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Criminal Justice- Chapter 3
Terms in this set (53)
An assumption, or set of assumptions, that attempts to explain why or how things are related to each other. A theory of crime attempts to explain why or how a certain thing (or things) is related to criminal behavior.
The explanation of criminal behavior, as well as the behavior of police, attorneys, prosecutors, judges, corrections, victims, other actors in the process.
Failure to understand these criminological theories leads to:
Problems that may undermine the success of criminal justice policies
Intrusion in people's lives without good reason
One of the earliest secular approaches to explaining the causes of crime was classical theory.
Based on the assumption that people exercise free will and are thus completely responsible for their actions
Criminal behavior is motivated by a hedonistic rationality, in which actors weigh the potential pleasure of an action against the possible pain associated with it.
In 1764, criminologist Cesare Beccaria wrote An Essay on Crimes and Punishments, which set forth most of classical criminological theory.
He argued that the only justified rationale for laws and punishments was the principle of utility.
Beccaria believed the basis of society, as well as the origin of punishments and the right to punish, is the social contract.
the principle that a policy should provide "the greatest happiness shared by the greatest number"
An imaginary agreement to sacrifice the minimum amount of liberty to prevent anarchy and chaos
The only legitimate purpose of punishment is deterrence, both special and general.
Special or specific deterrence: the prevention of individuals from committing crime again by punishing them
General deterrence: the prevention of people in general or society at large from engaging in crime by punishing specific individuals and making examples of them
Addition to Classical Theory
In addition to a social contract and effective punishment, Beccaria also believed the best way to prevent or deter crime was to:
-Enact laws that are clear, simple, and unbiased, and that reflect the consensus of the population
-Educate the public
-Eliminate corruption from the administration of justice
Not all offenders are alike.
Juveniles are treated the same as adults.
Similar crimes are not always as similar as they might appear.
First-time offenders are treated the same as repeat offenders.
Classical theory was difficult to apply in practice.
It was modified in the early 1800s and became known as neoclassical theory.
Neoclassical theory conceded that certain factors, such as insanity, might inhibit the exercise of free will.
Neoclassical theory introduced the idea of:
Premeditation as a measure of the degree of free will
Mitigating circumstances as legitimate grounds for diminished responsibility
Classical and Neoclassical Theory
Classical and neoclassical theory are the basis of the criminal justice system in the United States.
A more modern version of this theory, called rational choice theory, is probably a reaction to the allegation that criminologists have failed to discover the causes of crime.
Ironically, classical theory lost favor in the nineteenth century because it was believed that punishment was not a particularly effective method of preventing or controlling crime.
The theory of the positivist school of criminology grew out of positive philosophy and the logic and methodology of experimental science.
Human beings were beginning to be understood not as free-willed, self-determining creatures who could do anything that they wanted to do, but rather as beings whose actions were determined by biological and cultural factors.
Positivist School of Thought
Human behavior is determined and not a matter of free will.
Criminals are fundamentally different from noncriminals.
Social scientists can be objective in their work.
Crime is frequently caused by multiple factors.
Society is based on consensus, but not on a social contract.
Problems with positivist assumptions
Account for too much crime; do not explain exceptions well
Ignore the process by which behaviors are made illegal
Assume that most people agree about most things most of the time
Believe that action is determined by causes independent of a person's free will
Believe that social scientists can be objective in their work
Biological theories of crime causation (biological positivism) are based on the belief that criminals are physiologically different from noncriminals.
Early biological positivists believed that the cause of crime was biological inferiority.
Today's biocriminologists believe that crime is caused by a complex interaction between biochemical and environmental factors.
Criminal anthropology is associated with the work of Cesare Lombroso, who published his theory of a physical criminal type in 1876.
Lombroso's theory consisted of the following propositions:
Criminals are, by birth, a distinct type.
That type can be recognized by physical characteristics, or stigmata, such as:
Insensitivity to pain
Criminal Anthropology Continued
The criminal type is clearly distinguished in a person with more than five stigmata, perhaps exists in a person with three to five stigmata, and does not necessarily exist in a person with fewer than three stigmata.
Physical stigmata do not cause crime; they only indicate an individual who is predisposed to crime.
Such a person is either an atavist or a result of degeneration.
