Theories in Criminology

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Criminology can be described based on the insights of criminal laws looking at how the laws emerge, work and how they are put into practice once they get violated. According to Garland, criminology is a particular well-defined genre of discourse and inquiry which has grown in the modern era and is differentiated from the other modes of discussions about and thinking of how crimes get handling. The criminology policy on the other side comes in to protect people from being discriminated depending on different bases. Everyone has a shared sense of understanding that crimes do exist and the criminologists need to realize that everyone has an understanding of how to handle crimes.

Historical Development

Criminology developed from the convergence amid the government and a Lombrosian project. The former constituted a sequence of empirical studies starting from the 19th century which has sought to show the patterns of how crimes develop and also look at the how the criminal justice performs. The objectives of looking at the justice systems accomplish will ensure that fairness is enhanced (Zembroski 5). According to most historians, the past societies were more violent compared to the modern one. The violence could be in different forms starting from the military as well as political to the community and interpersonal there could be judicial torture to carb the breaking of laws at this point. Most people believe that crime has become more in the contemporary world where they try to mean that modern people live in more fear due to increased crime rates.

Crime, welfare and social categories of inequality

Crime policies aim at preventing and regulating crime through the institutions of policing criminal courts, prisons, jails, and prosecution. They ensure that there is public safety and crime rates are reduced. The enhancement and increase of specialized contemporary criminal justice systems have led in the creation of subfields within the crime policy which now focus on the diverse categories of crime starting from drug crime, domestic violence, and planned crime to sex crime (Gallo and Kim 4). There are also particular sectors of crime perpetration and victimization which categorize regarding the age where we have the children, youth and the elderly. In the present era, there is a focus on race discrimination as a crime and also gender violence.

The assessment of race, as well as gender in the America situation, shows the role played by economic and social inequality that does not only result from neoliberal crime and welfare policies but also encompass a driving force in a building, justifying and replicating such strategies. There are different races in America, but those who encounter a problem of welfare benefits are the African Americans and meet a harsh set of criminal injustice practices as well as policies. From the start of the 21st century out of three African American males, one was at risk of involvement of the criminal justice system (Gallo and Kim 9). A study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that African American males were more likely to be incarcerated six times more than the white men (Gallo and Kim 9). Discrimination against the minority groups in the post-civil rights in the United States has been considered unlawful. The crime policy is now acting to prevent further discrimination of the minority groups.

Theories in criminology

From the 19th century, there has been an assumed association amid crime and societal development which has now become the central point to most theories concerning crime. According to Marxists, junior workers tend to engage in crime particularly in capitalism. The increasing urbanization and industrialization lead to disruption in the social order contributing to increased crime. The notion that law-breaking has a close association with urbanization as well as industrialization has a ground influence on the growth of studies in crime. The following are the theories in understanding criminology.

Classical theory

It is a theory that is seen as the reaction of the rising middle class against the excesses of the aristocratic regime of the past majorly in Europe in the 19th century. According to the theory, the punishment was termed to be arbitrary as well as barbarous and due to the lack of law crime could not be clearly defined (Wincup 6). The classical notion is that each man by nature is self-seeking and is therefore likely to break the law in that endeavor. In the society, there is a consensus in protecting the private property and the welfare of a particular individual (Lin 55). There has to be a way of preventing further occurrence of a crime and a war against each man to freely enter into an association with the state of capital to create and preserve peace within the conditions and regulations of the set consensus. There has to punishment to prevent people from breaking the law and the interest of other people. Therefore, the stated disciplines must be according to the crimes committed. The penalties should not be exaggerated but should have a balance according to the intensity of the offense. The classical criminology offers little information on the causes of law breaking and only concerns itself with the punishment that should be given, altering corruption and regularizing the criminal process. The ideas of the classical theory are majorly on the social contract theory and utilitarianism where nature sees people as greedy and self-seeking, of free will and rational. People are free to enter into a social contract, and hence punishment is used on those who fail to adhere to the rules of the agreement. Apart from the classical theory being an outdated dogma, it applies to the modern legal system where the judges and lawyers represent it. One should, therefore, be punished on the basis of the crime committed and not according to the race.

Neoclassical criminology

Under the classical theory, the justice system structure gave a clear mechanical procedure which offered no consideration in decisions concerned with punishment to the features of a person. The neoclassical theory, therefore, came to remedy the failure of the classical theory. According to the neoclassical theory, the sentence of a crime committed may have various impacts depending on the features of the person who has committed the crime (Burkhe 31). Confining an individual to prison was to put him in a place where it will change the offender's behavior in committing a further crime in the future. The neoclassical idea was on the rehabilitation and changing the character of a person. The alterations that the neoclassical theory made majorly deal on correcting the imperfections and not what caused crime.


