Italian school of criminology

Last updated

The Italian school of criminology was founded at the end of the 19th century by Cesare Lombroso (1835–1909) and two of his Italian disciples, Enrico Ferri (1856–1929) and Raffaele Garofalo (1851–1934).


Lombroso's conception of the "atavistic born criminal"

The central idea of Lombroso's work came to him as he autopsied the body of a notorious Italian criminal named Giuseppe Villela. As he contemplated Villela's skull, he noted that certain characteristics of it (specifically, a depression on the occiput that he named the median occipital fossa) reminded him of the skulls of "inferior races" and "the lower types of apes, rodents, and birds". The term Lombroso used to describe the appearance of organisms resembling ancestral (prehuman) forms of life is atavism . Born criminals were thus viewed by Lombroso in his earliest writings as a form of human sub-species (in his later writings he came to view them less as evolutionary throwbacks and more in terms of arrested development and degeneracy). Lombroso believed that atavism could be identified by a number of measurable physical stigmata, which included protruding jaw, drooping eyes, large ears, twisted and flattish nose, long arms relative to the lower limbs, sloping shoulders, and a coccyx that resembled "the stump of a tail." The concept of atavism was glaringly wrong, but like so many others of his time, Lombroso sought to understand behavioral phenomena with reference to the principles of evolution as they were understood at the time. If humankind was just at one end of the continuum of animal life, it made sense to many people that criminals — who acted "beastly" and who lacked reasoned conscience — were biologically inferior beings. Thus understood, atavism became a popular concept, used for instance by the novelist Émile Zola in the Rougon-Macquart .

Typology of criminals

In addition to the "atavistic born criminal", Lombroso identified two other types: the "insane criminal", and the "criminaloid". Although insane criminals bore some stigmata, they were not "born criminals"; rather they become criminal as a result "of an alteration of the brain, which completely upsets their moral nature." Among the ranks of "insane criminals" were alcoholics, kleptomaniacs, nymphomaniacs, and child molesters. "Criminaloids" had none of the physical peculiarities of the "born" or "insane criminal", became involved in crime later in life, and tended to commit less serious crimes. "Criminaloids" were further categorized as "habitual criminals", who become so by contact with other criminals, the abuse of alcohol, or other "distressing circumstances." This category included "juridical criminals", who fall afoul of the law by accident; and the "criminal by passion", hot-headed and impulsive persons who commit violent acts when provoked.

Ferri's penology

Ferri was instrumental in formulating the concept of "social defense" as a justification for punishment. This theory of punishment asserts that its purpose is not to deter or to rehabilitate, for how could behavior not based on rational calculus be deterred, and how could born criminals be rehabilitated? Given the assumptions of biological positivism, the only reasonable rationale for punishing offenders is to incapacitate them for as long as possible so that they no longer posed a threat to the peace and security of society. This theory of punishment provides us with an example of how anthropological assumptions drive policies for dealing with crime and criminals. He was, however, an ardent proponent of measures to prevent crime among "occasional criminals" through social reform, and of efforts to rehabilitate them.

Garofalo's "natural" definition of crime

Garofalo is perhaps best known for his efforts to formulate a "natural" definition of crime. Classical thinkers accepted the legal definition of crime uncritically; crime is what the law says it is. This appeared to be rather arbitrary and "unscientific" to Garofalo (like the British-American system of linear measurement) who wanted to anchor the definition of crime in something natural (like tying linear measurement to the circumference of the earth, as in the metric system). Garofalo felt that definitions of crime should be anchored in human nature, by which he meant that a given act would be considered a crime if it were universally condemned, and it would be universally condemned if it offended the natural altruistic sentiments of probity (integrity, honesty) and pity (compassion, sympathy). Natural crimes are evil in themselves (mala in se), whereas other kinds of crimes (mala prohibita) are wrong only because they have been defined as such by the law.

Garofalo rejected the classical principle that punishment should fit the crime, arguing instead that it should fit the criminal. As a good positivist, he believed that criminals have little control over their actions. This repudiation of free will (and, therefore, of moral responsibility) and fitting the punishment to the offender would eventually lead to sentencing aimed at the humane and liberal goals of treatment and rehabilitation. For Garofalo, however, the only question to be considered at sentencing was the danger the offender posed to society, which was to be judged by an offender's "peculiarities."

