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SOC205H5 (21)
Chapter 2


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Paula Maurutto

Chapter 2: The Search for the “Criminal Man” Search for explanations of criminal behaviour is not easy due to biases, mistaken perceptions, and prejudices – must maintain intellectual guard against these to prevent learning from being severely limited Unfortunately, blind spots often have contributed to creation and implementation of official policies producing undesirable results Impossible to develop perfect policies Theories influence policies and practices found in CJS Explanations of crime are influenced by social context, which consists of perceptions and interpretations of the past and the present, and includes what crime and society will look like in the near future Context includes general sociological factors such as time, place, and author’s career experiences & opportunities Bennett: crimewarps = “the bends in today’s trends that will affect the way we live tomorrow”; represent a “set of major social transformations”; identified six “warps” Re-examination today of Bennett’s predictions demonstrates how difficult it is to make long-term crime trend predictions 2009 & 2010: certain crime rates were surprisingly low in view of the seriousness of the banking crisis and financial recession – violent crime was expected to increase but has not, major crimes declined, and homicide rates declined for some cities as well No single lens (such as Bennett’s use of demographics) is adequate for explaining crime trends; they are hard to predict accurately Writers are captives of the time and place in which they live Context of previous historical eras made different kinds of theories about crime possible Early theories of crime tended to locate the cause of crime not in demographic shifts but rather in persons (soul – spiritualism/demonology, will – classical school, or bodily constitutions – positivist school) Spiritualism Stressed the conflict between absolute good and absolute evil People who committed crimes were thought to be possessed by evil spirits, often referred to as sinful demons Ample archeological, anthropological, and historical evidence that this explanation has been around for many centuries Primitive people: natural disasters (floods, famines) = punishment by spirits for wrongdoings – ancient Egyptians, Greeks & Romans European Middle Ages: spiritualistic explanations had become well organized and connected to the political and social structure of feudalism Originally crime was a private matter between victim and offender, but this could lead to feuds destroying entire families & a guilty offender with a strong family might never be punished To avoid these problems, other methods were constructed to deal with those accused of committing crimes: trial by battle (victim or some family member vs. offender in battle; sadly, permitted great warriors to continue criminal conduct) where innocent would win, trial by ordeal (subjected accused to life-threatening or painful situations) where innocent would survive, and compurgation (others swore under oath that accused was innocent) where no one would lie under oath People have blamed the devil for their or others’ criminal or wrongful acts, while those caught for criminal activity have turned to God for cures for their behaviour Major problem: cannot be tested scientifically – cause of crime is otherworldly so cannot be verified empirically Modern theories on crime and social order rely on explanations based on the physical world and are called natural explanations Naturalistic theories and spiritual explanations have in common their origin in the ancient world, but are very different perspectives Naturalistic theories focus on physical world of facts so seek more specific and detailed explanations Greeks: physically divided the world into a dualistic reality of mind and matter Persisted despite dominance of spiritualism & by 16the and 17 century, several scholars were studying and explaining humans in terms known to them  collectively identified as classical school of criminology The classical school: criminal as calculator Emphasis on individual criminal as a person who is capable of calculating what he/she wants to do Humans have free will; behaviour is guided by hedonism – pain-and-pleasure principle by which they calculated risks and rewards of their actions Punishment should be suited to the offence People should be given equal treatment before the law (equality endorsed during 18 & 19 th th century enlightenment) Cesare Bonesana Marchese de Beccaria: Italian mathematician & economist Wrote a book on penal reform On Crimes and Punishments Social context in his life? CJS of Beccaria’s Europe was “planned to ruin citizens” (Paris’ police dealt with criminality, morality, and political opinions of citizens, could arrest without warrant, hold indefinitely, little legal protection once held, subjected to torture, witnesses testified secretly, severe punishments once determined guilty – death by execution was very common) Worried about political reprisals for expressing his views, so published anonymously *His arguments were covered in lecture 1* Better to prevent crimes than to punish Jeremy Bentham: English jurist & philosopher; punishment should be deterrent; behavior = hedonistic calculus + free will John Howard: studied prisons & advocated prison reform Their ideas inspired revolutions & creation of new legal codes: French revolution of 1789 & code of 1791, US constitution 1820s: crime still existing, hedonism weakened as an explanation, no separate treatment of children under laws The positivist school: criminal as determined Search for empirical facts to confirm idea that crime was determined by multiple factors Wanted scientific proof that crime was caused by features within the individual Emphasized mind and body of criminal, neglecting external social factors Beauty and ugliness was connected to good and evil behavior Connection between physical features and behavior is less than scientific The birth of the positivist school: Lombroso’s theory of the criminal man Cesare Lombroso = father of modern criminology Social context: slave to facts; secular, rational-scientific thinking and experimentation were more acceptable ways of analyzing reality, biology and other objective sciences answered what kind of creatures humans were (origins connected to animals through evolution) Charles Darwin: English naturalist, humans evolved from animals, his works predated Lombroso’s Lombroso: objective search for human behavior meant disagreement with free will philosophy, interested in anatomy and physiology of brain While serving as an army physician, developed idea that diseases contributed to mental and physical deficiencies “which may result in violence and homicide”, & systematically measured and documented physical differences of inhabitants all across Italy Tattooing = criminals’ characteristic His findings On Criminal Man had both biological and evolutionary perspectives Criminals represent a peculiar type different from non-criminals – represent degeneracy in physical characteristics reflective of earlier forms of evolution Classified criminals into 4 major categories: 1. Born criminals (atavistic characteristics) 2. Insane criminals (idiots, imbeciles, paranoiacs, epileptics, and alcoholics) 3. Occasional criminals/criminaloids (crimes explained by opportunity + predisposition) 4. Criminals of passion (crimes out of anger, love, or honor = compelled by irresistible force) 5 editions of his book, in each of which he modified his theory: more attention to environmental explanations (climate, rainfall, sex, marriage customs, laws, government’s structure, church organization, etc.) Was actually not the first to connect biology to criminal behavior: facial features (Johann Kaspar Lavater), phrenology (Franz Joseph Gall), etc. & other scholars: Henry Mayhew and John Binny, J. Bruce Thomson, and Henry Maudsley Multiple factor explanation is common in today’s criminology – heredity, social, cultural, and economic Lombroso: importance of examining clinical and historical records; emphasis that no detail be overlooked when searching for explanations of criminal behavior Lombroso’s legacy: the Italian criminological tradition Enrico Ferri: believed life without an ideal was not worth living • The Theory of Imputability and the Denial of Free Will • Emphasis on interrelatedness of social, economic, and political factors that contribute to crime • Crime could be controlled by social changes, many of which were beneficial to working class • Believed state is responsible for creating better living and working conditions • Elected to public office after successfully defending some peasants against wealthy landowners • Reelected 11 times • Unsuccessful in integrating positivist approach into penal code, even after Mussolini came into power • Changed his philosophy and endorsed fascism (offered reaffirmation of state’s authority over excessive individualism which he had criticized often) • Wanted changes to produce a better society where individuals were legally responsible for their actions • First 4 editions of Sociologia Criminale, listed 5 classes of criminals: (1) born or instinctive criminal (a
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