Cesare Bonesana, Marchese di Beccaria (Marquis of Beccaria), the pioneer of
of Criminology was born in Milan, Italy on March 15,
1738. At the age of 26, he penned Dei delitti e delle pene
- On Crimes and Punishments, a treatise which was considered as
the pioneering work in penology. This was the only major work
produced by Beccaria, yet, it propelled penology and penal
reform into great heights and it was celebrated as the first
complete text on penology.
In Dei delitti e delle pene he argued a reform of
both criminal law and penal practices and voiced rational
principles. In this treatise Beccaria also presented his
arguments against capital punishment. The major principles that
guided Beccaria in his work were: the principle of social
contract and the principle of free will.
Dei delitti e delle pene was in many ways an
amalgamation of ideas and it was influenced by Montesquieu,
Voltaire and Rousseau. Beccaria believed in the concept of the
social contract which was influenced philosophers and
intellectuals at the time. He argued laws should be used to
maintain the social contract and the laws should be created only
Beccaria believed in the principle of free will. As the
accepted the free will principle based on the pleasure-pain
hedonistic purposive behaviour, similar to Bentham’s
Calculus. Under this principle laws must be
clearly elucidated and written and not open to free
interpretations of the judges and the jurists.
He argued the laws should be applied equally to all the people
and punishment should be based on the act not on actor. While
considering penal reforms, Beccaria argued punishment should be
prompt and effective and capital punishment should be abolished.
He believed in punishment as a deterrent yet argued against
severe punishment . Beccaria disagreed the use of torture to
gain confessions and supported the idea that punishment should
be determined by the crime. Prevention of crime is more
important to him than the punishment, and appropriate, swift,
and inevitable punishment is the key deterrence than the
classical school influenced legal systems in many parts of the
world and the idea of a blind scale of justice may be traced
back to Beccaria’s idea of impartial and equal law and justice.
Despite the weakness in his ideas in criminological and
penological thoughts which were also the weakness of
of criminology, Cesare Beccaria’s venture into the
criminal law reform was great and trailblazing.
Beccaria's work Dei delitti e delle pene -
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(1738 - 1764)