Critically assess the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Classical School of Criminology

Critically assess the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Classical School of Criminology

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The man credited with the birth of the classical school was Cesaer Beccaria (1738-1794), who emerged during the enlightenment period of the eighteenth century. Some argue that criminology as an independent discipline only emerged about 60 – 70 years ago (Garland 2002), and whilst not concerned with studying criminals per se in the same way that we most associate with criminology today, the classical school was hugely influential in the formation of Criminal Justice System as we know it today. Farner (cited in Taylor et al 1973) a nineteenth century commentator on Beccaria asserts :
“Whatever improvement our penal laws have undergone in the last hundred years is due primarily to Beccaria, and, to an extent that has not always been recognised. Lord Mansfield is said never to have mentioned his name without a sign of respect. Romilly referred to him in the very first speech he delivered in the House of Commons on the subject of law reform. And there is no English writer of that day who, in treating of the criminal law, does not refer to Beccaria”
The classical school is not concerned with why criminals are criminals, but seeks to reduce crime by using punishment as a means of deterrent, on the basis that individuals will choose to exercise their own free will and will employ rational decision making. By contrast, Ceasare Lombrosso (1835 – 1909) and the positivist school dismissed such ideas and theorised that criminality is a personality trait that one is born with and can be diagnosed by certain physical appearances, and is thus a more scientific method of establishing the reasons for criminal behaviour. However, this essay will concentrate on the strengths and weaknesses of the classical school.
Although Beccaria b...


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... punishment even if they were aware of its existence.
Statistics show that between 1993 and 1998 the average number of people in prison rose from 44,566 to 65,298, an increase of over 46%, and the Halliday report Making Punishments Work (Appendix 6, p130) published by the Home Office in 2001 estimated that the average offender carried out 140 offences per year . (Source: Civitas) This would surely indicate that the threat of punishment, even when considered by a rational, mentally capable person (we can assume that those in mainstream prison have been assessed as being mentally capable), exercising his own free will, is not sufficient to act as a deterrent?
As a recent blog on the web page of London Assembly member James Cleverly put it - “the central problem in British Justice is that we have no cemented view of what our underlying theory of punishment is”

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