Chapter 2 - The Search for the "Criminal Man"
• Search for explanation of criminal beh is not easy b/c we constantly must guard against our biases,
mistaken perceptions & prejudices.
• Theories do influence the policies & practices found in cjs. Explanations of crime, whether they are
created by the public or by professional criminologists, are influenced by the social context from
which they come.
• The social context will consist of perceptions & interpretations of the past as well as the present.
• Bennett - Crimewarps → the bends in today's trends that will affect the way we live tomorrow.
Crimewarps represent a set of major social transformations.
• 6 warps. Ex: "the new criminal" - today's traditional criminal is a poor, under-educated, young male.
Bennett argued that traditional criminals will be displaced by older, more upscale offenders → more
women involved in white-collar crimes.
• Early theories of crime tended to locate the cause of crime not in demographic shifts but rather
individuals - in their souls (spiritualism/demonology), their wills (classical school) or their bodily
constitutions (positivist school).
• Stressed the conflict b/w absolute good & absolute evil. People who committed crimes → possessed
by evil spirits → sinful demons.
• Middle Ages in Europe - spiritualistic explanations has become well organized & connected to the
political & social structure of feudalism.
• Originally, crime was a private matter b/w the victim (or the family of the victim) & the offender.
This means of responding to offenses had a tendency to create long blood feuds that could destroy
• Prob of justice → guilty offender w/ a strong family might never be punished.
• Avoid these probs → other methods were constructed for dealing w/ those accused of committing
i) Trial by battle - permitted the victim or some family member to fight the offender. Believed that
victory would go to the innocent if he/she believed in & trusted God. Great warriors continued
engaging in crim beh.
ii)Trial by ordeal - determined guilt or innocence by subjecting the accused to life-threatening &
painful situations. Ex: piling stones on top of indiv. Innocent → God would keep them from being
iii) Compurgation - determining guilt or innocence based on spiritualism. Allowed the accused to
have reputable people swear an oath that he/she was innocent. Based on the belief that no one would
lie under the oath for fear of God's punishment.
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• Major prob w/ spiritualistic explanations - can't be tested scientifically. Modern theories of crimes &
social order rely on explanations that are based on the physical world → Natural explanations.
• Naturalistic theories & spiritualistic explans have in common their origin in the ancient world.
• Naturalistic theories → Greeks → search for knowledge philosophically divided the world into a
dualistic reality of mind & matter. This form of thinking still is prevalent in the Western World →
explans of human behaviour to either passion or reason.
The Classical School: Criminal as Calculator
• Emphasis on the individual criminal as a person who is capable of calculating what he/she wants to
do. This idea was supported by a philosophy that held that humans had free will & that behaviour was
guided by hedonism.
• Individuals were guided by a pain & pleasure principle by which they calculated the risks & rewards
involved in their actions.
• Punishment should be suited to the offence, not to the social or physical characteristics of the criminal
→ U.S' basic tenets - people should be given equal treatment before the law. People should not be
punished/rewarded just b/c they happen to have the right names or be from powerful families.
• Cesare Beccaria - pulled together many of the most powerful 18th century ideas of democratic
liberalism & connected them to issues of criminal justice.
• Wrote book entitled On Crimes and Punishment. Published anonymously due to fear of persecution
from the monarchy. The social context of Beccaria’s life played a major role in his thinking.
• Beccaria's argument:
1. To escape war and chaos, individuals gave up some of their liberty and established a contractual
2. Because criminal laws placed restrictions on individual freedoms, they should be restricted in scope
3. The presumption of innocence should be the guiding principle in the administration of justice
4. The complete criminal law code should be written and should define all offenses and punishments in
5. Punishment should be based on retributive reasoning because the guilty had attacked another
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6. The severity of the punishment should be limited and should not go beyond what is necessary for
crime prevention and deterrence
7. Criminal punishment should correspond with the seriousness of the crime, the punishment should fit
the crime, not the criminal
8. Punishment must be a certainty and should be inflicted quickly
9. Punishment should not be administered to set an example and should not be concerned with
reforming the offender
10. The offender should be viewed as an independent and reasonable person who weighed the
consequences of the crime
11. The aim for every good system of legislation was the prevention of the crime.
• Jeremy Bentham - punishment should be a deterrent & behavior is the result of free will and
• John Howard - credited with having influenced the passage of England’s Penitentiary Act of 1779
→ addressed prison reform.
