The study of crime has been in existence for many centuries but has only gained prominence in recent times. This can mostly be attributed to popularization by the media especially in the West. Psychologists and criminal profilers have been gathering valuable data pertaining to the reasons behind any criminal act and behavior. They have managed to do this by conducting interviews and studying infamous criminals such as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer among others. One of the most acceptable conclusion as regarding to this matter is that criminality is as a result of nurturing and personality. However, theorists have come up with various theories of crime that explore criminals as psychological misfits. This discussion shall set out to explore the various theories that try to explain crime. The factors that lead to criminality shall also be discussed and the measures that should be employed to mitigate crime highlighted. All this shall be done to help us gain better understanding of crime.
Study of crime
A criminal by definition refers to an individual who is driven by evil intentions that lead him/her into committing harmful deeds to others. A criminal mind is therefore the characteristics of the thought processes of such individuals. This implies that criminals have a special and unique thinking mechanism that facilitates their ability to commit and justify criminal acts. Various opinions are held regarding crime and the topic provokes ardent emotions of admiration and rage from its proponents and opponents respectively. Hough (2003), notes that while some appreciate the paradigm as being a rich form of psychoanalytic art, others condemn it for being socially problematic and for encouraging “heinous acts” among members of society.
Perhaps the common denominator in all forms of crime is the somewhat unnecessary infliction of pain to others. Watt, Howells and Delfabbro (2004), notes that it is the perception of crimes that makes them so appealing to rebels and people who view themselves as social misfits as they show that they can defy the set rules and laws. This to some extent explains why acts such as burglary and excessive violence are prevalent in today’s gang member, incarcerated people and rebellious teenagers.
Fisher (2006), states that crime requires planning and an evaluation of the risks and the benefits. The execution of any criminal act is hinged upon the occurrence of opportunities, the location and the availability of targets. However, the extent of the crime depends on the belief system of the perpetrator. This means that if a criminal believes that committing a crime is justified, then there is no limit to what they can do.
The study of crime has been propelled further by the introduction of forensic and behavioral sciences. These areas of study use evidence collected at crime scene to study the criminal’s mode of operation, their behaviors and their probability of escalating their crime levels. They are essential in the study of crime because the information collected can lead to the apprehension of criminals.
Biological and psychological explanations of crime
The biological criminal theory holds that criminal actions and behaviors are to a large extent determined by genetics. According to Fisher (2006), human behaviors may be inherited from one generation to another. The author further asserts that factors such as physical trauma, nutrition and DNA work together to nurture criminal behavior. The author claims that the effects of hormones and various environmental contaminants may lead a person into committing crime. As such, this theory argues that crime is an inborn trait. The fact that criminal behavior can be inherited means that people born with such traits are unique. Good examples of such individuals are the pathological lairs. According to Rodgers (1989), lying to these people comes naturally (is inborn) and in some cases, it is very hard even for forensic experts to differentiate between what is true and what is not.
In Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, the theorist asserts that all humans have underlying desires. As such, it is only through socialization that these urges can be controlled. Therefore, a person with poor social skills develops a personality disorder which forces him/her to exhibit antisocial tendencies. Those that bring out these tendencies become criminals while those who suppress them become neurotics. This theory is therefore a proponent to the fact that criminals are social misfits trying to compensate for their weaknesses. The sociological theory of crime purports that crime is as a result of sociological influences. Examples of criminals in this category include gang members, rapists and serial killers. Their acts of violence are triggered by their need to empower themselves in a society that constantly undermines them.
In addition, the interactionist theory asserts that an individual’s interaction with criminals may psychologically influence him/her to commit crime. The theory proposes that lack of self, control, peer pressure and lack of adequate social roles (unemployment) are some of the factors that contribute to criminal behaviors. According to Fisher (2006), lack of proper supervision may lead some people into associating with criminals. From these associations, individuals are influenced into committing crime and becoming notorious criminals. This theory proposes that a criminal mind can be acquired through an individual’s association with criminals. It assumes that from such interactions, an individual learns how to think, act and react to different situations like a criminal. Good examples of such criminals include pickpockets and conmen who learn the art of performing their crimes without being detected. They are not crimes that anyone can commit and they require a lot of skills and intelligence to identify the “mark” and pull off.
