Define and discuss the classical school of criminology? In particular, address the contributions of Beccaria and Bentham to the debate about punishment and the impact of these contributions in modern corrections?
Student Number: s2888608
Course Convenor: Dr John Rynne
Course Tutor: Lisa Thomsen
Due Date: 4th April 2014
Date Submitted: 4th April 2014
Criminological theories research and investigate a number of social and individual issues pertaining to the causes of crime, law and punishment. Classical criminology refers to a period of time known as the Enlightenment during the 18th century. The classical school was body of ideas with ...view middle of the document...
Another reform purpose was in regards to the use of torture to achieve confessions and the use of corporal and capital punishment (Cullen & Wilcox 2012). Torture was deemed a legitimate means to the extraction of confessions or to get names of accomplices to the crimes. It was permissible by law as long as there was partial proof against the offender.
From these early uses of torture and unfair treatment of offenders, the classical thinkers determined that the most effective deterrent fro criminal behaviours was to be swift and certain punishment (Cullen & Wilcox, 2010). Beccaria felt that the legislature ought to be allowed to write down and interpret the law, and judges were solely to ascertain if the law was broken through guilty or not guilty verdict, and then to pass sentence as expressed by the legislature (Beccaria, (1764) 2006).
The underlying philosophy of Beccaria’s position was that of free will. He maintained that behaviour is calculated and based on hedonism, (Beccaria, (1764) 2006) that human beings choose those actions that will give pleasure and avoid those that will bring pain. Therefore punishment should be assigned to each crime in a degree that will result in more pain than pleasure for those who commit forbidden acts. That is, the punishment should fit the crime. This hedonistic view of conduct implies that the laws must be clearly written and not open to interpretation by the judges. Beccaria’s impact on modern Western law is emphasised by Tannenbaum (1938):
“Our substantive legal code being structured upon a theory of punishing the unlawful behaviour. It postulates a free moral agent, confronted with a alternative between doing right and doing wrong, and selecting freely to do wrong” (p.4).
Jeremy Bentham was a utilitarian idealist, who also was a contemporary student of Beccaria. Bentham’s interests also followed in Beccaria’s thinking about capital and corporal punishment and treatment of offenders. Bentham examined crime and punishment from a different viewpoint, specifically through his view of the greatest happiness for the greatest number (Hyland, Gomez & Greensides, 2003). This view of utilitarianism considered each member of society was the equal; so therefore the happiness of one member is no different to the happiness of another member (Bentham, 2000). Bentham’s belief was that people acted rationally, and that if our chosen behaviour led to criminal behaviour then the punishment should match the crime committed (Bentham, 2000).
Classical criminology has significantly impacted modern corrections, by changing the views on the death penalty as well as corporal punishment, and treatment of prisoners. (Hyland, Gomez & Greensides, 2003). Imprisonment in the 18th century was restructured from being used as interim holding facility whilst prisoners were awaiting trial to being structured as the primary form of punishment (Bull, 2012). Beccaria and Bentham both proposed the notion of prisoners...