Criminology is a study of crime, criminals and criminal justice. Ideas about criminal justice and crime arose in the 18th century during the enlightenment, but criminology as we know it today developed in the late 19th century. Criminology has been shaped by many different academic disciplines and has many different approaches. It explores the implications of criminal laws; how they emerge and work, then how they are violated and what happens to those violators. Laws are relative and historically shaped; they vary from time to time and from place to place (Carrabine et al, 2009).
This essay will be comparing the competing ideologies of two key thinkers in criminology; Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794) and Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909).
Cesare Beccaria is considered to be the ‘father’ of criminology and is associated with the classical school of criminology, although he was not a criminologist but an Italian economist; criminology did not exist at this time. Beccaria came from an aristocratic family and was schooled at a Jesuit school in Parma, then went onto complete a degree in law (Hayward et al, 2010). He appealed to two key philosophical theories: utility and social contract and his hugely influential book ‘On Crimes and Punishments (1764)’ sought to apply enlightenment social contract theory to issues of crime and punishment with emphasis that individuals can only be legitimately bound to society if they comply with the societal arrangements (Hopkins Burke, 2009). He called for fair and just punishment to deter crime and suggested that people choose their behaviour, including criminal behaviour but the more swift, severe and certain the punishment then the better its ability to control that criminal behaviour. The swifter the punishment is to the crime then the stronger that punishment is related to the crime (Hale et al, 2009). The book greatly influenced the reform of criminal law in Western Europe, and has influenced the judicial systems still in place in many nations today.
Beccaria appealed that criminal law should guide and bind society by laying out clear, rational rules. All social action should be directed by the aim of achieving happiness for the greater number, and the avoidance of unnecessary pain or suffering (Hale et al, 2009). These principles guided by Beccaria formed what is now referred to as Utilitarian thinking. Beccaria proposed a corpus of principles that authorities could follow and make their rule more rational and more effective. His system of legal reforms had clearly written laws, a restrained judiciary, with the abolishment of torture and a proportionality between a crime and the amount of punishment allocated to the offender (Paternoster, 2010). He believed that people are self-centred and egotistical, and therefore they must be driven by the fear of punishment (Siegel, 2012). If the rules of this social contract were breached by committing criminal acts then punishment must inevitably follow. It was only in this way that the contract, which benefited all, could be maintained (Hayward et al, 2010). Every individual is bound to society and society is bound to every individual. This is a pact which places obligations onto both parties (Beccaria, 1767).
Beccaria was against capital punishment and argued that the punishment should fit the crime and not the individual. Capital punishment is not essential to deter, and long-time imprisonment would be a more powerful deterrent as execution is quick and short-lived. The death penalty is not a matter or right and is neither useful nor necessary (Beccaria, 1764). He argued that punishment must be proportionate to the crime: crimes that are less serious should be allocated the least painful of punishments but the crimes that cause the greatest damage to society need to be punished with the most severity (Paternoster, 2010).
Beccaria also stated that we are all...