This week’s reading provides an overview of the changing boundaries of criminology, counting crime and measuring criminal behavior, and the schools of thought throughout histo

Theoretical History of Criminology.html

Theoretical History of Criminology

First of all, the concept of crime and criminology is based on thought – – what others believe and hold to be true, leading to philosophies and theories. Therefore, let’s begin by briefly reviewing the two primary historical schools of thought presented about criminology, classical and positivist. In a nutshell, the two schools of thought can be summarized with two similar, yet different axioms:

Classical – Let the punishment fit the crime.

Positivist – Let the punishment fit the criminal.

When the punishment fits the crime, the more serious or horrific the crime, the worse the punishment, and ergo, the less likely an individual will choose to commit a crime, or so classicalists believe. When the punishment fits the criminal, positivists believe the criminal’s psychological, biological, and mental characteristics, as well as their environment (society), should be considered before choosing how long, if at all, the criminal needs to be in prison and or what type of help the criminal needs to ensure he or she doesn’t commit more crime.

Further review of the timeline of criminological theory shows that beginning about 1920, the access of crime was not only more positivistic in contrast to classical viewpoints, but predominantly guided by the social sciences and the concepts of the need for further scientific research regarding crime. The social focus included theories regarding deviant behavior, subcultures, moral panic response, reform, idealism, and realism.

The positivistic approach prompted the concept of developing ways to treat the criminals in terms of not only preventing the escalation of crime but understanding the criminal mind in an attempt to help reform or rehabilitate the criminal as well as work toward educating the public sector. The educating of the public sector was focused on the creation of programs and facilities that would guide youth toward more acceptable and productive lifestyle choices that did not involve a criminal element.

In the 1960s, the positivistic focus turned toward a more centralized approach in terms of deviance theory by attempting to take an inside look at criminals in an attempt to truly understand them and thereby add to the field of criminology. This perspective continued into the 1970s with a look at the drug culture. However, crime continued to escalate where even the United Kingdom began adopting some of the terminology used by the United States in terms of describing the crime, such as the word “mugging.”

The increasing crime rates also led to the development of moral panic theory. According to Cohen, there are times when society, almost as a whole, experiences feelings and or responses of moral panic due to any action or widespread behavior being perceived as a threat to the moral fiber, beliefs, and or values of society. As a result, answers and methods of dealing with the situation that has arisen due to the criminal element are offered by the many “experts” of the time. Accordingly, the responses of the social community and law enforcement are typically aligned with the recommendations.

The 1980s brought further concern not only about the criminal and effects of crime upon society but also about the victims in terms of general terminology. In short, it was decided that the focus of law enforcement, as well as society, should be on preventing crime due to the acceptance that the causes of criminal behavior were not necessarily within the control of law-abiding people. In other words, the concepts of race, gender, socioeconomics, and values were likely the cause or initiator of the committing of many criminal acts.

In terms of the victims, special groups seemed to be at higher risk of being affected by a crime. This is similar to today in that particular focus is on the protection of children from criminal acts and behavior.

The end of the 20th century was a continuation of what was theorized in terms of crime, criminal law, and criminology during the 1980s. The focus continued to be on issues of race, ethnicity, and special groups such as women, children, and socioeconomic factors. This led to expanded concern on civil liberties, punishment, rehabilitation, and sentencing of criminals during the early 21st century. Many of these issues have continued to be in the forefront even today in the second decade of the 21st century, particularly in light of globalization.

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