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.
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
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.