“Modern of criminology and father of modern criminology.

criminology is the product of two main schools of thought: the classical school
originating in the 18th century and the positivist school originating in the
19th century. The early contributors to criminology were amateur dabbler a
mixed bag of philosophers, physicians, lawyers, judges, theologians, and
anthropologists whose primary interests lay in penology (prison management and
the treatment of offenders) rather than criminology per-se. The study of crime
and criminal behavior arose as a secondary consequence of the interest shown by
these pioneers in penal reform” (Walsh and Ellis, 2006). One of the major
contributors was Cesare de Beccaria the father of Classical criminology, who
believed that the offenders know right from wrong. While the other major
contributor was Cesar Lombroso, the founding father of Positivist school of
criminology and father of modern criminology. “This school of thought
brought scientific evidence into the foreground as a requirement for
conviction. More important, however, was that the Positivist view saw human
behavior as central to the study of criminology” (UOC, 2017).

        The Classical School of Criminology was
developed by scholars Jeremy Bentham and Cesare de Beccaria. Bentham was an
English philosopher who focused on utilitarianism, (Crimmins, 2015). Bentham
was alive from 1748 to 1832, he was believer of utilitarianism, and he felt
that people have to right to happiness and as a result should lead happy lives.
This philosophy set the rules to help deter punishment and create punishment
that is appropriate to the crime committed. This is the beginnings of the
Classical School of Thought. Beccaria was an Italian philosopher and attorney
of law who lived between 1798 and 1894, (Biography, 2016). Bentham and Beccaria
were moved by the climate of crime and punishment prevalent throughout 18th century
Europe.  During this era Europeans
utilized capital punishment in consequence of crime and deviant behavior.

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would be punished excessively and harshly, unmatched by America’s humane

­of the
death penalty, boot camps, or hard labor. As a result, “classical thinking
emerged in response to the cruel forms of punishment that dominated the times
as enlightened approaches to be taken towards crime and punishment”, (Roufa,

          Bentham and Beccaria’s Classical
School of Criminology is based upon the
theory that people have free will in formulating their choice to do something,
and that punishment is capable of deterring crime, so long as it is carried out
without delay and is appropriate and in proportion to the crime committed. The
Classical School claimed that even though people are hedonistic, they are also
very rational. Additionally, humans generally act on their own selfishness,
they are equally capable of judging and using the more appropriate approach in
a given situation. Thus, people are deemed by the Classical School as moral
beings with absolute freedom to choose between right and
wrong. Furthermore, the Classical School believes that when humans commit
a criminal act, the act is assumed to have been done of their own free will.
Therefore, this school of thought believes that people should be held or
adjudged accountable for their wrongful acts. Which the Classical School
declares that a balanced government should enforce punishments and laws that
allow people to properly evaluate their actions they can take in any given

       Ever since the creation of the Classical
School of Criminology by
Bentham and Beccaria, the
theory has had its strengths and weaknesses. The strengths this theory has are
that it has proven success in reducing crime rates and in providing a
deterrent and a way in which to successfully contain individuals who rebel
against the system. As well as the classical school shows criminals that they
cannot behave in certain ways in order to maximize their pleasure and minimize
pain if it involves breaking the law, it does this successfully because the
punishment that is given is more than that of the pleasure that they would
receive. Consequently, as rational thinkers, individuals contemplating criminal
behaviors would not do so due to the laws set in place to deter the behavior. Along with strengths the theory had its weaknesses, a major one was the idea that stemmed from Classical thinking
that all criminals are rational, but this is a hasty generalization to the
whole population.  Nor is it entirely a
valid idea, due to the fact that there may be biological factors stopping an
individual from being able to think and behave rationally. Thus it may not be
the particular choice of the individual as they may have been born that way.

      Although, they may not have the ability
to make a rational decision due to a mental illness such as schizophrenia. They
may be disorientated or possibly drugged which can affect the proper
functioning of their brains and therefore any behaviors. Which results in an
individual becoming irrational. Furthermore, if people act due to principles of
rationality and free will. If the idea was valid then fact that the poor are
the predominating population in the criminal justice system, classical thought
doesn’t include factors of necessity in order to survive. “The rich get richer
and the poor get prison” (Reiman & Leighton, 1979). The classical school of criminology has 3 main challenges
to it. Firstly; how to make such ideas serve the interests of justice and
equality when faced with a particular defendant in court. (Not all criminals
appear to be acting rationally and of free will) Secondly; that for criminal
justice bureaucracies such as the police, growing efficiency may not always be
compatible with an emphasis on equal justice, as their gain is to decrease
crime rates. Thirdly a power issue, the rationalization of the legal system
potentially means some reduction in their power, which may backfire in terms of
being a deterrent (White and Haines, 2004).

