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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Importance of Criminology

Sunday, November 8, 2009 - 4 Comments

Each discipline is unique and has especial value and importance. Some disciplines have value and importance primarily in theoretical sense, whereas others are important for their practical value. The science of criminology is important and valuable both in practical and theoretical senses. The science of criminology is related to society and society has been likened to an organism. This fact makes plain and evident the value and significance of the science of criminology. The scope of criminology is the various social crimes and disturbances in their each and every aspect. As the science of medicine studies various ills and their cures which afflict human body, in the same manner criminology studies ills and their cures of society. The value and significance of the science of criminology is theoretical as well as practical. Its theoretical importance lies in the fact that it investigates and determines the cause of social disintegration. The practical or applied aspect of this science is that besides determining the factors and causes of social disintegration, it also studies the ways and means of preventing or eradicating these evils, that is, remedial measures. This multifaceted value and significance of criminology is brought out by following facts.

Theoretical significance of Criminology

Explaining the theoretical significance of the science of criminology the eminent criminologist Sutherland writes; “This knowledge will contribute to the development of other social studies and through other social studies it will contribute to efficiency in general social control.”

The foregoing observation of Sutherland is extremely significant as it brings into relief the theoretic importance and value of the science of criminology. The chief theoretic benefits of criminology are the following:

(1) Knowledge of Crime-Data-In every social community and group, there are always some criminals and incidence of crime. It is not humanly possible to bring about an ideal republic or perfect society in which every chance of criminal behaviour has been eliminated. The nature of crime and criminals may undergo sea-change, but the very existence of crime cannot be uprooted. This is not difficult to appreciate. In crime psychosis we have two kinds of factors: personal and social .It is not possible to eliminate the aggressive and acquisitive tendencies from man and, again, it is equally impossible to eliminate all inequalities and anomalies from any society. This is borne out by the fact that even under communist regime crimes are not non-existent. Therefore, given the kinds of men and societies known to man, we can safely say that each society, even a social group, harbours some criminals. A systematic, scientific and unbiased study of criminology furnishes us with factual, true and realistic data about crimes and criminals; this results in increase in our knowledge. By studying criminology we also learn about the kinds or types of crimes and criminals and also about the modus essendi as well as modus operandi of crimes. This enables us to compile what may be called taxonomy of crime, that is, an extensive and deep classification of crimes. We also learn about the causes and reasons of criminals behaviour.

(2) Penal Legislation-The science of ___________ upon the penal legislation, that is, it helps formulation of rational and humane laws regarding crime and punishment. Criminology attempts both extensive and intensive study of crime under all perspectives and by taking into account every possible viewpoint. Thus its analysis and description of crime is scientific, authentic and reliable. This analytical description helps in determination of the exact causes of various categories of crime, and this information, in turn, helps to formulate preventive and remedial laws regarding crime. Besides helping to make laws, criminology also carries out extensive surveys regarding the impact of various laws on the actual incidence of crime. It is found that a particular law, instead of curbing crime, encourages it, the law is amended in the light of fresh evidence. Thus, the various laws regarding prohibition and narcotics are cases in point. In the light of modern knowledge gained by extensive surveys and in-depth studies, there are proposals to declare suicide not criminal. In Denmark and many other civilized nations, pornography has been declared non-criminal. This has had salutary impact upon society. In England, homosexuality among consenting adults is now no longer criminal. Thus we find that constant review of the relationship between crime and law help to make penal laws more and more rational and humane. Even in a highly orthdox society like Indian, abortion has been made non-criminal. There is also growing public opinion in favour of relaxation of obscenity laws in India. Kissing and nudity on screen should be permissible is the view of G. D. Khosla Commission. The rationale behind all such moves is the discovery by Criminologists that greater the repression of natural instincts, greater the thwarting of sensuous pleasure, greater is the incidence of perversions and sadistic crimes. It is better to let people decide what is good for them and as long as this “good” does not contravene the rights of others, it must be allowed. From the above discussion it is plain that the science of criminology goes a long way in rationalizing and humanizing the penal legislation.

