Chapter 2 - The Search for the "Criminal Man"

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Chapter 2 - The Search for the "Criminal Man"

• Search for explanation of criminal beh is not easy b/c we constantly must guard against our biases, mistaken perceptions & prejudices.

• Theories do influence the policies & practices found in cjs. Explanations of crime, whether they are created by the public or by professional criminologists, are influenced by the social context from which they come.

• The social context will consist of perceptions & interpretations of the past as well as the present. • Bennett - Crimewarps → the bends in today's trends that will affect the way we live tomorrow.

Crimewarps represent a set of major social transformations.

• 6 warps. Ex: "the new criminal" - today's traditional criminal is a poor, under-educated, young male. Bennett argued that traditional criminals will be displaced by older, more upscale offenders → more women involved in white-collar crimes.

• Early theories of crime tended to locate the cause of crime not in demographic shifts but rather individuals - in their souls (spiritualism/demonology), their wills (classical school) or their bodily constitutions (positivist school).


• Stressed the conflict b/w absolute good & absolute evil. People who committed crimes → possessed by evil spirits → sinful demons.

• Middle Ages in Europe - spiritualistic explanations has become well organized & connected to the political & social structure of feudalism.

• Originally, crime was a private matter b/w the victim (or the family of the victim) & the offender. This means of responding to offenses had a tendency to create long blood feuds that could destroy entire families.

• Prob of justice → guilty offender w/ a strong family might never be punished.

• Avoid these probs → other methods were constructed for dealing w/ those accused of committing crimes.

i) Trial by battle - permitted the victim or some family member to fight the offender. Believed that victory would go to the innocent if he/she believed in & trusted God. Great warriors continued engaging in crim beh.

ii)Trial by ordeal - determined guilt or innocence by subjecting the accused to life-threatening & painful situations. Ex: piling stones on top of indiv. Innocent → God would keep them from being crushed.

iii) Compurgation - determining guilt or innocence based on spiritualism. Allowed the accused to have reputable people swear an oath that he/she was innocent. Based on the belief that no one would lie under the oath for fear of God's punishment.


• Major prob w/ spiritualistic explanations - can't be tested scientifically. Modern theories of crimes & social order rely on explanations that are based on the physical world → Natural explanations. • Naturalistic theories & spiritualistic explans have in common their origin in the ancient world. • Naturalistic theories → Greeks → search for knowledge philosophically divided the world into a

dualistic reality of mind & matter. This form of thinking still is prevalent in the Western World → explans of human behaviour to either passion or reason.

The Classical School: Criminal as Calculator

• Emphasis on the individual criminal as a person who is capable of calculating what he/she wants to do. This idea was supported by a philosophy that held that humans had free will & that behaviour was guided by hedonism.

• Individuals were guided by a pain & pleasure principle by which they calculated the risks & rewards involved in their actions.

• Punishment should be suited to the offence, not to the social or physical characteristics of the criminal → U.S' basic tenets - people should be given equal treatment before the law. People should not be punished/rewarded just b/c they happen to have the right names or be from powerful families.

Cesare Beccaria - pulled together many of the most powerful 18th century ideas of democratic liberalism & connected them to issues of criminal justice.

• Wrote book entitled On Crimes and Punishment. Published anonymously due to fear of persecution from the monarchy. The social context of Beccaria’s life played a major role in his thinking.

Beccaria's argument:

1. To escape war and chaos, individuals gave up some of their liberty and established a contractual society

2. Because criminal laws placed restrictions on individual freedoms, they should be restricted in scope 3. The presumption of innocence should be the guiding principle in the administration of justice

4. The complete criminal law code should be written and should define all offenses and punishments in advance

5. Punishment should be based on retributive reasoning because the guilty had attacked another individual’s rights


6. The severity of the punishment should be limited and should not go beyond what is necessary for crime prevention and deterrence

7. Criminal punishment should correspond with the seriousness of the crime, the punishment should fit the crime, not the criminal

8. Punishment must be a certainty and should be inflicted quickly

9. Punishment should not be administered to set an example and should not be concerned with reforming the offender

10. The offender should be viewed as an independent and reasonable person who weighed the consequences of the crime

11. The aim for every good system of legislation was the prevention of the crime.

Jeremy Bentham - punishment should be a deterrent & behavior is the result of free will and hedonistic calculus.

John Howard - credited with having influenced the passage of England’s Penitentiary Act of 1779 → addressed prison reform.

The Influence of the Early Scholars

• Their ideas inspired revolutions and the creation of entirely new legal codes.

• The French Revolution of 1789 and the U.S. Constitution each was influenced by the Classical School.

• Still see calls for the law to be impartial and specific, for punishment to be for crimes instead of criminals, and the belief that all citizens should be treated fairly and equally

Problems w/ the Classical School: By the 1820s, crime was still flourishing & the argument that bad laws made bad people was being questioned seriously. Argument that all crim behav could be

explained by hedonism was weakening as the imp of aggravating & mitigating circumstances increased.

• Also the new laws didn't provide for the separate treatment of children.

