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Classical and the Positivist Schools of Criminology

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Criminology is basically the study of crime as a social event, including the consequences, types, prevention, causes and punishment of crime, and criminal behavior, as well as the impact and development of laws. Criminology became popular during the 19th century as an aspect of social development wherein the public attempted to identify the character of misdemeanours and develop more valuable techniques of criminal treatment and deterrence. In view of that, several diverse schools of thought in criminology eventually emerged, including the two of the most popular and diverging schools of thought today, the positivist school that focuses on the actor, and the classical school that focuses on the offense. Classical School vs. Positivist School of Criminology

The Classical School of Criminology is premised on the theory that people have free will in formulating decisions, and that punishment is capable of deterring crime, so long as it is carried out without delay and is appropriate and in proportion to the crime committed. The Classical School claims that although people are pleasure-seeking, they are a very rational creature. Moreover, although humans generally act on their own selfishness, they are likewise capable of judging and using the more appropriate approach in a given situation. In other words, people are deemed by the Classical School as moral creatures with unqualified freedom to choose between right and wrong.

In addition, the Classical School believes that when humans commit a criminal act, the act is assumed to have been done of their own free will. Accordingly, this school of thought believes that people should be held or adjudged accountable for their wrongful acts. Nevertheless, the Classical School avers that a well-rounded government should enforce punishments and laws that allow people to properly assess the actions they can take in a given situation.

Positivist School of Criminology, on the other hand, takes a different position as it establishes rational independence for the quantification and measurement of criminal behaviour. This school of thought presumes that criminal behaviour is caused by social and psychological factors that make some individuals more inclined towards criminality than others. In other words, people are inherently good, but as a consequence of their background and environment, they eventually become socially bad. For that reason, the Positivist School discards the perspective of Classical School that all crimes resulted from a choice after careful assessment of the advantages and disadvantages.

In sum, Classical and Positivist Schools both share the same idea that criminal behaviour could be controlled and is a consequence of human nature that is innate in all people. The two schools believe that the most serious crimes can only be perpetrated by people who are atavistic or primitive, or people who failed to change into a civilized and fully human state. All the same, Positivists School is concerned with reforming the offenders by logically identifying and isolating the decisive causes of the individual offenders criminal behaviour, while Classical School centers on retribution by creating an environment wherein crime is based on human free will.

The Positivist School initially studies the natural origin of crime, followed by its legal and social outcomes in order to present, by legal and social means, the different remedies that have the utmost impact on the different causes that lead to the commission of a crime. In contrast, the interests of the Classical School with regard to the causes of criminal behaviour are on penology and justice, and ultimately through the idea that human is a devious creature.

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