Classical Theory of Criminology

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Criminology is the study and scientific approach to find reasoning to justify the behavior of criminals. By understanding the reasoning behind the execution of a crime, one can begin to develop many ways of preventing and controlling crime or reintegrating criminals. There are numerous theories of criminology that could justify one’s action. Theories can be used to accompany policy making and can be assessed on a number of criteria, including clarity, scope, parsimony, testability, practicality and empirical validity.

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The classical theory imposes the ideas that free will influences the decision of individuals to commit crime and that punishment should be to prevent future crimes from being committed. The Classical Crime School (2015) shows that there are five key principles of classical theory, for example, rationality, hedonism, human rights, punishment and due process. It is essential to fully understand the theory and its components. Rationality imposes the idea that people have free will and the power to decide whether to commit a crime. Hedonism assumes that people are looking for pleasure and are not trying to find pain. Punishment acts as a dissuasion against crime, human rights, which gives people full access to their natural rights and society is strictly forced to respect the rights of these people. Finally, due process which imposes the idea of people accused of a crime shall be deemed innocent until proven guilty, and they shall also have the opportunity to go to trial and face the judicial system.

The era of enlightenment was an important period which was regarded as the stepping stone of classical theory. According to the Classical School of Crime (2015), The enlightenment period was a time where ideas sparked philosophers to come up with different ideologies that are till this day significant towards the development of the society. The enlightenment period began in the 17th century, people in the enlightenment were interested in crime and what the best punishment should be. From the enlightenment, is where the classical school began to take place. Things before the enlightenment was horrible for criminals and the people who were suspected of being criminals.

Cesare Beccaria was an italian criminologist, philosopher, politician, and jurist who was considered to be a talented jurist and one of the best enlightenment thinkers. He was born in March 15, 1738 and died November 28, 1794, Cesare was well known to be the father of the classical criminology. At a young age he published a famous work titled on crimes and punishments he developed his ideology which is now called the classical theory. The Law Teacher (2018) gives a background of how the classical theory began to originate. The classical thinking began to take place as a response to the cruel and brutal form of punishment during the 18th century. Writers such as Montesquieu and Voltaire were a great influence into developing this new classical thinking both these writers were involved in campaigns focused on the reformation of the judicial system. Cesare Beccaria, goals were simple and direct to the point he wanted to reduce the harshness of the judicial system. The classical theory has been in existence since the 18th century and till this day its ideas and components are still being used and performed into our daily lives. For example, the 8th amendment is a law that protects citizens from cruel and unusual punishment. The classical theory influenced the developers of the bill of rights and the U.S constitution. It helped to strengthen the concept of a right and quick trial, cruel and unusual punishment and to eliminate the idea of torture as punishment. In a theory, the idea of another theory of criminology developed a chain of different theories.

Although the classical theory was a form of reforming the judicial system just like any other theory this classical thinking had its pros and cons. As mentioned in course hero (2018) this theory does not apply to everyone because it does not help individuals who may have biological factors that could potentially affect them as a person, such as preventing them from thinking and behaving accordingly. Individuals who are challenged may not be able to make the right decisions due to mental illness such as schizophrenia, which is a long – term mental disorder and other diseases such as alzheimer, depression, etc. Not everyone chooses to be a criminal, things like external influences, oppression, lack of opportunity and the involvement of forced gangs can lead to a crime. The classical theory favors only people who are physically and mentally stable to distinguish between good and bad.

In my opinion my validity of the classical theory is per say in between. Just like any other theory the classical theory is a great theory that was developed millions of years ago. I like how the focus on unusual punishment influenced the development of the bill of rights and the U.S constitution because it shows how influential history has been to modern life. It also shows how influential famous figures have been reinforcing and fixing our judicial system in a way that not only benefits the citizens but also the individuals working in the system. Without this theory being developed, our government will be extremely corrupt because of the lack of laws that would be able to protect citizens. Which is why I strongly agree when Cesare Beccaria stated that there is “NO CRIME WITHOUT LAW”. Without law we wouldn’t be able to validate the interpretation of crime, society will be extremely hard to even manage, there would simply be no development of the judicial system. However, as great as this theory is I truly disagree with the idea of free will that was developed in this theory. Society is a place where everyone is born different. Everybody has their own ideas, their own problems, their personal interpretation of things. There exist numerous individuals who are currently and have been mentally disabled to make correct decisions and there’s also individuals who are ill enough to be influenced to make decisions due to their illness. Not everyone is capable of making correct decisions and the idea of free will presented in this theory is only really focusing on the people who are mentally and physically fit to make correct decisions and it is excluding those who are not.

To sum up, the classical theory is a highly complex ideology with many different elements that can potentially be a response to crime. According to the classical theory, it imposes the ideas that the decisions of individuals to commit crime are influenced by free will and that punishment should be about prevalence. It is important that we learn about these theories, because it not only helps us to deeply understand the justice system, but also helps us to learn about people and the reasoning behind their behaviour. 

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Classical Theory Of Criminology. (2021, Apr 09). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from
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