• The rather uncomplicated view of the rational man did not fully answer the question of what caused crime

• What caused crime remained a troubling ques → search for the "criminal man" with emphasis given to action being determined instead of being the result of free will → positivist school of crim.



• Argued that certain offenders such a minors or those with mental health issues had to be treated leniently because these persons were incapable of fully appreciating the difference between right and wrong.

• Basic assumption: man acting on reason and intelligence is responsible for his/her conduct. Those w/ mental health issues or lacking in normal intelligence should not be held equally accountable. • Rejected the notion of free will

• Focused on socialization, genetics, economic conditions, etc. • Not all persons were completely responsible for their actions

The Legacy of the Classical School

• Many of the ideas championed by Beccaria in such rights as freedom from cruel and unusual

punishment, the right to a speedy trial, and equality under law, are contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United States’ Bill of Rights.

The Positivist School: Criminal as Determined

• Classical School- assumes everyone is a rational actor and acts upon free will

• Positivist School- assumes crime is determined, individuals are determined to be criminals based upon factors outside of their control.

• Positivistic criminologists were more concerned with discovering the biological, psychological, or social determinants of criminal behavior than with the classical concerns of legal and penal reforms (looking at causes of crim behav).

• Positivists - crime was caused by features within the indiv. Emphasized the mind & the body of the criminal (to some extent neglecting social factors external to the indiv).

Lec: Diff b/w classical & positivist schools

• Positivists were critical of people who came up w/ philosophical ideas about crime

• Positivists were informed about the Enlightenment Era & the push to the scientific method • Positivism – 1st school to apply scientific methods to the study of crime; started collecting data.

Classical theorists: philosophers Positivist theorists: lawyers, doctors

POSITIVISM: Biological branch (biological features); psychological branch (psychology, IQ); sociological positivist research (sociological issues such as environmental and familial factors) • Positivism influenced by Darwinism – humanity is progressing towards a higher state

• Darwin’s racist/sexist assumption: White more evolved than Black; Western vs Eastern; Men vs Women

• No room for ‘equal but different’; if you were different, you were either higher or lower on the evolutionary scale.


The Birth of the Positivist School: Lombroso's theory of the Criminal Man

• The modern search for multiple factor explanations of crime usually is attributed to Cesare Lombroso, the “father of modern criminology”.

• A “slave to facts”

• For Lombroso, the objective search for explaining human behavior meant disagreement with free will and philosophy.

• Argued that born criminals could be identified through physical defects (biology)

• Focus on The Criminal rather than on The Crime (focusing on the individual, not the act)

• Advocated that the punishment should be proportionate to the dangerousness of the criminal (ex: being more merciful to those who committed crimes in a fit of passion rather than to those who commit multiple crimes)

• Wanted to put an end to poverty, illness, etc…; promoted scientific solutions

Social context: upheaval in his city  larger slums, more crimes. Science being a mechanism for civil progress and emancipation

• Developed his interest in biological explanations when he was an army physician. Developed the idea that diseases contributed to mental & physical deficiencies which may result in violence & homicide. • Measured 3,000 soldiers to document physical differences → role of tattooing as a distinguishing

characteristic of criminals.

• Argued that criminals were biologically different from the rest of society • Criminals were more primitive than the rest of civilized society.

On Criminal Man

• Lombroso started to publish his research on the idea that biology could explain criminal behavior. • By 1876, Lombroso published his findings in On Criminal Man, which contained not only a

biological focus but an evolutionary one as well.

Lombroso’s Central Tenet

• Criminals represent a peculiar physical type distinctively different from that of non-criminals

• Criminals represent a form of degeneracy that was manifested in physical characteristics reflective of earlier forms of evolution.


• Big ears, sloping foreheads, long arms, receding chins, twisted noses - phys characs of criminals. Lombroso's 4 major categories of criminals:

Born criminals: People with atavistic characteristics

Insane criminals: Idiots, imbeciles, paranoiacs, epileptics, and alcoholics • Occasional criminals/criminaloids: Explained by opportunity

Criminals of passion: Commit crime because of anger, love, or honor and are characterized by being propelled to crime by an irresistible force.

• However, there was little support for this original theories. Other Biological Explanations

Kaspar Lavater: Claimed that there was a relationship b/w facial features & behaviour.

Franz Joseph Gall: Argued that the shape of an individual's head could explain his or her personal characteristics, also known as phrenology.

Lombroso's Contribution

• Multiple-factor explanation of crime that included not only heredity but also social, cultural & economic variables.

• Credited with pushing the study of crime away from abstract meta-physical, legal, and juristic explanations as the basis of penology “to a scientific study of the criminal and the conditions under which he commits crime”

• Paradigm Shifter → Took the topic of the causes of crime away from sin and placed it in the realm of science

The Continuing Search for the Individual Roots of Crime

William Sheldon - Shifted attention away from adults to delinquent male youths. Studied 200 males b/w 15 & 21 years of age in an effort to link physiques to temperament, intelligence & delinquency. • By relying on intense physical & psychological examinations → produced an Index to Delinquency

→ used to give a quick & easy profile of each male's problems

• A score of 10 was the most severe and required institutionalization. 7 - borderline. • Classified physiques into 3 categories:


i. Endomorphy: Soft and fat

ii. Mesomorphy:Muscular and athletic iii. Ectomorphy:Skinny and flat

• Body type dictating how likely you will engage in criminal behaviour • Believed that mesomorphs are most likely to engage in criminal behaviour

• Sheldon concluded that b/c youths came from parents who were delinquent in very much the same way that the boys were delinquent, the factors that produce delinquency were inherited.

Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck

• A comparative study of male delinquents and non-delinquents.

• As a group, the delinquents were found to have narrower faces, wider chests, larger and broader waists, and bigger forearms and upper arms.

• Most delinquents were mesomorphic (≈ 60%)

• These findings neglected the importance of sociological phenomena.

• Unclear whether Glueck's mesomorphs were delinquents b/c of their builds & dispositions or b/c their physiques & dispositions are conceived socially as being associated w/ delinquency. This could create expectations about illegal activities that males might feel pressured to perform.

• They found that people have inherited biases on appearances.

Conclusion: Individuals were more likely to define an unattractive individual as a dangerous offender rather than an attractive one.

Psychogenic Causes of Crime

• The psychogenic school seeks to explain crime by focusing attention on the personality and how it was produced. Analysis is dynamic rather than constitutional.

• This school of thought developed along 2 distinct lines: 1 stressing psychoanalysis & the other stressing personality traits.

Psychoanalysis & Freud - all behaviour is motivated & purposive. But not all desires & behaviour are socially acceptable, so they must be repressed into the unconsciousness of the mind for the sake of morality & social order. The result is that tensions exist b/w the unconscious id (reservoir for aggressive biological & psyc urges) & the conscious ego which controls & molds the indiv.

• Superego- force of self-criticism that reflects the basic behavioural requirements of a particular culture.  crime is a symbolic expression of inner tensions that each person has but fails to control.


Personality Traits

• The search for personality traits was started by attempting to explain mental faculties biologically • Feeblemindedness, insanity, stupidity, and dull-wittedness were thought to be inherited.

The Jukes by Richard Dugdale:

- His role was to inspect county jails and realized that many inmates were blood related - Study to find out how many members of the Juke family were incarcerated

- Traced their family history and found a lot of them were in prison

- Used this idea to claim that there was something hereditary about criminal behaviour - Family involved in crime b/c its members suffered from degenracy & innate depravity. • The Kallikak Family - family-based mental deficiencies by heredity.

- Goddard was a psychologist who examined the descendants of a man who fathered children from two different women

- 1 woman was a feebleminded barmaid, the other a respectable woman - Concluded that feeblemindedness was inherited as a cause of criminality.

- Argued that breeding should be controlled b/c he found characteristics related to criminality in the barmaid’s children

- Ignored social environmental factors of both women.

• These kinds of studies have influenced and fuelled policies at the time.

IQ - Alfred Binet 1st pursued intelligence testing in laboratory settings & later applied his findings in an effort the solve the problem of retardation in Paris's schools.

• With Theodore Simon, Binet revised his IQ tests and concluded that individuals should have a mental age that could be identified w/ an intelligence quotient or IQ score.

• Through the administration of the IQ test, Goddard concluded that most inmates (29%-89%) were feebleminded.

• U.S Army used this method to determine who was fit for military service in WWI. Eugenics Movement


• The study of eugenics claimed that inheritance could explain the presence of simple and complex human behavioral characteristics.

• It reinforced ideas of biological determinism.

• B/w 1911-1930, more than 30 states established laws requiring sterilization for behavioral traits thought to be determined genetically.

• Advocated for laws permitting psychosurgeries, including the frontal lobotomy.

• Supported the practices of sterilization and psychosurgery. The real reason for sterilization was not feeblemindedness, but rather class.

The Positivist School and Criminal Justice Reform

• The positivist school helped usher in an approach to policy that was reformative rather than punitive. • Lombroso argued for probation, juvenile reformatories & other intermediate punishments that would

keep less dangerous offenders out of ordinary prisons.

• As biologically oriented theories began to diminish, new approaches argued that the troubles of criminals could be rectified through counseling or by fixing the social environments. Drew from sociology and psychology.

• Reformers, called Progressives, argued that the system should be arranged not to punish offenders but rather to rehabilitate them.

Efforts taken: More indeterminate sentencing, Parole boards, Probation implemented widely, Individual treatment of offenders, Establishment of a separate juvenile court system.

• Controversy still exists today on whether the policies instituted in the name of rehabilitation made cjs more humane or repressive.

• Some believe that discretion given to cjs officials allowed offenders to be abused. • Broad general problems b/w psychological and biological perspectives:

- Not sufficient attention to social and environmental factors - Ignore how social relations affect criminal behaviour

- Theories view criminals as biologically inferior, not biologically different

- These have given rise to discriminatory practices against those who were deemed biologically inferior (Ex: Eugenics movement, genocides, Canadian Aboriginals murdered, etc…)


- Poor & non-white individuals labeled as inferior (emerged in places like the US and Europe by white individuals – reinforce white dominance & privilege)




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