(3) Information about White-Collar Crime-To an average man, the nature and number of crimes is quite definite. Asked to enumerate crimes, he will name only murder, assault, dacoity, rape, loot and arson, burglary and theft, sodomy and reduction as the only instances of crime. He may have difficulty in appreciating that maltreatment of one’s cattles, bestiality with them are criminal. But he will certainly be baffled if he is told that misuse of power, nepotism etc; are criminal and equally, if not more, harmful to society than other crimes. However, the not easily recognizable crimes are not considered crime by an average person because they are committed by well-to-do, upper-bracket persona and normally involve little violence. But such acts, whosoever may commit them, are very much criminal. For example, if a man earns a huge ransom by letting out the secrets of someone, he is indulging in black mail. The private secretaries and yalets of top political and finance magnets usually have access to many intimate secrets and there is strong temptation to earn big money by the threatening exposure. Many innocent persons are made victims of this vicious commercial mal practices, for example, under-invoicing, graft etc. To gain some advantage by production of false testimonials is an act of forgery and the crime of forgery is quite widespread. Again, sexual abuse of private secretaries is fairly common in advanced countries. All these are white-collar criminals and their crimes are really criminal activity. The Watergate scandal threatening the office of President Nixon is a classic instance of white-collar crime.

The Practical Importance of Criminology

Apart from having theoretical value and importance, criminology also has much practical use and importance. In the words of Sutherland, “Criminology is concerned with the immediate application of knowledge to the programmes of social control of crime.” Following are some of the specific practical uses of criminology.

(1) Elimination of Crimes-The elimination of crime is one of the specific aim of criminology. It helps society in controlling and eliminating the crime both directly and indirectly. It is most obvious that if one knows the cause of a malady, its cure becomes easy. It is a truism in medical practice that correct diagnosis is more than half the cure. The same holds good in regard to the phenomenon of crime. By the knowledge of the causes of the crime, we can undertake specific measures to remove them.

(2) Helpful in understanding the Psychology of the Criminal-Criminology is practical study. With the help of its knowledge we can easily assess the attitudes and opinions of the criminals. The study of criminology helps us to pin-point the factors responsible for the various crimes, that is, we learn as to how a particular crime is generated. There by we are able to correlate specific crime with specific set of circumstances. Apart form learning about the psychology of crime, the knowledge of criminology helps us to classify the criminals, that is, we are enabled to correlate personal factors like age, family and social background, education and physical environs, physical and mental traits with different types of crime. Thus for example, it may be revealed traits with different types of crime. Thus for example, it may be revealed that sexual crimes are committed, contrary to general impression, by persons with low sex-drive rather than by highly-sexed persons. A prostitute-monger may be consorting with different women so as to cover up the self consciousness and guilt over inadequate performance or he may be doing so in order to receive the thrill of personal quirks and varied techniques of arousal exercise by the professional sex-vendors. These facts make it abundantly clear that the study of criminology goes a long way in helping us to appreciate the psychology of crime and criminal.

(3) Reforms of Criminals-Besides controls, prevention and elimination of crime, it is the important task and responsibility of the science of criminology to device and suggest measures for the reforms and rehabilitation of the criminal. For example, to wean a prostitute from the sale of her bodily wares, we must know how and why she has taken to this profession. In the societies which do not stigmatize such persons and are prepared to accept them, the task is relatively easy. Again, it is easy if the prostitute has taken to this profession from economic hardships and other compulsions but it disgusted with what she is doing. But if, on the contrary, either the society is orthodox or the prostitutes like and enjoy what they are doing, the task of reform is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

(4) Reforms of Evil Forces-Every society are under the influence of certain evil forces and their removal is the concern of every well-meaning member of the society. The science of criminology helps us a great deal in appreciating and understanding these evil forces and, thus, enables us to device ways and means for the effective check of those forces.

