Crimes have accompanied mankind since earliest stages of its development. In most general terms, crime is an act of breaking criminal law. Despite the fact that such an easy definition exists, lots of other definitions of crime were developed in terms of criminal legislation of different countries, theory of criminal law and criminology. Criminal legislation of countries all over the world is based on diverse understandings of both crime and punishment. It is also worth mentioning that almost all definitions of crime stem from in-depth studies of essence of crime and its manifestations by theoreticians and practitioners of criminal law and justice, sociologists, psychologists, philosophers and representatives of schools of interdisciplinary studies.
Furthermore, according to D.Garland and R.Sparks (2000), criminology is located in three different worlds –the world of academia (in terms of social science and profound scholarly research), the world of government, which creates policies to combat crime and the world of culture (mostly, mass media) (6). In the following research paper we would like to address not just most important and well-grounded concepts of crime and policies, designed by scholars, but also the aspect related to working out and implementing policies, based on particular theories of crime.
Theories of crime
As it was already mentioned, lots of theories were developed to clarify the nature of criminal behaviour. However, vast majority of existing theories concentrate either on the personality of an offender and its thorough consideration or studying environmental conditions, relating to the circumstances, which surround committing the crime. The extreme points of the theories vary from the theory of rational choice, according to which the person himself or herself chooses committing a crime to admitting person’s total dependence on outer circumstances. Nonetheless, despite alleged easiness of viewing the nature of crimes, lots of approaches were used by scientists to explain individual criminal behavior.
One of oldest approaches is the one, based on biological features of criminals. Before starting, it is worth mentioning that contemporary criminology and natural sciences contain enough evidence to underpin basic arguments of existing biology-based approaches. Having rejected the approaches, which allowed using biological explanations to legitimize inhumane and degrading treatment, modern scientists have agreed on several basic suggestions regarding the link between biology and criminology. According to I.Marsh (2006), main statement in this respect is that the brain, which is made of separate interacting systems, is the cause of modular mind. (19) So, the way the person behaves is most often predetermined by the processes in his/her mind, which are, by-turn, dependent on biological processes, which take place within the brain. Another useful suggestion in terms of biological approach lies in underlining the necessity to consider the crime in its evolution as particularly consideration of evolution of an object or process can help us get deeper understanding of its nature and essence.
Psychologically-based criminological theories tend to explain criminal behavior with the help of researching into offender’s personality with a special emphasis on such factors as negative early childhood experiences, socialization-related problems and the development of patterns of criminal behavior through deviancy. Existing psychological theories of crime have concentrated on several issues. One of most important focuses was failures in psychological development, which can be called forth by a wide variety of factors, including lack of moral development, inability to understand basic moral and ethical values and inner conflicts. Author of psychoanalytic theory Z.Freud explained criminal behavior with the help of addressing childhood developments of an offender, which predetermine his/her future behavior and the interrelation between behavior and unconscious motives of a person. In short, psychoanalysis states that criminality results from an inner conflicts, whose roots can be found in existing contradictions between the way a person acts (or should act) and unconscious motives of his/her behavior. Secondly, psychological theories dedicate significant attention to researching into causation and nature of aggression and violence. This focus is strongly interconnected with the first one. For instance, in their study “Human aggression” R.Baron and D.Richardson (2004) stated that to understand the nature of human’s aggression it is necessary to research into acquisition of aggressive behavior, which involves such factors as family interactions of an offender, family management practices, models of family influences, peer interaction and the impact of witnessed aggression (87-103). The third important research issue is connected with separating specific traits of criminals’ personalities. Other issues include observing the interrelation of criminality and psychiatric disorders and considering criminality from the point of view of behavioral theories.
Most important behavioral theories of crime include social learning theories and cognitive development theory. Social learning theories are based on the claim, according to which a person learns some kind of behavior if it is reinforced and does not learn it in case it is not reinforced. So, adherents of social learning theories state that people learn the patterns of criminal behavior in process of communication. To be more precise, people tend to learn from the representatives of small intimate personal groups, to which they themselves belong. When communicating within such kind of group, a person is likely to come to the conclusion, that definitions of legal code are either favourable or unfavourable. In other words, experience of other members of the group can make the person start considering criminal ways of reaching goals acceptable.
