Crime & Society SOC 305
July 16, 2012
Understanding a Criminal
Crime is an activity that societies around the globe have had to experience from close to the beginning of manhood. Crime is nothing new to us but the extent of criminal behavior has evolved over the centuries. We will probably never live in a world that is free of crime, but learning more about the criminal aspects in our society may one day make our world a much better place to live. To help resolve criminal behavior becoming more familiar with the biological and psychological explanations of crime, the way criminals learn to commit crimes and the criminal justice system in place to deal with criminals must be understood.
Understanding the explanations of crime is a controversial issue by many researchers. What is understood is that the crime rate over the last century has increased and that this is largely due to the criminals in our society. If the criminal could be understood then perhaps that would be a large step in the combat against crime. Criminologists study factors to explain why and individual would commit crimes. Although one explanation does not supersede the other when considering the causes of crime, research has shown evidence of biological and psychological factors resulting in the criminal characteristics. Often people experience both contributing factors that drive them into the world of criminal behavior.
Biological causation of crimes used to be an instrumental tool for criminologists interested in the structure of a criminal. Biological theories of crime were a way that physiognomists and phrenologist differentiated criminals and prospective criminals by their physical and inherited traits. Biological theories are not conclusive to the causation of crime and are often discredited because of their lack of scientific evidence. However, biological theories were examined along with other theories when trying to reason with the existence of explaining why people commit crimes. Biological explanations of crimes were “first studied by Dr. Cesare Lombroso, the first professor of mental disease studies” (Carra & Barale, 2004).
Lombroso, also “known as the founder of modern criminology” (Carra & Barale, 2004) believed that his “theories were evidence of the biological predisposed to commit crimes” (Carra & Barale, 2004). In theory, he believed that criminals were born with certain characteristics that were found to be in all peoples that committed crime and that if born with these certain characteristics they were destined to a life of crime. After studying criminals he proclaimed that the distinct features shared among criminals were that of primitive humans, thus he theorized to be atavisms. The shared features that Lombroso noted were “enormous jaws, high cheek bones, prominent superciliary arches, solitary lines in the palms, extreme size of the orbits, and handled shaped ears” (Conklin, 2010). After the mark of Lombroso other researchers constructed other theories based on his theories.
The most notable biological theorist after the work of Lombroso was “psychologist and physician, William Sheldon. Sheldon’s theory to the biological causation of crime was that a classification of body types determined a person’s temperament” (Carra & Barale, 2004). The body types that Sheldon created were developed to differentiate which body type is more apt to criminal behavior. The three body types devised were the endomorphs described as slow and loving, the least likely to commit crimes. Next, the ectomorphs, also unlikely to be criminals are lean and delicate individuals. Finally, the mesomorhps are the muscular aggressive individuals that are the most likely to become involved in the criminal world. These biological studies of the past may not be the explanation solving the causation to crime but they have played a major part in the contemporary biological study of...