John Wayne Gacy Jr.

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CRJS 131-1A Criminology
Key Graded Assignment – The Mind of a Killer
Ernesto Argote
Westwood College
January 2012

Criminology is the scientific study of the nature, extent, cause, and control of criminal behavior (Siegel 4). Criminology is not just understanding criminal actions but also studying how to correct and prevent crime, overall. There are five major Criminological theories, (1) Classical Theory, (2) Positivist Theory, (3) Marxist / Conflict Theory, (4) Sociological Theory, and (5) Multifactor / Integrated Theory.

Classical Theory originated at about 1764 and it involves Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarianism, which means that people choose to act when they believe their actions will bring an increase in pleasure and a decrease in pain. This theory was also founded by Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794). Beccaria applied this reasoning to criminal behavior. He agreed that people want to achieve pleasure to avoid pain. Beccaria stated his famous theorem: In order for punishment not to be in every instance, an act of violence of one or many against a private citizen, it must be essentially public, prompt, necessary, the least possible in the given circumstances, proportionate to the crimes, and dictated by the laws. This is the core of what today is known as classical criminology. Crime can only be deterred or prevented if the punishment of a crime inputs fear into the mind of the potential criminal before he or she commits the crime. It must be proven that “crime does not pay” (Siegel 6).

Positivist Theory originated in the early 19th century (1810). This theory involves Auguste Comte’s (1798-1857) way of applying the scientific method to the study of society. Positivism is based on facts that are obtained through observation and not through belief. Unlike other theories that imply external factors as the cause of crime, this theory implies that crime is committed because of one’s biological features, or internal factors. Some people are crime prone because they have biological and mental traits that are inherited. For example, positivist believed the shape of the skull can determine whether a person was a criminal (Siegel 7).

Marxism / Conflict Theory originated about 1848. Karl Marx’s observation convinced him that the character of every civilization is determined by its mode of production, such as materialism. A Marxist-based criminology indicates that the capitalist economic system produces the conditions that support high crime rate (Siegel 9). The core idea of this theory is that crime is a function of class struggle. Although Marx’s theory originated about 1848, its impact was not realized until decades after. A fine example of this theory can be explained in the Patty Hearst incident of 1974.

Sociological Theory originated in 1897. This theory explains that the origin of a person and where they are brought up in life determine their behavior. Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), one of the founders of Sociology, defined crime as a normal and necessary social event (Siegel 8). Disorganized urban areas and places of low income are breeding grounds for crime. It makes sense that crime is inherently a lower-class phenomenon (Siegel 49). These social factors increase the need for a potential criminal to commit crimes to obtain what they do not have. Someone who lives in the suburbs or in a high class environment does not resort to crime because they have better means of getting what they want. This theory has led to what today is known as Social Learning Theory and the Labeling Theory.

Multifactor / Integrated Theory originated in about the 1930s. The founders are Sheldon (1896-1980) and Eleanor (1898-1972) Glueck. This theory implies that crime is a function of environmental, socialization, physical, and psychological factors. Every single one of these factors contributes to shaping behavior patterns. Where someone grows up, who they grow up with, how they look, and how they think all lead understand crime causation....
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