Because of their personal natures, such persons cannot desist from crimes unless they experience very favorable lives.
Problems with Criminal Anthropology
The major problem with Lombroso's criminal anthropology is the assumption that certain physical characteristics are indicative of biological inferiority.
Body-type theory is an extension of Lombroso's criminal anthropology, developed by Ernst Kretchmer and later William Sheldon.
It says that human beings can be divided into three basic body types, or somatotypes:
Endomorphic (soft, fat)
Mesomorphic (athletically built)
Ectomorphic (tall, skinny)
Sheldon found that delinquents were more mesomorphic than nondelinquents, and serious delinquents were more mesomorphic than less severe delinquents.
Sheldon studied 200 Boston delinquents between 1939 and 1949.
Studies have attempted to determine if criminality is hereditary by studying:
Identical and fraternal twins
All of these methods fail to prove that criminality is hereditary, because they cannot separate hereditary influences from environmental influences.
Ongoing research has revealed numerous biological factors associated either directly or indirectly with criminal or delinquent behavior:
Chemical, mineral, and vitamin deficiencies in the diet
Diets high in sugar and carbohydrates
Ingestion of food dyes and lead
Exposure to radiation
Violent criminal behavior has also been linked to disorders in other parts of the brain.
Recent evidence suggests that chronic violent offenders have much higher levels of brain disorder than the general population.
The limbic system is a structure surrounding the brain stem that is believed to moderate expressions of violence.
The limbic system controls the life functions of heartbeat, breathing, and sleep.
It also possibly moderates expressions of violence, anger, rage, fear, and sexual response.
Chemical Dysfunctions andBrain Neurotransmitters
Some criminal behaviors are believed to be influenced by low levels of brain neurotransmitters (the substances brain cells use to communicate).
Low levels of serotonin have been found in impulsive murderers and arsonists.
Norepinephrine may be associated with compulsive gambling.
Cocaine increases the level of dopamine, which activates the limbic system to produce pleasure.
Criminal behaviors have also been associated with hormone abnormalities, especially those involving:
Testosterone (a male sex hormone)
Progesterone and estrogen (female sex hormones)
Administering estrogen to male sex offenders has been found to reduce their sexual drives.
Biology or genetics gives an individual a predisposition to behave in a certain way.
Whether a person actually behaves in that way and whether that behavior is defined as a crime depend on environmental or social conditions.
Today, most criminologists believe that criminal behavior is the product of a complex interaction between biology and environmental or social conditions.
There are many theories regarding psychological causes of crime, including:
Intelligence and crime
Humanistic psychological theory
Intelligence and Crime
The idea that crime is the product primarily of people of low intelligence has been popular occasionally in the United States.
A study in 1931 showed no correlation between intelligence and criminality, though intelligence may play a role in individual cases.
Psychoanalytic theories of crime causation are associated with the work of Sigmund Freud, who suggested that crime may be a symptom of more deep-seated problems.
Freud believed that some people with unresolved deep-seated problems were psychopaths.
Psychopaths: persons characterized by no sense of guilt, no subjective conscience, and no sense of right and wrong
They have difficulty in forming relationships with other people.
They cannot empathize with other people.
They are also called sociopaths or antisocial personalities.
The principal policy implication of considering crime symptomatic of deep-seated problems is to provide psychotherapy or psychoanalysis in order to resolve the symptoms associated with the problems.
Problems with Psychological and Psychoanalytic Theories
Problems with the idea that criminals are psychologically "sick":
The bulk of the research on the issue suggests that most criminals are no more disturbed than the rest of the population.
Many people with psychological disturbances do not commit crimes.
Psychoanalytic theory generally ignores environmental circumstances.
Much of its theoretical structure is scientifically untestable.
Humanistic Psychological Theory
Abraham Maslow and Seymour Halleck developed theories similar to Freud's but based on the assumption that human beings are basically good.
Maslow believed that human beings are motivated by five basic levels of needs, and that people choose crime because they cannot (or will not) satisfy their needs legally.
Halleck views crime as one of several adaptations to the helplessness caused by oppression.
Humanistic Psychological Theory- Basic Questions that were not asked
Neither Maslow nor Halleck asked these basic questions:
Why can't people satisfy their basic needs legally, or why do they choose not to do so?
