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Classical and Positive School of Criminology

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The Classical School of Criminology and the Positive School of Criminology are two of the main theories that try and explain the behavior of delinquents. The Classical School of Criminology was developed in the late 1700s by Cesare Beccaria. Classical theorists were trying to decrease punishment and obtain equal justice for all.

"According to Beccaria and Jeremy Bantham, and English philospther, human nature is characterized by three central features: 1) People are not bound by original sin but have freedom of choice; 2) people are rational and are capable of using reason to govern their lives; and 3) people are motivated to pursue their own self-interests at the expense of others." (Empey pg. 113) They believed that people are reasonable and free and due to this in a democratic society people would refrain from crime and preserve the social order.

Classical theorists felt that people did not need to be killed for a serious crime. They felt like no person needed to be beheaded or disemboweled. They felt as though people would not commit crimes if the punishment was certain and swift.

In the 1800s the classical school was eroding due to the development of the Positive School of Criminology. Ironically this school was a product of Enlightenment philosophy much like the classical school. Classical theorists joined Enlightenment philosophers to change the Western legal systems of the 1700s, and the positive school reflected Enlightenment philosophers' emphasis on seeking knowledge and using it to accelerate human progress.

"Between the emergence of the classical school of criminology in the late 1700s and the emergence of the positive school in the late 1800s, there was a marked "shift in thinking that is of such magnitude that it can well be described as an intellectual revolution." (Empey pg. 114) Once juvenile court was finally established in the 1900s, other beliefs were dominating criminology:

* Empirical documentation. Postivists contended that, as in the natural and physical sciences, the application of reason to a prolem is not enough. Despite the plausibility of callsical theories, they could be false. If they could not be supported by empirical evidence, other theories must be sought. The job of criminologists was to formulate and test theories of crime and crime control.

* The doctrine of determinism. Postivists also argued that crime, like any other phenomenon, is determined by prior causes; it doesn't just happen. The emphasis of the classical school on reason and free will, they said, is too simplistic. People are not always free to do as they wish. Much, if not all, of their behavior is determined by biological, psychological, and social forces over which the have little personal control. Because certain laws govern the operation of theos forces, another job of criminologists was to discober the laws about crime.

* Value neutrality. Positvists argued, in addition, that there is a need to be neutral about societal values. Although politicians, citizens, and criminal justice officials had to be concerned with implementing policies that are consistent with prevailing values, criminologists ere to be concerned primarily with trying to understand why people violate the law and the effects of alternatibe crime control policies. This is not to say that criminologists couldn't espouse certain values in their roles as ordinary citizens. But as scientists, the were to confine themselves to "facts" based on objective evidence. (Empey pg. 114,115)

The positivist was suppose to individualize justice and eliminate delinquent behavior by identifying and eliminating its cause through prevention and rehabilitation.

The classical school states that people are motivated and will pursue their own interests at the expense of others. This shows that people are relatively selfish and will do anything for the benefit of themselves. Juveniles are especially very selfish. The positive school believes that crime and delinquency are biological-physical degeneracy, inherited genetic weaknesses, or defective intelligence. In the 20th century theorists believe that "delinquent behavior is caused by such factors as poverty, ignorance, discrimination, social disorganization, and delinquent subcultures." (Empey Pg. 115)

In classical theories there really is no hope for lowering the delinquency rates. Once again the classical school believes that:

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