Chapter 1 - Crime and Criminology
What is Criminology?
An academic discipline that uses scientific methods to study the nature, extent, cause, and control of criminal behavior.
What Do Criminologists Do?
Criminal Statistics/Crime Measurement involves calculating the amount and trends of criminal activity and focuses on creating valid and reliable measures of criminal behavior.
This is done by an analysis of the activities of police and court agencies. Measuring criminal activity not reported to the police by victims. Identifying the victims of crime.
Developing Theories of Crime Causation
Psychological - crime as a function of personality, development, social learning, or cognition (understanding). Biological - antisocial behavior as a function of biochemical, genetic, and neurological factors. Sociological - criminal behavior as a product of social forces including neighborhood conditions, poverty, socialization, and group interaction.
Criminologists may use innovative methods to test theory. For example, the use of magnetic resonance imaging to assess the brain function of male batterers.
The true cause of crime is still problematic - given similar conditions, why do some people choose crime while others do not?
Understanding and Describing Criminal Behavior - Research of Specific Criminal Types and Crime Patterns
50 years ago, researchers focused on perceived major crimes including rape, murder, and burglary. Today, some researchers focus on crimes including stalking, cyber crime, terrorism, and hate crimes.
Example: Terrorism and the terrorist personality
a.Mental illness is not a critical factor in explaining terrorist behavior, most terrorists are not "psychopaths." b.There is no "terrorist personality."
c.Histories of childhood abuse/trauma and themes of perceived injustice and humiliation are often prominent in terrorist biographies but do not help to explain terrorism.
Penology: Punishment, Sanctions, and Corrections
Penology is concerned with the correction and sentencing of known criminal offenders. While some criminologists may advocate rehabilitation, others may advocate capital punishment and mandatory sentences. Criminologists as a whole are concerned with evaluating the effectiveness and impact of crime control programs.
Criminologists who study victimization have found that criminals are at greater risk for victimization than non-criminals.
Additionally, victims may be engaging in high-risk behavior, such as crime, which increases their victimization.
A History of Criminology
The scientific study of crime and criminality is a relatively recent development.
During the Middle Ages (1200-1600) people who violated social and religious norms were viewed as being witches or possessed by demons. Torture was used to extract confessions, and criminals received harsh penalties, including whipping, branding, maiming, and execution.
In the mid 1700s, Italian professor Cesare Beccaria developed a theory that human behavior is driven by a choice between the amount of pleasure gained over the amount of pain or punishment experienced. He argued that in order to reduce or stop criminal behavior, the punishment should be swift, certain, and severe. This theory of "free will" became known as the classical theory.
Classical criminology - the theoretical perspective suggesting that (1) people have free will to choose criminal or conventional behaviors; (2) people choose to commit crime for reasons of greed or personal need; and (3) crime can be controlled only by the fear of criminal sanctions.
Positivist Criminological Theory - holds that most criminal behavior is the result of social, psychological, and even biological influences. Positivism is the branch of social science that uses the...