Criminology

Criminology


What is Criminology? 
Sociology uses the terms deviance, deviant behavior, asocial behavior, antisocial behavior and many other terms, psychology uses the term abnormal behavior, while criminology uses terms: delinquency, criminal behavior, criminality, violent or sexual offense and many other terminologies specific to criminology. 




According to Donald Taft, Criminology may be divided into two branches:
1.     general
2.     specific
Criminology in a general sense is the study of crime and criminals.  In a specific sense it seeks to study criminal behavior its goal being to reform the criminal behavior or conduct of the individual which society condemns.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “Criminology is the scientific study of crime as a social phenomenon or of criminals and their behaviors and family conditions.”
Criminology can thus be said to be and academic discipline that employs scientific methodology to study crime, its major forms, its reasons for existence or causation and how the criminal justice system can respond to crime.  In its narrower sense, criminology looks at criminal behavior of individuals in society and how they come to be perceived as such i.e.their social, cultural and economic background.  In a wider sense, it looks at how the criminal is dealt with e.g. how he is punished and therefore includes penology.



Criminology as a subject therefore deals with:
·        Criminal acts;
·         The criminal;
·        It indirectly deals with the victim of  the crime;
·        Crime causation and theory;
·        Crime prevention and detection of potential offenders;
·        The efficacy of the criminal justice system.
Criminology borrows heavily from other sciences including biology (genetical make up of a criminal) psychology) (thinking process of a criminal mind), psychiatry (mental stability and inclination of a criminal), philosophy, general medicine etc.



Criminology is the study of crime, criminal behavior, and the criminal justice system. While this captures the essence of the discipline, there has been considerable debate about what constitutes criminal behavior and how it differs from other behaviors widely held to be socially deviant. This debate has produced five types of definitions of criminality: natural law explanations, moralistic explanations, labeling explanations, social harm explanations, and legalistic explanations.

The foremost pioneer of contemporary, and particularly American, criminology, Edwin Sutherland, offered what has proven to be a lasting definition, which is most often used to describe the field, in his seminal book Principles of Criminology (1939). According to Sutherland, criminology can be defined as follows:

[Criminology is] the body of knowledge regarding crime as a social phenomenon. It includes within its scope the processes of making laws, of breaking laws, and of reacting toward the breaking of laws. These processes are three aspects of a somewhat unified sequence of interactions.

 It is interesting to note that whereas criminology is typically considered the study of the causes and nature of crime, and is often contrasted with criminal justice, which is concerned with the response to the problem of crime, Sutherland’s famous definition clearly emphasized the significance of both. Consequently, criminology today is viewed somewhat dichotomously, with theoretical or sociological criminology denoting a focus on crime causation or the etiology of crime and applied criminology denoting work that is prevention, enforcement, or treatment oriented.




So, Criminology is the study of crime, its definitions, causes and consequences. It seeks to understand the functioning of the criminal justice system, our response to crime and the treatment of both victims and those defined as criminals.
George Wilber: He argued that anti-social behavior in society cannot be scientifically interpreted.  According to him, general propositions of universal validity are the essence of a science.  Such propositions can only be made regarding stable and homogenous units.  Crime is not a stable homogenous unit but varies from place to place and from time to time.  What may be regarded as a crime in one jurisdiction may not be a crime in another e.g. abortion, euthanasia, etc.

Max Weber: A German criminologist. He argued that criminology as a branch of sociology merely researches into components of human behavior without providing for solutions unlike normal sciences.  Thus by offering an analysis of criminal acts without punitive answers it merely exposes a situation without a solution and thus cannot be called a science. 
(What about penology which offers solutions, and arguments for rehabilitation and reintegration into society, decriminalization, which are advanced by criminologists, it is therefore not entirely true that criminology does not offer solutions in any case do all sciences offer punitive solutions).




Herman Manheim: He belongs to the school that argues that criminology is not a science as it has no techniques and methods of its own, and that it borrows heavily from others e.g. medicine, psychology etc.   He argues that so far criminology has developed no scientific methodology of its own; its techniques of research are on the whole identical with those used in other social sciences.

Ellenberger: In response to Manheim’s arguments; His response is that: - Even amongst the natural sciences there are some like botany and zoology which deal with the study of facts which are not strictly unique and individual and which do not deal with general phenomena.  Criminology is based on other social sciences just like medicine is based on anatomy, physiology, physics, chemistry etc.  Neither medicine nor criminology is purely theoretical.  They have a meaning which derives from their practical application.  The justification for medicine lies in the therapeutics and public health and that of criminology in penal reform, penology and prevention of crime.

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