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Criminology is still yearning for an identity, despite its historic development through various schools. The early development of criminological schools entwined with penology, rather than the scientific development of criminological thought, criminological schools began as a humanitarian attempt to reform criminal law. In this section, only the major schools of criminology are presented. Minor schools are presented in a different article.
Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham were the two influential members of the classical school. Bentham and Beccaria during the eighteenth century introduced rationalism into criminological thought. Classical Criminologists suggested that people have free will, which was based on the principles of hedonism, in other words, people would prefer pleasure and avoid pain.  Bentham formulated a principle called Felicitous Calculus – before committing a crime one would calculate its consequences, pleasures and pains. If one think the commission of an act or crime is beneficial and pleasurable than its deterrent factors, then one proceeds to commit that act. So the punishment should be given to each crime based on hedonistic interpretation, where the punishment for the commission of a crime should result in more pain than pleasure.
Classical criminologists rejected severe punishments, instead suggested that punishment should fit the crime. They believed that deterrence is not based on the severity of the punishment but appropriate, just, and inevitable punishment.
Bentham, like Beccaria condoned harsh punishments and introduced the principle of utilitarianism. According to Bentham, “An act is not to be judged by an irrational system of absolutes but by a supposedly verifiable principle…” He asserted the principle – the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
Bentham boldly opposed capital punishment, arguing that the capital punishment would increase the amount of cruelty in the society. Instead of severity of punishments classical criminologists gave importance to humanitarian considerations and rehabilitation
Classical School of Criminology greatly influenced Europe, it formulated modern principles and social order. The criminal law went through a revision and attempts were made the punishment to fit the crime. The influence of the classical school became universal and its influence can be seen in the judicial systems around the world. It also influenced great reformers and thinkers including Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau.

» Neoclassical School


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