A Comprehensive Study of the Classical School of Criminology

CH. ARCHANA, D. RAJESHWAR RAO, P. SRINIVASA RAO

Abstract


The classical school of criminology was developed in the eighteenth century. There were two main contributors to this theory of criminology and they were Jeremy Bentham and Cesare de Beccaria. They are seen as the most important enlightenment thinkers in the area of ‘classical' thinking and are considered the founding fathers of the classical school of criminology. Bentham's contribution to ‘classical' theory is based on the fact that he was a utilitarian, interested in the happiness and well being of the population and therefore believing that punishment, in the form of the infliction of pain, should always be justified in terms of a greater good. At the heart of Bentham's writing was the idea that human behaviour is directed at maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain, (the pleasure-pain principle). Beccaria believed that laws needed to be put into place in order to make punishments consistent and in line with the crime. He believed that crime prevention in its effectiveness is down to three main ideas, these being the certainty of the crime and how it is likely to happen, the celerity of the crime and how quickly the punishment is inflicted and also the severity of the crime, and how much pain is inflicted. Beccaria thought that the severity of the penalties given should be proportionate to the crime committed and no more than what is necessary in order to deter the offender and others from committing further crimes. This is the reason behind the death penalty being viewed by classical thinkers such as Beccaria and Bentham as pointless, because there would be no deterrent. However when considering manslaughter, as Bentham also believes, if the severity of the punishment should slightly outweigh the crime then surely capital punishment should be used, there doesn't seem to be any stronger a deterrent to other criminals thinking of undertaking the same criminal behaviour, than seeing another eradicated due to their actions. Classical thinking has had a significant impact on criminological thinking in general and perhaps a greater impact on criminal justice practise. Since the introduction of the classical school of criminology and classical thinking, the use of capital punishment, torture and corporal punishment has declined.


 


Keywords


beccaria, cesare, bentham, jeremy, classical school of criminology, criminology, deterrence, deterrence theory, economic model of crime, felicitous calculus, rational choice theory, routine activities theory (RAT), utilitarianism

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