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How Society Defines Crime Essay

Criminology as explained in an institutionalized setting is viewed as an outside view of behavior which leads to defining crime as an intentional behavior that can be penalized by the state. Our text explains crime as any violations that occurs against the law. Crime is considered a social issue and so it is studied by sociologist who create theories. Over the years, many people have developed theories to try to explain how we come to decide what a crime is. A few theories as to why people commit crimes sometimes seems to equal the number of criminologists. So which theory is the best? Our text concludes that criminology is the scientific study of the nature, extent, causes, consequences, social reaction, and control of criminal behavior. Collica, K. & Furst, G. (20120 because criminology is a social construct, it may shift over time. This shift consequently had an enormous influence on changing attitudes towards punishment and towards the purpose of the law and the legal system. Classical ideas about crime and punishment is defined by numerous writers on the subject. Some writers like Beccaria (1738–94) and Bentham (1748–1832), argued that there was an invisible relationship between the individual and the state and that the relationship as it stood was chaotic.

As a part of this relationship individuals gave up some of their liberties in the interest of the common good, with the purpose of the law being to ensure that these common interests were met. For Beccaria, this meant that the law should be limited and written down so that people could make decisions on how to behave. Offenders are viewed as reasonable people with the same capacity for resisting offensive behaviors as non-offenders. This guided the principal of innocent until proven guilty. The central concern of the law and the criminal justice process was therefore the prevention of crime through this deterrent function. So how does society define a crime? The idea that criminal behavior is determined, or caused, by something, leads to the legal, social, and cultural factors that influence the decision to label some behavior’s as criminal while others or not. Like marijuana. Although it comes from the earth in plant form its hallucinogenic effects and inability to tax makes it illegal in most stated to manufacture produce without medical and government clearance in the states that have adopted the drug as legal.

Some argue that “Drug prohibition causes the bulk of murders and property crime in major urban areas by creating a black market characterized by warring suppliers, who charge inflated prices to users, who in turn steal to pay for their habits. Drug prohibition also fosters crime abroad, funding violent entrepreneurs and even terrorist insurgencies that threaten fragile civilian governments in poor countries” (Bandow 16). It should be noted however that the classical school of thought has had an enduring influence as many legal systems are built on some of its key precepts. The idea of intent for example, emphasizes the importance of the state of mind of the individual and their capacity for making choices. To smoke or not to smoke? To plant or not to plant and to distribute or not to distribute? Many reviews of the development of criminology begin with reference to the influence of positivism. Marijuana is linked to many negative aspects outside of a few minor healthcare benefits like chronic pain in cancer patients and glaucoma While the specific meaning to be attached to this term is open to some debate, in the context of drugs inside of criminology is usually used to refer to a scientific commitment to the gathering of the facts that distinguish whether or not an offense has been committed.

It is this search for facts which most clearly describes one of the differences between this version of criminology and classical criminology. The other main difference between these two different versions of the criminal individual was the commitment of the early positivists to search for the cause of crime within individual biology rather than individual free will (Williams &ump; McShane, 2010). Creating a policy on crime seems to give it definition when the public can prove that there is a danger to society as a whole. It is hard for anyone to grasp the concept or be able to understand why people commit heinous crimes or engage in criminal activities.

We as human beings are all capable of committing or engaging in delinquent behavior. What stands in the way of a person that makes them decided to engage in deviant behavior or to choose not to commit crimes at all? It may never be truly understood what the real reasons are behind why people make decisions against the laws implemented for mankind’s protection. Philosophy can only dig so deep to find these truths and the evolution of criminal behavior only expands with more knowledge of what works and what does not work. What is considered criminal today could be legal tomorrow and what is legal today could be found criminal as well.


Collica, K. & Furst, G. (2012). Crime & society. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Hostettler, J. (2011). Cesare Beccaria [electronic resource] : the genius of on crimes and punishments / John Hostettler. Hook, Hampshire, U.K. : Waterside Press, 2011 http://youtu.be/teKTNwgErCc

Morris, R. G., TenEyck, M., Barnes, J. C., & Kovandzic, T. V. (2014). The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime: Evidence from State Panel Data, 1990-2006. Plos ONE, 9(3), 1-7. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092816

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