        Up until the 19th century, Classicist
ideas dominated the way in which people looked at crime. However, during the
late 19th century a new form of “scientific criminology” emerged, called
Positivism (Newburn, 2007). An
Italian criminologist by the name of Cesare Lombroso, later to be known as “The
Father of Modern Criminology”. Lombroso wrote The Criminal
Man, published in 1876, in which he claimed that the dead bodies of
criminals revealed that they were physically different than normal people.
Specifically, he claimed that criminals have abnormal dimensions of the skull
and jaw. Lombroso believed that criminals were born with these traits and did
not commit crimes according to free will, as the classical school of
criminology had suggested. He was the major
contributor to the Positivist School of Criminology, where Modern criminology
is based upon. The major basis for the Positivist school was that individuals were
born criminals, and not created into them. Within the theory they believed that
it was in the persons nature to commit the crime, instead of being nurtured. As
well as the did not believe the classical schools theory of that an individual
had the free will for their actions. Lombroso major contribution and set his legacy in stone when he
was the first man to pronounce the importance of testing the hypothesis in
experiments (Cullen, Agnew, , 2014). Which was the part of Positivist
school that made it different from the classical school of criminology.

     “Lombroso believed that some physical
features, such as the shape of one’s head or the placement of their cheekbones,
could predict a person’s propensity for criminal behavior. While modern
criminology does not judge people against physical features, it does take a
great deal of the Positivist theory into consideration” (UOC,2017). Lombroso’s
thinking clashed with that of classical thinking, saying that criminals were
born not made, and they are not rational as they reproduce thoughts similar to
that of inferior humanity. Positivists oppose the classical school of
thinking, by stating that the object of study is the offender, and that the
nature of the offender is driven by biological, psychological and pathological

      In the Positivist school of Criminology,
just like the Classical School it has its own strengths and weaknesses. The
strengths that the Positivist school has is that It focuses on the offender,
instead of the crime unlike classical that focuses on the crime and not the
offender. As well as the fact that it introduced scientific evidence to prove
the basis of why the offender committed the crime. Another strength of the Positivist
school was the creation of Biological Positivism because it has changed the way
of criminological ideas and opened up new theories that were
based on scientific facts rather than philosophical ideas like in Classicism.
It also highlighted the importance of looking into people’s genetic make-up as
research such as H.G Brunner’s’ research into the extra ‘Y’ chromosome which
led to the idea that genetic defects in a family can cause abnormal behaviors
and also the Twin and Adoptions studies that showed a correlation between
genetics and crime. In more modern approaches, researchers then started to look
more into the brain and biochemical factors such as brain dysfunctions and
imbalanced chemicals. Another success that Positivist school of thought had is that provided opportunity for
criminals to get help and be rehabilitated (Siegal,2010).

        “With the huge success, Lombroso was
joined by many critics, although his scientific investigations were notable and
extended to various searches and to the institution of criminal asylums, that
the illustrious thinker first proposed in Italy. His L’uomo delinquente is
a valuable array of social and scientific problems to which he tried to give an
answer, but this work was considered often a collection of texts and articles
published in a different time with a provision of heterogeneous elements and
frequent and inconsistencies repetitions. They were also criticized for the
lack of a uniform method of research, the failure to control the used sources,
and the poor material for an adequate comparison” (JLCJ,2015). Lombroso’s
theory of the physical features of a criminal was one of the other weaknesses
of the theory because his associations were later shown to be highly inconsistent or
inexistent, and Lombroso had not used a control group. Therefore, not having a
substantial nature to compare his results to. This became Lombroso’s biggest
flaw in his research and theory.

         In deciding which of the two schools
of Criminology has the most merit in defining criminal behavior. The school
that best can explain the behavior is the Positivist school because the focus
of the theory is on the criminal and not the crime. While Classical Criminology
focused on the crime which is why Positivist has more merit in explaining
behavior. But with today’s criminology It also does include parts of classical
school of criminology. So, it difficult to state that one of the two schools of
criminology have more merit. But based off the theories the Positivist school
would be my choice of the school with more merit.
















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F. T., Agnew, R., & Wilcox, P. (2014). Criminological theory: past
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Journal of Law and Criminal Justice. (2015,
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Newburn, T. (2007). Criminology.
Retrieved October 29, 2017.


Reiman, J. H., & Leighton, P. (1979). The
rich get richer and the poor get prison: ideology, class, and criminal justice.
Retrieved October 29, 2017.


Roufa, T. (2011). Criminology: What is
it? learn about the study of crime, its causes, and its consequences.
Retrieved from http://criminologycareers.about.com/od/Criminology_Basics/a/What-is-criminology.htm