According to cognitive development theories, criminal offenders tend to fail to develop their moral values and moral judgment capacity to conventional or post-conventional level. These theories recognize three basic levels of human’s moral views’ development. At the first (pre-conventional) stage of morality’s development a person has no perceptions of either unlawfulness or immorality of his/her deeds. At the conventional stage a person refrains from committing a crime due to his/her understanding of its being unlawful. At the post-conventional stage a person feels inner incapability of committing a crime as he/she understands incompliance of such a conduct with existing moral and ethical rules. Cognitive development theories are strongly connected with social learning theories as most of theoreticians claim that a person learns morality from the people he/she communicates with. In other words, in case a person communicates with people, who did not develop their morality beyond pre-conventional level, it is evident that he/she will learn patterns of criminal behavior rather than norms of morality.
According to S.Hester and P.Eglin (1992), sociologists locate the difference between a criminal and a usual person within social environment the person is exposed to (6). For instance, representatives of Chicago school of sociology claimed that the roots of criminality lie in social disorganization or social pathology, which is typical for big cities. The core manifestation of disorganization is connected with weakening of social bonds and person’s being face-to-face with the city and feeling its overwhelming pressure. Sociological theories often concentrate on the concept of anomie, which is applied to address the gap between an individual and his/her community, which can get the form of individual’s behavior not being governed by any particular rules. According to F.Adler and W. Laufer (1999), anomie also includes devaluation of noneconomic societal functions and roles, including education, which is regarded just as means to achieve career-related goals (171)
Another sociological theory of crime, related to Chicago school of sociology deals with subcultural aspect. According to subcultural theory of crime, particular groups or subcultures within society have a set of rules, values and attitudes, capable of promoting delinquency of its members. Subcultural theory (or the theory of symbolic interactions) is strongly interconnected with social learning and cognitive development theories. It is most often applicable to explaining causation of juvenile delinquency.
Policies, aimed at combating crime
Existence of different concepts of causation of crime called forth diversity of policies, employed by governments to combat criminality in general and different types of crimes in particular (e.g., organized crime, hate crime, youth delinquency etc.) The development of such policies can be best of all traced by the example of evolution of goals and functions of punishment. Originally, punishment was viewed as a kind of deserved requital for a person, who committed a crime. Nowadays punishment serves for re-education and resocialization of an offender , at the same time being viewed as a means of preventing both an offender and other people from committing crimes.
Furthermore, each of approaches of crimes’ causation resulted in implementing particularly targeted measures into governmental complex programs on combating crimes. For instance, the developments in psychoanalytic approach resulted in emphasizing the need for introducing family counseling programs. Both long-term and short-term counseling programs allow family members to improve relationships within the family, identify and combat the cases of domestic violence, help children avoid traumatic experiences by employing different methods of influencing their parents etc. In other words, family-based crime prevention can address a variety of risk factors related to possible crimes both in terms of the family and outside it by providing family members with emotional, informational and educational support. Advocates of psychoanalytical approach to considering criminality stress the need to introduce elements of treatment models to crime prevention strategies and strategies for resocialization of offenders. These treatment models include individual and group therapy, along with guided group therapy. Social learning and cognitive development theories resulted in working out specific prevention strategies, which focus on involving former gang members and those at-risk into such circle of communication, which will help them develop moral and ethical values. It is worth mentioning that most often governmental policies, designed to prevent combat criminality, do not apply single method to reach their goals and objectives. Prioritizing, targeting and applying variety of methods are peculiar for such kind of governmental programs and strategies.
Concentrating on specific crimes (e.g., crimes, involving fire-arms, organized crime, smuggling in goods, drugs or illegal immigrants, white collar crime, gender violence, domestic violence, crimes, committed by young delinquents etc.) lets us focus on applying specific methods, which is more effective than applying general methods to highly specific problems. Furthermore, general methods are often inapplicable in this regard as preventing and combating particular crimes my require amending existing legislation (e.g., immigration rules or rules related to banking and conducting financial operations) or improving institutional infrastructure of implementing these rules.
Since early developments of mankind, crimes have been studied in terms of different sciences. Different approaches to understanding the essence and causation of crimes were worked out in terms of biology, psychology and sociology. Difference in theoretical approaches to criminality resulted in working out diverse methods of preventing and combating crimes. Despite wide availability and applicability of methods of preventing and combating crimes, which stem directly from crimes’ causation theories, modern strategies on crimes’ prevention an combating concentrate on employing more specific methods to specific types of crimes.
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