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CRIMINOLOGY CRIMINOLOGY criminology the study of crime society



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criminology, the study of crime, society's response to it, and its prevention,
including examination of the environmental, hereditary, or psychological
causes of crime, modes of criminal investigation and conviction, and the
efficacy of punishment or correction (see prison) as compared with forms of
treatment or rehabilitation. Although it is generally considered a subdivision
of sociology, criminology also draws on the findings of psychology, economics,
and other disciplines that investigate humans and their environment.

In examining the evolution and definition of crime, criminology often aims to
remove from this category acts that no longer conflict with society's norms
and acts that violate the norms without imperiling society, although
decriminalization of certain acts may be accompanied by attempts to enforce
codes of morality (as, for example, in the response to pornography).
Criminologists are nearly unanimous in advocating that acts involving the
consumption of narcotics or alcohol, as well as nonstandard but consensual
sexual acts (known among criminologists as crimes without victims) be
removed from the category of crime. In dealing with crime in general, the
emphasis has gradually shifted from punishment to rehabilitation.
Criminologists have worked to increase the use of probation and parole,
psychiatric treatment, education in prison, and betterment of social

The Nature and Causes of Crime

Many criminologists regard crime as one among several forms of deviance,
about which there are conflicting theories. Some consider crime a type of
anomic behavior; others characterize it as a more conscious response to social
conditions, to stress, to the breakdown in law enforcement or social order,
and to the labeling of certain behavior as deviant. Since cultures vary in
organization and values, what is considered criminal may also vary, although
most societies have restrictive laws or customs.

Hereditary physical and psychological traits are today generally ruled out as
independent causes of crime, but psychological states are believed to
determine an individual's reaction to potent environmental influences. Some
criminologists assert that certain offenders are born into environments (such
as extreme poverty or discriminated-against minority groups) that tend to
generate criminal behavior. Others argue that since only some persons
succumb to these influences, additional stimuli must be at work. One widely
accepted theory is Edwin Sutherland's concept of differential association,
which argues that criminal behavior is learned in small groups. Psychiatry
generally considers crime to result from emotional disorders, often stemming
from childhood experience. The criminal symbolically enacts a repressed
wish, or desire, and crimes such as arson or theft that result from pyromania
or kleptomania are specific expressions of personality disorders; therefore,
crime prevention and the cure of offenders are matters of treatment rather
than coercion.

Prevalence of Crime

Crime rates, although often blurred by the political or social agenda of those
recording and reporting them, tend to fluctuate with social trends, rising in
times of depression, after wars, and in other periods of disorganization.
Particular types of crime may be prevalent in response to specific conditions.
In the United States organized crime became significant during prohibition.
Within cities, poverty areas have the highest rates of reported crime,
especially among young people (see juvenile delinquency).

One major category that was relatively ignored until recent decades is that of
white-collar crime, i.e., property crimes committed by people of relatively
high social status in the course of their professional or business careers. The
President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice
in 1967 concluded that about three times as much property is stolen by white-
collar criminals as by other criminals outside organized crime.

As a subdivision of the larger field of sociology, criminology draws on
psychology, economics, anthropology, psychiatry, biology, statistics, and
other disciplines to explain the causes and prevention of criminal behavior.
Subdivisions of criminology include penology, the study of prisons and prison
systems; biocriminology, the study of the biological basis of criminal
behavior; feminist criminology, the study of women and crime; and
criminalistics, the study of crime detection, which is related to the field of
forensic science.

Criminology has historically played a reforming role in relation to criminal
law and the criminal justice system. As an applied discipline, it has produced
findings that have influenced legislators, judges, prosecutors, lawyers,
probation officers, and prison officials, prompting them to better understand
crime and criminals and to develop better and more humane sentences and
treatments for criminal behavior.

The origins of criminology are usually located in the late-eighteenth-century
writings of those who sought to reform criminal justice and penal systems
that they perceived as cruel, inhumane, and arbitrary. These old systems
applied the law unequally, were subject to great corruption, and often used
torture and the death penalty indiscriminately.