By "peculiarities," Garofalo was not referring to Lombrosian stigmata, but rather to those particular characteristics that place offenders at risk for criminal behavior. He developed four categories of criminals, each meriting different forms of punishment: "extreme", "impulsive", "professional", and "endemic". Society could only be defended from extreme criminals by swiftly executing them, regardless of the crime for which they are being punished. Here Garofalo departed from Lombroso and Ferri, both of whom were against the death penalty, although Lombroso gradually came to accept it for born criminals and for those who committed particularly heinous crimes. Impulsive criminals, a category which included alcoholics and the insane, were to be imprisoned. Professional criminals were psychologically normal individuals who utilize the hedonistic calculus before committing their crimes, and thus require "elimination," either by life imprisonment or transportation to a penal colony overseas. "Endemic crimes", by which Garofalo meant crimes peculiar to a given location or region (mala prohibita), could best be controlled by changes in the law, not by imposing harsh punishments on offenders.

See also

Related Research Articles

Punishment imposition of an undesirable or unpleasant outcome as a response and deterrent to an action or behaviour that is deemed undesirable or unacceptable

Punishment is the imposition of an undesirable or unpleasant outcome upon a group or individual, meted out by an authority—in contexts ranging from child discipline to criminal law—as a response and deterrent to a particular action or behavior that is deemed undesirable or unacceptable. The reasoning may be to condition a child to avoid self-endangerment, to impose social conformity, to defend norms, to protect against future harms, and to maintain the law—and respect for rule of law—under which the social group is governed. Punishment may be self-inflicted as with self-flagellation and mortification of the flesh in the religious setting, but is most often a form of social coercion.

Cesare Lombroso Italian criminologist

Cesare Lombroso, was an Italian criminologist, physician, and founder of the Italian School of Positivist Criminology. Lombroso rejected the established classical school, which held that crime was a characteristic trait of human nature. Instead, using concepts drawn from physiognomy, degeneration theory, psychiatry and Social Darwinism, Lombroso's theory of anthropological criminology essentially stated that criminality was inherited, and that someone "born criminal" could be identified by physical (congenital) defects, which confirmed a criminal as savage or atavistic.

Penology section of criminology that deals with the philosophy and practice of various societies in their attempts to repress criminal activities, and satisfy public opinion via an appropriate treatment regime for persons convicted of criminal offences

Penology is a sub-component of criminology that deals with the philosophy and practice of various societies in their attempts to repress criminal activities, and satisfy public opinion via an appropriate treatment regime for persons convicted of criminal offences.

Juvenile delinquency Illegal behavior by minors

Juvenile delinquency, also known "juvenile offending", is the act of participating in unlawful behavior as minors. Most legal systems prescribe specific procedures for dealing with juveniles, such as juvenile detention centers and courts, with it being common that juvenile systems are treated as civil cases instead of criminal, or a hybrid thereof to avoid certain requirements required for criminal cases. A juvenile delinquent in the United States is a person who is typically below 18 years of age and commits an act that otherwise would have been charged as a crime if they were an adult. Depending on the type and severity of the offense committed, it is possible for people under 18 to be charged and treated as adults.

Criminal psychology, also referred to as criminological psychology,is the study of the views, thoughts, intentions, actions and so reactions of criminals and all that partakes in the criminal behavior.

Articles related to criminology and law enforcement.

Classical school (criminology) 18th-century work during the Enlightenment by the utilitarian and social-contract philosophers Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Beccaria

In criminology, the Classical School usually refers to the 18th-century work during the Enlightenment by the utilitarian and social-contract philosophers Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Beccaria. Their interests lay in the system of criminal justice and penology and indirectly, through the proposition that "man is a calculating animal", in the causes of criminal behavior. The Classical School of thought was premised on the idea that people have free will in making decisions, and that punishment can be a deterrent for crime, so long as the punishment is proportional, fits the crime, and is carried out promptly.

Neo-classical school (criminology)

In criminology, the Neo-Classical School continues the traditions of the Classical School within the framework of Right Realism. Hence, the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Beccaria remains a relevant social philosophy in policy term for using punishment as a deterrent through law enforcement, the courts, and imprisonment.

Positivist school (criminology)

The Positivist School was founded by Cesare Lombroso and was led by two others; Enrico Ferri and Raffaele Garofalo. In criminology, the Positivist School has attempted to find scientific objectivity for the measurement and quantification of criminal behavior. The Positivist School had a method that was developed by observing the characteristics of criminals to observe what may be the root cause of their behavior or actions. Since the Positivist's school of ideas came around, the research revolved around its ideas has aided in identifying some of the key differences between those that are "criminals" and those that are not. As the scientific method became the major paradigm in the search for knowledge, the Classical School's social philosophy was replaced by the quest for scientific laws that would be discovered by experts. It is divided into Biological, Psychological and Social.

