Criminals come from all walks of life. Some are wealthy business owners while others are poverty-stricken and homeless. Some are 60 years old while others are 16. What makes people decide to become a criminal? Why does one person who gets arrested and faces punishment learn from the mistake and does nothing illegal again while others become prison regulars? Criminological theory seeks to answer these questions in an effort to mold societal influence and implement programs to deter people from committing crimes. One such theory is the classical theory. Even though some believe that crime is based mainly on social influencers like in the differential association theory, the classical theory is more accurate because it suggests that each person makes the choice to commit a crime based on risk versus reward and because most intentional criminal acts pay some sort of benefit, rarely are they seen as not profitable.
Cesare Beccaria, a seventeenth century theologian developed the classical theory in 1764 (Cesare Beccaria , 2014). He published an anonymous essay titled On Crimes and Punishment. In the essay, he wrote about criminal justice and ways to make the justice system better. His essay was critical of the Italian government and he feared retribution from the government so he first published the essay as an anonymous writer. The essay was the first of its kind and took a utilitarian sociological and ethical view of the justice system (Cavalier, 2002). The essay asked for the state to define specific punishments for crimes. There was no system in place for the severity of the crime to be taken into account. Cutting off someone’s hand for stealing an apple for instance is an extreme reac...
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...pe was transitioning from monarchies to democracies. The school evolved and sought to make the rigid classical theory more flexible to empower governing bodies to be more flexible in considering the circumstances of the crime itself. Circumstances such as severity and impact should not be the only metric a judiciary body uses to convict criminals.
The classical theory begins with free will. People have the will to choose what they want to do. People understand that they have the ability to commit a crime because they are empowered with the free will to choose for themselves (Adams, 2009). Free will is the theory that someone will not try to stop another person from committing a crime. With regard to personal security, people cannot stop the occurrence of all crime because they cannot infringe on the rights of the person that has not yet committed a crime.
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