• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Classical School of Criminology

Extracts from this document...


The Classical School of Criminology The Classical School of Criminology evolved out of a response against the barbaric system of law, justice and punishment that subsisted before 1789. It sought an emphasis on free will and human rationality. The Classical School was not interested in studying criminals, but rather law-making and legal processing. They believed that humans were hedonistic but rational beings, deterred from unlawful behaviour by threat of sanction. Therefore, punishment is made in order to deter people from committing crime. Classical theory focused on a legal definition of crime rather than a definition of criminal behaviour. Two famous philosophers of this classical epoch were Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham. Beccaria focused on the law, its punishments, and its outcome on the individual--crime was a result of bad laws not bad people; Bentham was concerned with utilitarianism-the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Both men supported the idea of a social contract-individuals agree to give up some of their freedom to the state, and in return, the state will protect them; people create the government to defend their mutual promises by laws and punishments. While Beccaria's ideas hailed him as "the father of criminology", his ideas along with Bentham's paved the way for human rights and free will. ...read more.


Beccaria states that the punishment must be proportional to the crime-hence, it should not be excessively harsher than the crime (1764, p.281). Excessive punishments actually encourage crime-by making minor and serious offences equally punishable, disproportionate punishments make it in the interests of would-be offenders to commit the more serious crimes (Brantingham, 2001). My concern is one of determining suitable proportionality for a crime-it is not written out specifically for each crime, like the Criminal Code is, making it difficult for a judge to apply suitable punishment proportionality to the crime. Therefore, I think proportionality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder-except it is the judge who has the actual say in proportionality. This is why people are allowed to appeal their sentence and why others protest, criticize, and complain about a given one. In my opinion, the average punishments for Canadian crimes are not justified-criminals are getting off easy, and that is unacceptable. Aggravated sexual assault is life without parole for 25 years, yet the average time served is about 37 months. Justification relies on empirical demonstration that general and specific deterrence is accomplished (Brantingham, 2001). General deterrence in this case may result in high recidivism rates due to the fact that this example lacks proportionality and celerity (from previous example). ...read more.


Classical theory is also supported by due process-to ensure that the government does not act oppressively or tolerate appreciable risks of inaccurate findings of guilt (Packer, 1968, p.303-305). This is probably where certain individuals may see the criminal justice system as lenient since due process advocates are willing to release the factually guilty to deter government violations of rights. The Rule of Strict Interpretation states that the scope of criminal law should be applied to the smallest possible set of behaviours and judicial application of it should always opt to cover the fewest possible types of behaviour (Brantingham, 2001). Therefore, if the law restricts too many behaviors, then too many things will be considered a crime, and the purpose of the social contract will be flawed. Beccaria and Bentham were strong influences in the Classical School of Criminology. Being advocates of the social contract they believed that it was in the society's best interest that the government ensured the safety and happiness of society. Beccaria believed that efficacy in the law and its punishments would ensure this security while Bentham's utilitarianism complimented this belief. Together they formed the basis for future generations of criminal justice systems around the world-including our very own Canadian criminal justice system today. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Crime & Deviance section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Crime & Deviance essays

  1. Is The Judicial System Racist?

    There is a much higher chance of an Afro Caribbean being stopped and searched (five times higher) then a person from any another ethnic group. This means that they are subjected to stereotypes of society (and the police are part of that society), so as they are being stopped more there is more chance of them being arrested.

  2. How does positive criminology differ from classical criminology in its approach to understanding criminology ...

    They thought that the crime and he punishment must be linked. They believed that the punishment should be in proportian to the crime in order for the offender to think about what he has done.

  1. REVISION - CRIME, PUNISHMENT AND PROTEST INTRODUCTION Crime, Punishment and Protest covers a period ...

    At other times, this has been done by soldiers, part-time officials or by a professional police force. The types of courts and the way guilt was decided also varied across the centuries - sometimes it was left to the local community, and sometimes by appealing to divine intervention.

  2. Discuss the effectiveness of the Prison system, and its purpose in relation to its ...

    The idea behind this prison system was retribution and reforming people through hard labour. With an increase in crimes for which people could be imprisoned the Bridewells became increasingly overcrowded and the government turned to prison ships or 'hulks' as a temporary holding places, but as disease was common on the confined ships most prisoners would die on board.


    * Those convicted of a second offence of vagrancy could be executed, or sold into slavery for life. Later, some of these punishments were repealed as being too harsh. * Eventually, the authorities realised there were genuine cases of poverty.

  2. public law

    included one review of existing statistics on the matter. It confirmed S. DeWine's statistic (upon the presentation of S. 1976 to the senate floor) that people with developmental disabilities are 4 to 10 times more likely to be victims of crimes that non-disabled people.

  1. A Failing Justice System

    Therefore, the justice system is not always just. Moreover, laws are written by humans, so they are not perfect. Therefore, they surely contain legal gaps. Lawyers use these gaps to save criminals. According to CSRA Research, "Only 0.3% of all crimes result in prison sentence.

  2. How might we best explain the rise of the prison as a replacement for ...

    It was also common to down-value stolen items so that the offence was not capital. Despite public feeling capital statutes were still increased by the government in the first decade of the nineteenth century.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work