Criminology made its first debut in the academic world during late 1700 to mid 1800s. Classical criminologists such as Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham were the founders of criminology.
Cesare Beccaria believed that criminal activity should be useful and practical to members of the society. Beccaria (2016) articulates that it is better to avert crimes than to punish them. In his book, he affirms that preventing crimes is the principal end of good legislation, brings men to the most significant happiness or the least happiness in accordance with the good and bad things in life. As well, Beccaria upholds optimal justice in the integrity of the social contract. Additionally, he criticizes capital punishment as a means of addressing criminal activity. Beccaria believes that illegal events would not be reduced if the laws forbid individuals from doing anything that would lead to crime.
During Cesare Beccarias time, criminal punishment focused on retribution. Beccaria (2016) believed that the castigation was vengeful and retaliatory. However, he felt that it was detrimental to the society. Therefore, he sought to reform the criminal justice policy of their day by advocating for deterrence. Deterrence means that the severity of a punishment outweighed the urge to commit any crime. As well, through deterrence, the likelihood of a criminal to commit another crime or other citizens to engage in misconduct becomes minimal. In his view, he felt that deterrence would benefit the society. Consequently, to provide the deterrent effect, Beccaria felt that punishment had to be swift, precise, and appropriately severe.
On criminal activity, Jeremy Bentham believed that criminals acted in their interests. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2017), Bentham believed that criminals usually imagine what will happen if they behave in a certain way. He felt that external environments determined the interests of criminals. As well, he stated that laws construct individuals interests and give them motives to pursue different courses of action in criminal law.
During Jeremy Benthams time, the utilitarian penal law, framed on the objective of deterrence, depended on the features that offenses must be categorized on harms perpetuated and that there should be an appropriate proportion between crimes and punishment. However, Bentham felt that the law failed to satisfy the categorization of crimes based on harms (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2017). Therefore, he rejected the widespread criminalization of consensual sexual acts, and he developed the defense of sexual liberty. To satisfy the deterrence theory, Bentham believed that punishment must outweigh the profit of the offense, should undertake more against a great crime than a minute one, and punish for each particle of the mischief.
Both Beccaria and Benthams ideas came to influence modern day deterrence theory. Today, criminal justice institutions use their beliefs to attempt to reduce the perpetuation of crime. As well, the justice systems have come up with laws that have synthetic forms of punishment. As well, legislators have adhered to the concept of human nature and defined the penalties for each crime.
From a personal perspective, deterrence does not work as a criminal justice policy today. The reason is that most criminals are unaware of the sanctions for specific crimes. Laws and procedures, which are designed to deter wrongdoing are primarily ineffective and focus on increasing the severity of punishments. Apparently, these policies do not subdue convicted criminals and prisons may worsen the rate at which offenders are likely to reoffend.
Beccaria, C. (2016). On Crimes and Punishments. New Jersey: Transaction publishers.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2017). Jeremy Bentham. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bentham/#PenLawPun
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