Why don't societies ensure that basic needs can be satisfied legally so that the choice to satisfy them illegally makes no sense?
Why does society oppress so many people, and why aren't more effective measures taken to greatly reduce that oppression?
Sociologists emphasize that human beings live in social groups and that those groups and the social structure they create influence behavior.
Most sociological theories of crime causation assume that a criminal's behavior is determined by his or her social environment and reject the notion of the born criminal.
The Contributions of Durkheim
Many sociological theories of crime causation stem from the work of Emile Durkheim, who rejected the idea that the world is simply the product of individual actions.
Social laws and institutions are "social facts," and all people can do is submit to them.
The cause of crime is anomie
Crime is functional for society and marks the boundaries of morality.
Durkheim advocated containing crime within reasonable boundaries.
The dissociation of the individual from the collective conscience, or the general sense of morality of the times
Robert Merton in 1938 wrote about a major contradiction in the U.S. between cultural goals and social structure.
He called the contradiction anomie.
The Chicago School Theories
The Chicago School described American cities in ecological terms, saying growth occurs through a process of:
Studies found that neighborhoods that experienced high delinquency rates also experienced social disorganization.
One of the problems with the theory of the Chicago School is the presumption that social disorganization is a cause of delinquency.
Both social disorganization and delinquency may be the product of other, more basic factors (for example, the decisions made by political and economic elites about how a city will grow).
A cultural or ethnic group invades a territory.
The group dominates that territory.
The group is succeeded by another group and the cycle repeats itself.
The usual controls over delinquents are largely absent.
Delinquent behavior is often approved of by parents and neighbors.
There are many opportunities for delinquent behavior.
There is little encouragement, training, or opportunity for legitimate employment.
Anomie or Strain Theory
Merton argued that the limited availability of legitimate institutionalized means to wealth puts a strain on people.
People adapt through:
Conformity—playing the game
Innovation—pursuing wealth by illegitimate means
Ritualism—not actively pursuing wealth; following legitimate institutional means
Retreatism—dropping out; not pursuing wealth, not following legitimate institutional means
Rebellion—rejecting the goal of wealth and the institutional means of getting it and substituting a different goal and means
In the mid-1950s, Albert K. Cohen adapted Merton's anomie theory to explain gang delinquency.
Anomie Theory (Merton's Adaptation)
Juveniles unable to achieve status through socially acceptable means do one of the following:
Conform to middle-class values and resign themselves to their inferior status
Rebel and establish their own value structures, then find others like themselves and form groups to validate and reinforce the new values
Anomie (Cloward, Ohlin)
Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin further Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin further argued that the type of adaptation made by juvenile gang members depends on the illegitimate opportunity structure available to them.
They identified three gang subcultures:
Criminal—formed to make money
Violent—formed to vent anger if they can't make money
Retreatist—formed by those who can't join the other gangs, and become alcoholics and drug addicts
Gabriel Tarde was one of the first theorists to believe that crime was something learned by normal people as they adapted to other people and the conditions of their environment.
Writing in Penal Philosophy in 1890, Tarde viewed all social phenomena as the product of imitation or modeling.
Iimitation or modeling
Edwin H. Sutherland, in his theory of differential association, was the first twentieth-century criminologist to argue that criminal behavior was learned.
Differential association: Persons who become criminal do so because of contacts with criminal definitions and isolation from anticriminal definitions.
Learning Theory Explains
Learning theory: a theory that explains criminal behavior and its prevention with these concepts:
Modeling or imitation
the presentation of a stimulus that increases or maintains a response
the removal or reduction of a stimulus whose removal or reduction increases or maintains a response
a process in which behavior that previously was positively reinforced is no longer reinforced
the presentation of an aversive stimulus to reduce a response
Problems with Learning Theory
Among the policy implications of learning theory is to punish criminal behavior effectively, according to learning theory principles.
This is not done effectively in the United States.
Chances of a prisoner escaping are great.
Probation does not function as an aversive stimulus.
Most offenders are not incarcerated.
Punishment is not consistent and immediate.
Offenders are generally returned to the environments in which their crimes were committed.
There is no positive reinforcement of alternative, prosocial behaviors.
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