Classical Theory in Criminology

1753 Words Nov 12th, 2011 8 Pages
Classical School
Classical theory in criminology has its roots in the theories of the 18th century Italian nobleman and economist, Cesare Beccaria and the English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham (Hollin, 2004, 2). It was based on principles of utilitarian philosophy. Cesare Beccaria, author of On Crimes and Punishments (1763–64), Jeremy Bentham, inventor of the panopticon, and other classical school philosophers based their arguments as follows,
(1) People have free will to choose how to act
(2) Deterrence is based upon the notion of the human being as a 'hedonist' who seeks pleasure and avoids pain, and a 'rational calculator' weighing up the costs and benefit consequences of each action.
(3) Punishment (of sufficient severity) can deter
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(2.) Humankind is a rational species. (3.) What controls behavior is the human will. (4.) Although supernatural [and natural] forces might influence the will, in regard to specific actions the will was free to choose. (5.) The principal means of controlling behavior is fear, particularly fear of pain or punishment. In this way the will could be directed to make correct choices. (6.) Since the state had the right to punish behavior, it ought to do so in an organized manner which included the centralized administration of law enforcement, courts, and correctional practices.
Summary of points to be made about Beccaria. 1. Beccaria did not develop a new explanation for criminal behavior. He merely accepted the taken-for granted beliefs of his era. He sought solely to rationalize punishments. 2. Beccaria opposed allowing judges the type of broad discretion they then enjoyed. 3. The ultimate source of law must be the legislature, not the judiciary. Beccaria is here attacking the common law tradition. Today's conservatives attack judicial activism, i.e., in the recent U.S. Supreme Court. 4. The principal role of the judiciary is in determining guilt, not deciding on punishments. 5. A truly rational system of criminal justice would be based on a scale of crimes and punishments: e.g. first, second, and third degree felonies. Each would be assigned a specific punishment that included ascending severity based an the level of seriousness