency 1. Behaviour, decision or action is determined through individuals using free will and rational decision making in pursuit of accomplishing a goal 2. Belief that no crime would take place if the pain from the crime outweighed the potential gain a. Criminal behaviour comes from the desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain 3. Focus is on the act or the crime, NOT the individual Discussion  Cesare Beccaria o People derive pleasure from their acts, and voluntarily choose to commit them o Gratification of pleasure and avoidance of pain o Essays on Crime and Punishment, 1764 o Cornerstones of classical criminology are the use of free will by individuals to make rational choices and the use of punishment as a form of deterrence o Only exception is mitigating circumstances (age, mental capacity) – reduce the impact of free will on behaviour o Argues that the legitimacy of punishment is a result of the social contract (laws based on principle of utilitarianism) o Fundamentally important is that all people are thought to possess the ability to reason (all actions are rational) o Argues that punishment should be based on the degree of harm caused, rather than on criminal intent or motivation Chapter 2: The Classical School: Issues of Choice and Reasoning o Purpose of punishment is to be a deterrence, not retribution: punishment is viewed as a tool to prevent crime  Law violators choose to circumvent laws and rules to obtain desired goals  Law abiders stay within bounds of legal limits to achieve objectives  Important characteristic: all people possess ability to reason to act on their own volition  Contemporary social science o Patterns of thought and actions influenced by host of environmental and individual factors o Fails to provide meaningful interpretations of why some people choose illegal path to success and happiness
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