The Influence of the Early Scholars
• Their ideas inspired revolutions and the creation of entirely new legal codes.
• The French Revolution of 1789 and the U.S. Constitution each was influenced by the Classical
• Still see calls for the law to be impartial and specific, for punishment to be for crimes instead of
criminals, and the belief that all citizens should be treated fairly and equally
• Problems w/ the Classical School: By the 1820s, crime was still flourishing & the argument that bad
laws made bad people was being questioned seriously. Argument that all crim behav could be
explained by hedonism was weakening as the imp of aggravating & mitigating circumstances
• Also the new laws didn't provide for the separate treatment of children.
• The rather uncomplicated view of the rational man did not fully answer the question of what caused
• What caused crime remained a troubling ques → search for the "criminal man" with emphasis given
to action being determined instead of being the result of free will → positivist school of crim.
• Leading proponents were Gabriel Tarde (1843-1904) and his student Raymond Saleilles (1898)
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• Argued that certain offenders such a minors or those with mental health issues had to be treated
leniently because these persons were incapable of fully appreciating the difference between right and
• Basic assumption: man acting on reason and intelligence is responsible for his/her conduct. Those w/
mental health issues or lacking in normal intelligence should not be held equally accountable.
• Rejected the notion of free will
• Focused on socialization, genetics, economic conditions, etc.
• Not all persons were completely responsible for their actions
The Legacy of the Classical School
• Many of the ideas championed by Beccaria in such rights as freedom from cruel and unusual
punishment, the right to a speedy trial, and equality under law, are contained in the Canadian Charter
of Rights and Freedoms and the United States’Bill of Rights.
The Positivist School: Criminal as Determined
• Classical School- assumes everyone is a rational actor and acts upon free will
• Positivist School- assumes crime is determined, individuals are determined to be criminals based
upon factors outside of their control.
• Positivistic criminologists were more concerned with discovering the biological, psychological, or
social determinants of criminal behavior than with the classical concerns of legal and penal reforms
(looking at causes of crim behav).
• Positivists - crime was caused by features within the indiv. Emphasized the mind & the body of the
criminal (to some extent neglecting social factors external to the indiv).
Lec: Diff b/w classical & positivist schools
• Positivists were critical of people who came up w/ philosophical ideas about crime
• Positivists were informed about the Enlightenment Era & the push to the scientific method
• Positivism – 1st school to apply scientific methods to the study of crime; started collecting data.
Classical theorists: philosophers
Positivist theorists: lawyers, doctors
• POSITIVISM: Biological branch (biological features); psychological branch (psychology, IQ);
sociological positivist research (sociological issues such as environmental and familial factors)
• Positivism influenced by Darwinism – humanity is progressing towards a higher state
• Darwin’s racist/sexist assumption: White more evolved than Black; Western vs Eastern; Men vs
• No room for ‘equal but different’; if you were different, you were either higher or lower on the
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The Birth of the Positivist School: Lombroso's theory of the Criminal Man
• The modern search for multiple factor explanations of crime usually is attributed to Cesare
Lombroso, the “father of modern criminology”.
• A“slave to facts”
• For Lombroso, the objective search for explaining human behavior meant disagreement with free will
• Argued that born criminals could be identified through physical defects (biology)
• Focus on The Criminal rather than on The Crime (focusing on the individual, not the act)
• Advocated that the punishment should be proportionate to the dangerousness of the criminal (ex:
being more merciful to those who committed cri