Feminist school of criminology

The feminist school of criminology is a school of criminology developed in the late 1960s and into the 1970s as a reaction to the general disregard and discrimination of women in the traditional study of crime. Feminist criminologists note that the field of criminology has historically been dominated by men, leading to the development of criminological theories that focus on the male experience. This patriarchal domination is not unique to criminological theory, as it is also reflected in the criminal justice system which is cited as a gender institution itself. Both feminist criminologists, as well as criminologists that do not ascribe to this label, have argued that much of early criminological theory is both inherently biased and androcentric. Feminist criminology challenges mainstream criminology to no longer assume theories explaining male crime are equally valid for explaining crime committed by females. This practice is referred to as the "generalizability problem". By utilizing a feminist methodology, feminist criminologists work to address the "gender ratio" problem.

Deterrence (penology) the use of punishment as a threat to deter people from offending

Deterrence in relation to criminal offending is the idea or theory that the threat of punishment will deter people from committing crime and reduce the probability and/or level of offending in society. It is one of five objectives that punishment is thought to achieve; the other four objectives are denunciation, incapacitation, retribution and rehabilitation.

Anthropological criminology criminal anthropology, a field of offender profiling

Anthropological criminology is a field of offender profiling, based on perceived links between the nature of a crime and the personality or physical appearance of the offender. Although similar to physiognomy and phrenology, the term "criminal anthropology" is generally reserved for the works of the Italian school of criminology of the late 19th century. Lombroso thought that criminals were born with detectable inferior physiological differences. He popularized the notion of "born criminal" and thought that criminality was a case of atavism or hereditary disposition. His central idea was to locate crime completely within the individual and divorce it from surrounding social conditions and structures. A founder of the Positivist school of criminology, Lombroso opposed the social positivism developed by the Chicago school and environmental criminology.

Enrico Ferri (criminologist) criminologist

Enrico Ferri was an Italian criminologist, socialist and student of Cesare Lombroso, the founder of the Italian school of criminology. While Lombroso researched the purported physiological factors that motivated criminals, Ferri investigated social and economic aspects. He served as editor of the socialist daily Avanti! and, in 1884, saw his book Criminal Sociology published. Later, his work served as the basis for Argentina’s penal code of 1921. Although at first he rejected the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Ferri later became one of Mussolini and his National Fascist Party's main external supporters.

Raffaele Garofalo Italian criminologist and jurist

Raffaele Garofalo was an Italian criminologist and jurist.

Incapacitation (penology) One of the functions of punishment

Incapacitation in the context of criminal sentencing philosophy is one of the functions of punishment. It involves capital punishment, sending an offender to prison, or possibly restricting their freedom in the community, to protect society and prevent that person from committing further crimes. Incarceration, as the primary mechanism for incapacitation, is also used as to try to deter future offending.

Deviance (sociology) Action or behavior that violates social norms

In sociology, deviance describes an action or behavior that violates social norms, including a formally enacted rule, as well as informal violations of social norms. Deviance is a behavioural disposition that is not in conformity with an institutionalized set-up or code of conduct. Although deviance may have a negative connotation, the violation of social norms is not always a negative action; positive deviation exists in some situations. Although a norm is violated, a behavior can still be classified as positive or acceptable.

Pre-crime Term for crimes not yet committed

Pre-crime is a term coined by science fiction author Philip K. Dick. It is increasingly used in academic literature to describe and criticise the tendency in criminal justice systems to focus on crimes not yet committed. Pre-crime intervenes to punish, disrupt, incapacitate or restrict those deemed to embody future crime threats. The term pre-crime embodies a temporal paradox, suggesting both that a crime has not occurred and that the crime that has not occurred is a foregone conclusion.

Philippine criminal laws is the body of law and defining the penalties thereof in the Philippines.

Criminal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It proscribes conduct perceived as threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and moral welfare of people inclusive of one's self. Most criminal law is established by statute, which is to say that the laws are enacted by a legislature. Criminal law includes the punishment and rehabilitation of people who violate such laws. Criminal law varies according to jurisdiction, and differs from civil law, where emphasis is more on dispute resolution and victim compensation, rather than on punishment or rehabilitation. Criminal procedure is a formalized official activity that authenticates the fact of commission of a crime and authorizes punitive or rehabilitative treatment of the offender.

Criminology science about the causes and manifestations of crime

Criminology is the scientific study of the nature, extent, management, causes, control, consequences, and prevention of criminal behaviour, both on individual and social levels. Criminology is an interdisciplinary field in both the behavioural and social sciences, which draws primarily upon the research of sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, psychiatrists, biologists, social anthropologists, as well as scholars of law.


    Further reading