Are Criminals Rational Decision Makers?

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There are several theories that are used to explain why people commit crimes. These theories cover a range of scientific studies that still continue to be used in crime studies today. By using these theories and information gathered, an explanation of the criminal behaviours will be examined and explained relating to each supporting theories. The traditional explanations for crime are nature vs. nurture debate and the ideas relating to any possible biological reasons that turns someone into a criminal. Are some people really just ‘born bad?’ or are there other, social reasons for criminal behaviour? In this essay I will look at both sides of the argument, and offer an insight into the reasons behind such criminal behaviours. The Classical theory argued that everyone is entitled to free will and rational choice but in some circumstances criminals can be motivated by psychological and social forces even if there’s a consequence as a result (Curran, 2001).

Classical theory saw crime only occurring when the benefits outweigh the costs meaning that people will only get involved in criminal behaviours where there are no effective punishments or deterrence as a consequence. This theory explained crime as a free-willed choice where criminals are rational decisions makers. There are not just one theory to fully explain and support criminal behaviours but various theories working together to explain such phenomenal a great example would be in the case of Ted Kazynski. During 1978 and 1995 Ted Kaczynski left many packages which contained explosive material for people to find causing injury and in some cases death. He also mailed a number of packages all over the United State of America to university professors and people involved with computers and technology within the country (Johnson, 1998:1-4). Ted Kaczynski’s interest in explosive materials can be traced back to when he was still in High School where he used a science class to build he very first explosive device a pipe bomb. There can be many theoretical schools of crime causations that we can used to explain why Ted Kazynski committed such crimes. In the Classical School Theory it was noted in Kaczynski’s statement was that he felt disturbed by society in terms of “overcrowding, dissociation from nature, social conformity, rapid pace of technological change, consumerism…corporate domination” (Unabomber: Ted Kaczynski, 2). This a clear case where perhaps Kaczynski believed if he rid the world of these people involved in technology things might return to normal for him. Here Ted Kazynski is rationalising with his decision to commit the crime where he clearly sees that the benefits outweigh the costs of his actions (Beccaria,1963). The Positivist Theory rejected the Classical Theory's idea that all crime is a result of rational choice that can be made by anyone. Although they agree with the Classical Theory that most crime could be explained through "human nature," they also argued that the most serious crimes were committed by individuals who were "primitive" or "atavistic"—which means, they are the people who failed to evolve to a fully human and civilized state as to others (Lombroso, 1876, 19 & 2006). A good example would be looking at the factors behind what makes serial killers tick? The answer is their problem lies with when they were younger. When looking at the case of John Wayne Gacy Jr is the serial rapist murderer who raped and murdered young men, most of whom had worked for him and who he called them good for nothing queers. As a young child John tried everything to gain the loving attention and an embracing closeness with his father whom he loved very much, John S. Gacy, Senior. John S. Gacy, Senior was a not a good father because he would always drink and verbally and physically abused John. His father always used to call him a queer and a momma’s boy despite that John still really loved him unconditionally and wanted his full attention (Bowlby, 1988)....
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