Despite all these, there are some criminals that are indeed unique. These types of criminals are mentally disturbed or have psychological disorders. As such, their criminal acts are not motivated by social, material or emotional needs but by their unconscious selves (Fisher, 2006). Psychological disorders such as split/multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia and insanity may lead an individual into committing crime even without their knowledge. Their urge to commit crime is suppressed in their subconscious and reveals itself without any warning or reservations.
The criminal justice system
The classical theory of crime assumes that criminal acts are as a result of an individual’s free will. The theory assumes that humans are rational beings with a clear understanding of the consequences that may arise from any decision that they make (payne & Salotti, 2007). This theory shows that everybody has the potential to commit crime if need be. As such, there needs to be set rules and laws that prevent people from committing crimes.
The survival of any civilization hinges on the establishment of laws, codes of conduct and the subsequent obeying of the same by the society’s members. Due to the fact that not all members of the society are going to follow the law on their own accord, forms of punishment for wrongs done may be used both for retribution and deterrence purposes. The organization of a Criminal Justice System is of immerse importance in ensuring that law and order is maintained in a given setting (Albanese, 2006).
In their efforts, governments may have to contend with incidences such robberies, disorderliness and civil disobedience to name but a few. Criminal justice systems present a means by which these issues may be dealt with. Criminal justice systems are charged with preserving the harmony of a society through the apprehension of criminals and inhibition of crimes. Arguably the most important role played by criminal justice system is deterrence. This is because the most desirable function of punishments should be to deter wrong doers thus leading to a harmonious society. Gaines and Miller (2006) contend that it is this deterrence factor that acted as the primary justification for public executions carried out in the 1800s.
To fulfill this noble task of maintaining the peace of a society, the criminal justice system makes use of a number of sub-systems (Conklin, 2007). This is in an effort to establish social control by fighting crime and administering penalties and rehabilitation efforts to those that are in violation of the set rules and laws. The most visible of the agents employed by the criminal justice system are police officers who are charged with enforcement of the criminal laws and prevention of crime in their respective jurisdictions (Cole & Smith, 2006). Another integral part is the court systems which play a vital role by administering justice. Courts are charged with ensuring that the criminal justice process runs its course from the arrest stage through to the sentencing. As has been proposed, the aim of the criminal justice system should be to deter crime. If this fails, correctional services act as best front from which criminals can be rehabilitated.
The study of crime has been instrumental in analyzing the factors that make people commit crime, why they do it and the probability of committing them again. Various theories on crime have been highlighted and discussed. As such, the role that the findings play in minimizing crime cannot be understated. However, criminal justice systems are a necessary aspect for the administrative component of a country to function efficiently. From the arguments presented herein, it is clear that criminal justice not only serves as a deterrence to the breaking down of the social fabric but it also gives a second lease of life to people who would otherwise be deemed as outcasts through various rehabilitation efforts. While it may be contended that an ideal society is one where people coexist in harmony thereby rendering punishments redundant, the realities of every day demonstrate the fact that the human race is far from achieving this utopia. A well organized criminal justice system is therefore a relevant tool and serves a significant role in the administration of the society. An understanding of these aspects of crime are beneficial because they help me understand the criminal mind in terms of the factors that trigger or deter it. With such knowledge, it is easier to teach other people on how to analyze various components of crime.
Albanese, S. (2006). Professional Ethics in Criminal Justice. Boston: Pearson, Allyn and Bacon.
Cole, G. F. & Smith, C. E. (2006). The American System of Criminal Justice. USA : Cengage Learning.
Conklin, J. E. (2007). Criminology. Boston: Pearson, Allyn and Bacon.
Fisher, B.S. (2006). Crime Prevention. Journal of Security Education, 2(1), 103 – 111.
Gaines, L. K. & Miller, R. L. (2006) Criminal Justice in Action. USA: Cengage Learning.
Hough, M. (2003). Modernization and public opinion: Some criminal justice paradoxes. Contemporary Politics, 9(2), 143 – 155.
Payne, A.A., & Salotti, S. (2007). A Comparative Analysis of Social Learning and Social Control Theories in the Prediction of College Crime. Deviant Behavior, 28(6), 553 – 573.
Watt, B., Howells, K., & Delfabbro, P. (2004). Juvenile Recidivism: Criminal Propensity, Social Control and Social Learning Theories. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 11(1), 141 – 153.