The leading theorist of this classical school of criminology, Italian Cesare
Bonesano Beccaria (1738-94), argued that the law must apply equally to all
and that punishments for specific crimes should be standardized by
legislatures, thus avoiding judicial abuses of power. Both Beccaria and
another classical theorist, Englishman Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), argued
that people are rational beings who exercise free will in making choices.
Beccaria and Bentham understood the dominant motive in making choices to
be the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Thus, they argued that
punishment should fit the crime in such a way that the pain involved in
potential punishment would be greater than any pleasure in the crime. The
writings of these theorists led to greater codification and standardization of
European and U.S. laws.

Criminologists of the early nineteenth century argued that legal punishments
created under the guidance of the classical school did not sufficiently consider
the widely varying circumstances of those who found themselves in the gears
of the criminal justice system. Accordingly, they proposed that those who
could not distinguish right from wrong, particularly children and mentally ill
persons, be exempted from the punishments normally meted out to mentally
capable adults who had committed the same crimes. Along with the
contributions of a later generation of criminologists, the positivists, such
writers argued that the punishment should fit the criminal, not the crime.

Later in the nineteenth century, the positivist school of criminology brought a
scientific approach to criminology, including findings from biology and
medicine. The leading figure of this school was the Italian Cesare Lombroso
(1836-1909). Influenced by Charles R. Darwin's theory of evolution,
Lombroso measured the physical features of prison inmates and concluded
that criminal behavior correlated with specific bodily characteristics,
particularly cranial, skeletal, and neurological malformations. Essentially,
according to Lombroso, biology created a criminal class among the human
population. Subsequent generations of criminologists have disagreed harshly
with Lombroso's conclusions on this matter. However, Lombroso had a more
lasting effect on criminology with other findings that emphasized the multiple
causes of crime, including environmental causes that were not biologically
determined. He was also a pioneer of the case-study approach to criminology.
Other late-nineteenth-century developments in criminology included the
work of statisticians of the cartographic school, who analyzed data on
population and crime. These included Lambert Adolphe Quetelet, (1796-
1874) of France, and André Michel Guerry, of Belgium. Both of these
researchers compiled detailed statistical information related to crime and also
attempted to identify the circumstances that predisposed people to commit

The writings of French sociologist |AaEmile Durkheim (1858-1917) also
exerted a great influence on criminology. Durkheim advanced the hypothesis
that criminal behavior is a normal part of all societies. No society, he argued,
can ever have complete uniformity of moral consciousness. All societies must
permit some deviancy, including criminal deviancy, or they will stagnate. He
saw the criminal as an acceptable human being and one of the prices a society
pays for freedom.

Durkheim also theorized about the ways in which modern, industrial societies
differed from nonindustrial ones. Industrial societies are not as effective in
producing what Durkheim called a collective conscience that effectively
controls the behavior of individuals. Individuals in industrial societies are
more likely to exhibit what Durkheim called anomie — a Greek word
meaning "without norms." Consequently, modern societies have had to
develop specialized laws and criminal justice systems that were not necessary
in early societies to control behavior.

Sociology and Criminology

In the twentieth century, the sociological approach to criminology became the
most influential approach. Sociology is the study of social behavior, systems,
and structures. In relation to criminology, it may be divided into social-
structural and social-process approaches.

Social-Structural Criminology

Social-struc- tural approaches to criminology examine the way in which social
situations and structures influence or relate to criminal behavior. An early
example of this approach, the ecological school of criminology, was developed
in the 1920s and 1930s at the University of Chicago. It seeks to explain
crime's relationship to social and environmental change. For example, it
attempts to describe why certain areas of a city will have a tendency to attract
crime and also have less vigorous police enforcement. Researchers have found
that urban areas in transition from residential to business uses are most often
targeted by crime. Such communities often have disorganized social networks
that foster a weaker sense of social standards.

Another social-structural approach is the conflict school of criminology. It
traces its roots to Marxist theories that saw crime as ultimately a product of
conflict between different classes under the system of capitalism. Criminology
conflict theory suggests that the laws of society emerge out of conflict rather
than consensus. Laws are made by the group in power to control those who
are not in power. Conflict theorists propose, as do other theorists, that those
who commit crimes are not fundamentally different from the rest of the
population. They call the idea that society may be clearly divided into
criminals and noncriminals a dualistic fallacy, or misguided notion. These
theorists maintain instead that the determination of whether someone is a
criminal or not often depends on the way society reacts to those who deviate
from accepted norms. Many conflict theorists and other theorists argue that
members of minorities and poor people are more quickly labeled as criminals
than are members of the majority and wealthy individuals.