There was the growth of philosophy as a general philosophy and therefore saw the development of this theory with the increased status of science and with the increasing recognition of psychiatrists, doctors, and psychologists. The main idea in the positivism was to eliminate crime using scientific methods, organized with unrelated philosophical retributory and ethics, religious beliefs (Lin 63). Therefore the critical apparatus used in the study of the natural sciences are acquired and used in the study of the world of human beings without any applicability for a distinct subject of investigation.

Positivism asserted that the learning of human society has to be done by use of the scientific tools developed in the exploration of the physical world. The other notion of the positivism school is that there should be the scientist's objectivity. It also alludes that the society was controlled by the discoverable social laws which were to be resolute through quantification of human action as well as behavior. Most of the positivists in the field of criminology espoused biological explanations.

There is a considerable political appeal from the theory where they suggested that crime came from internal biological malfunctioning of a person hence moving the focus of the community and the social inequality in general. According to Lombroso in 1876 in the theory of the born criminal, a primitive individual is a person who shows in himself characteristics of inferior and primitive animals. Criminals were therefore atavistic who were possibly identified by the physical stigmata (Lin 63); the size of their ears, shape of the skull and the lines on their palms. The idea of Lombroso has seemed to be insignificant where the physical stigmata are a result of the environment. According to professor Eysenck of the biological positivism is that as a child, one strives to get pleasure and as a result, one gets punishment where the nervous system is affected by the pain inflicted on the body. Through that one develops an "inner police"or a controlled behavior to avoid the painful punishment. Criminals have been used to these punishments where they have a deficient autonomic nervous system with their reflexes being difficult to condition and extinguish quickly.

Durkheim theory

Durkheim suggested that the classical theory was not based on social science but rather on the ethical philosophical. The Durkheim theory concerned itself with the forced division of labor where he argued that although people are free to live in places of their choices depending on their ability, they find themselves in an enclosure of forced labor (Zembroski, 242). Contrary there is an expectation that there be a natural division of work which was only possible in a society that expressed social and natural inequalities. An organization that has a clear division of labor the arrangements in occupation would be in accord with the people's living. In such a society where the roles get divisions according to the biological merit, discontent would not occur. Mostly the law enforcement will be the poor and injustice tend to be to the less fortunate with the inequitable portion of wealth. Race should not classify one into a social stratification of either poor all rich it is just a skin complexion which is different and all people should be treated fairly.

Phenomenological theory

It is an emerging theory in criminology where the emphasis is on the way persons make meanings and show how rules of a particular procedure are sustained and followed. The everyday life is looked at and the relation to common sense (Downes et al. 189). Cicourel's social organization of juvenile justice shows the way through which the actual indices of law-breaking are determined as a result of the contingencies of everyday life faced and produced by the police and social workers. The insights here are referred back to the broader structural factors in the actual nature of society and the social, political and economic organization in it. The social aspect is capable of showing the social reality of crime where it has to be grounded. For instance, the crime policy on race ensures that no one is perceived to be of lesser importance.


In tandem, the historical development of criminology as a policy has been studied as well as the theories behind it. The crime policy in general aims at preventing further occurrence of justices within the society regardless of the race, age or social class. The ancient of criminological development is of successive eras punctuated by eras of continued is crucial for everyone to be law abiding and understand the different types of crime that may exist within society to avoid compromising the law. The organization according to the theories should ensure that punishment should be based on the intensity of the crime committed.

Works cited

Burke, Roger Hopkins. An introduction to the criminological theory. Willan, 2017.

Downes, David, Paul Elliott Rock, and Eugene McLaughlin. Understanding deviance: a guide to the sociology of crime and rule-breaking. Oxford University Press, 2016.

Gallo, Carina, and Mimi E. Kim. "Crime policy and welfare policy."(2016).

Lin, Jonathan. The Historical Development of Criminological Thought and Theory as a Series of Successive Periods. Diss. McGill University Libraries, 2012.

Wincup, Emma. Criminological research: Understanding qualitative methods. SAGE, 2017.

Zembroski, David. "Sociological theories of crime and delinquency."Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment 21.3 (2011): 240-254.

December 12, 2023

Crime Science Sociology

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