Critical criminology, also called radical criminology, shares with conflict
criminology a debt to Marxism. It came into prominence in the early 1970s
and attempted to explain contemporary social upheavals. Critical
criminology relies on economic explanations of behavior and argues that
economic and social inequalities cause criminal behavior. It focuses less on
the study of individual criminals and advances the belief that existing crime
cannot be eliminated within the capitalist system. It also asserts, like the
conflict school, that law has an inherent bias in favor of the upper or ruling
class, and that the state and its legal system exist to advance the interests of
the ruling class. Critical criminologists state that corporate, political, and
environmental crime are underreported and inadequately dealt with in the
current criminal justice system.

Feminist criminology emphasizes the subordinate position of women in
society. According to this theory, women remain in a position of inferiority
that has not been fully rectified by changes in the law during the late
twentieth century. Feminist criminology also explores the ways in which
women's criminal behavior is related to their objectification as commodities
in the sex industry.

Others using the social-structural approach have studied gangs, juvenile
delinquency, and the relationship between family structure and criminal

Social-Process Criminology
Social-process criminology theories attempt to explain how people become
criminals. These theories developed through recognition of the fact that not
all people exposed to the same social-structural conditions become criminals.
They focus on criminal behavior as learned behavior.

Edwin H. Sutherland (1883-1950), a U.S. sociologist and criminologist who
first presented his ideas in the 1920s and 1930s, advanced the theory of
differential association to explain criminal behavior. He emphasized that
criminal behavior is learned in interaction with others, usually in small
groups, and that criminals learn to favor criminal over noncriminal behavior
through association with both forms of behavior in different degrees. As
Sutherland wrote, "When persons become criminal, they do so because of
contacts with criminal patterns and also because of isolation from
anticriminal patterns." Although his theory has been greatly influential,
Sutherland himself admitted that it did not satisfactorily explain all criminal
behavior. Later theorists have modified his approach in an attempt to correct
its shortcomings.

Control theory, developed in the 1960s and 1970s, attempts to explain how to
train people to engage in law-abiding behavior. Although there are different
approaches within control theory, those approaches share the view that
humans require nurturing in order to develop attachments or bonds to people
and that personal bonds are key in producing internal controls such as
conscience and guilt and external controls such as shame. According to this
view, crime is the result of insufficient attachment and commitment to others.

Walter C. Reckless developed one version of control theory called
containment. He argued that a combination of internal psychological
containments and external social containments prevents people from
deviating from social norms. In simple communities, social pressure to
conform to community standards, usually enforced by social ostracism, was
sufficient to control behavior. As societies became more complex, internal
containments played a more crucial role in determining whether people
behaved according to public laws. Furthermore, containment theorists have
found that internal containments require a positive self-image. All too often, a
sense of alienation from society and its norms forms in modern individuals,
and as a result they do not develop internal containment mechanisms.

The sociologist Travis Hirschi has developed his own control theory that
attempts to explain conforming, or lawful, rather than deviant, or unlawful,
behavior. He stresses the importance of the individual's bond to society in
determining conforming behavior. His research has found that socioeconomic
class has little to do with determining delinquent behavior, and that young
people who are not very attached to their parents and to school are more
likely to be delinquent than those who are strongly attached. He also found
that youths with a strongly positive view of their own accomplishments are
more likely to view society's laws as valid constraints on their behavior.

Other Issues

Criminologists also study a host of other issues related to crime and the law.
These include the victims of crime, their relations to the criminal, and their
role as potential causal agents in crime; juvenile delinquency and its
correction; and the media and their relation to crime, including the influence
of pornography. Also, much research related to criminology has focused on
the biological basis of criminal behavior. In fact, a field of study has emerged
called biocriminology, which attempts to explore the biological basis of
criminal behavior. Research in this area has focused on chromosomal
abnormalities, hormonal and brain chemical imbalances, diet, neurological
conditions, drugs, and alcohol as variables that contribute to criminal

Like medicine, criminology is an amalgam of disciplines. In popular usage it
even includes scientific methods of identifying criminals, although nowadays
this is distinguished as 'forensic science' or — less elegantly —
'criminalistics'. In stricter modern practice criminology comprises four kinds
of study: descriptive, explanatory, penological, and nomological.Descriptive
studies are concerned with the frequencies of the various sorts of
lawbreaking; the situations in which they are most likely to occur; the kinds
of people who are most likely to commit them; and the extent of the harm
done. In the past such studies have relied chiefly or entirely on official
statistics and police files. More recently, 'self-report' studies, in which
samples (usually of teenagers) have told interviewers about their behaviour,
have provided less superficial data, as have 'victim surveys'. These studies
and surveys have yielded more valid estimates of the real incidence of
violence, thefts, robberies, burglaries, and sexual crimes (but not yet of
serious traffic offences, or of rare crimes such as homicide). They have shown
that victims are selective in what they report to the police; that police are
selective in what they regard as worth recording; and that fluctuations in
recorded crimes can result from, or be greatly exaggerated by, changes in
people's willingness to report them, as well as from variations in the interest
which the police take in them.Explanatory studies need to be subdivided into
those that seek to offer explanations of particular breaches of law and those
that try to account for especially high (or low) frequencies of lawbreaking (or,
better, of certain kinds of lawbreaking), whether in different countries, in
different social groups, or during different periods in their histories.
Explanations of particular breaches usually attach importance to the
disposition of the individual lawbreaker, whether this is attributed to
upbringing, to the influence of associates, or — less commonly nowadays —
to genetic or perinatal misfortunes. Explanations of differing frequencies
emphasize economic conditions, subcultural values that are in conflict with
law, or inequalities of opportunity for legitimate acquisition or enjoyment.
'Histories' may figure in both kinds of explanation, whether they take the
form of narratives about individuals or trace the origins of, say, violence in a
country's past. Most explainers are highly selective, either because they are
searching for some factor that can be manipulated so as to reduce the
frequency of lawbreaking, or because they want ammunition to support
political or moral attacks on the current state of their society. What should
not be overlooked, however, is the relevance of explanations when courts are
trying to assess the culpability of an individual offender.Penological research
is concerned mainly with the effects of what is officially done to identified
offenders, although it has also taken an interest in the social consequences of
being labelled as an offender of one kind or another. Until recently most
penologists concentrated on assessing the extent to which desired effects were
achieved: reform, deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation. There have
always been critics, however, who emphasized the unwanted side effects of
sentences, and when it became clear that the wanted effects were confined to
a small minority of offenders (who could seldom be identified in advance) the
importance of unwanted effects began to be appreciated. These too, however,
have been exaggerated, and it is only in the last decade that attempts have
been made to define and measure the sorts of damage that incarceration (for
example) inflicts, and determine whether it is transient or lasting.Nomological
studies. What can be called 'nomological' studies — for want of a better term
— concentrate on law enforcement itself. Some offer answers to the question
'What kinds of conduct should be prohibited by the (criminal) law?' The
kinds most frequently discussed are consensual sexual deviations,
contraception and abortion, euthanasia, drug abuse, and obscene
entertainment. Others are concerned with compulsory benevolence such as
requirements to wear seat belts in motor vehicles. Nomological work is also
undertaken into the ways in which the criminal law as it stands is
administered. Since police have to be selective — both because of limitations
on resources and for the sake of good relations with the public — their
selectivity has been subjected to very critical scrutiny in Britain and the USA,
though much less in 'police states' for obvious reasons. Public prosecutors,
who exercise considerable discretion in bringing people to court and in
framing the charges against them, are also a subject of study. Another
favourite subject is the criminal courts: chiefly summary courts and appeal
courts. Where higher courts are concerned, it has been the jury which has
been the focus of the spotlight. The behaviour of prison staff and
administrators has also received much attention. Less attention has been paid
to the behaviour of probation officers, hostel wardens, and other social
workers, chiefly because their roles are seen as less coercive. Furthermore,
penologists have interested themselves in 'theories of punishment': more
precisely in the differing aims which are held to justify penalizing offenders.
Until fairly recently this was regarded as a subject for moral philosophers,
but penologists have been able to show that some philosophers' assumptions
about the practicability of achieving their aims have been unrealistic.

Criminology (from Latin crīmen, "accusation"; and Greek -λογία, -logia) is
the scientific study of the nature, extent, causes, and control of criminal
behavior in both the individual and in society. Criminology is an
interdisciplinary field in the behavioral sciences, drawing especially upon the
research of sociologists (particularly in the sociology of deviance), social
anthropologists and psychologists, as well as on writings in law.

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