Contribution of Sociology in Study of Crime

Criminology and Sociology

Sociology is a systematic study of society; it is a science which investigates the structure and function of various elements which make up society. Therefore sociological approach and viewpoint is a socially-oriented way of looking at things. The sociological approach or bias in studying any set of problems concentrates on discovering and determining the social factors and causes of that set of problems. Crime is a type of behaviour which is harmful to the interests of others; it may injure them physically or mentally and at times threatens their very life and existence. The criminal behaviour is interdicted by society and government. It is a forbidden behaviour and incurs wrath of society and is punishable under law. The criminal behaviour, however, is included in social behaviour. What we call a social or anti-social behaviour is nonetheless social in character. Therefore it is a subject of study by sociology. Besides, sociology, psychology, anthropology and political science also study it because crimes are motivated, apart from social causes, by psychological, anthropological and political causes as well. But in as much as criminal is not born but is a by product of social factors, the study of crime is especially a concern of sociology.

With the gradual advance in our knowledge of society, its constituent elements and their respective roles, it has become possible to understand the causes of social behaviour. This advance in our sociological knowledge has also led to great increase in its importance and efficacy to understand and resole various social problems. With the widening of the scope of sociology, its various branches have developed into full-fledged disciplines on their own. Today, criminology is an independent discipline though it was at one time a part of sociology. However the science of criminology continues to make use of sociological methods and techniques in its investigation of its subject matter. It tries to find out with the help of sociological techniques causes and remedies of criminal behaviour. Thus the two are closely related.

Criminology and its Scope

Man is a social animal. Human beings live in communities and groups together engaged in mutual concourse. In order to keep order and avoid conflict it is essential to have a set of rules and regulations of collective behaviour. Each community and each group prescribes its own behavioural norms and standards which keep the wheels of society well-oiled and as far as possible frictionless; only thus can a community make progress. The norms and standards prescribed in a particular society determine the activities of the individuals which can be considered normal or permissible any deviation from these permissible acts is an abnormal behaviour. If these abnormal acts are pronouncedly deviant and pose threat to communal order and peace, these are called crimes. Thus crimes may be defined as an act inimical to social peace and harmony. The crimes may be defined as an act inimical to social peace and harmony. The crimes are hurtful to social stability. In order to achieve prevention of crimes, we need to study the various causes and background of crimes systematically. The discipline engaged in such a systematic investigation is known as criminology. Before making a detailed study of Criminology it is essential to understand its meaning and scope.

Meaning and Definition of Criminology

The word criminology is composite of two words criminal + logy. Literally, it means a systematic study of the criminals, that is, persons who break or offend the social or group law. However, since the offences committed by criminals are crimes; and as crimes occur in society, the term criminology fully means a study of crimes as well as criminals in relation to society. It also tries to determine the causes of these and also thereby recommends preventive measures. The science of criminology is a scientific and systematic study of a social phenomenon. Various scientific techniques and methods are employed for the study of this phenomenon. As criminology views man as a social animal, it tries to study social interactions and phenomena to place its subject matter in a proper perspective. The science of criminology also investigates the structure and function of social laws rules and regulations. How do the social laws, conventions and traditions get formulated? How and why does an individual break them? Is there an element of compulsion or coercion in his defiance of the law? Or is it deliberate? These and other allied matters are studied by criminology with a view to find adequate answers which may help to formulate the effective preventive measures and controls. The reaction of society towards a criminal and the disposition of criminal towards society are the important matters for investigation which help to understand adequately the phenomenon of crime. Only by a full appreciation of these matters can we learn ways and means to control crime. The above discussion makes explicit the meaning of criminology. But in order to appreciate fully the nature of criminology, it is essential to examine closely the definitions given by learned sociologists and eminent criminologists. Below we give the most important of these definitions:

(1) According to an eminent sociologist Sutherland: “Criminology is the body of knowledge regarding crime as a social phenomenon.” This definition exhibits sociological bias and regards crime to be reaction to certain set of social factors and causes.

(2) According to an eminent criminologist Elliot: “Criminology may be defined as the scientific study of rime and its treatment.” This definition, besides emphasizing the scientific investigation into the nature and etiology of crime, stresses the practical or utilitarian nature of this body of knowledge, namely, devising ways and means to prevent or reduce the incidence of crime and rehabilitate criminals as normal members of the society.

(3) According to renowned criminologist D. R. Taft: “Criminology is the study which includes all the subject matter necessary to understanding and prevention of crimes together with the punishment and treatment of delinquents and criminals.” This is a comprehensive definition and describes theoretical as well as practical aspects of the study. It brings out clearly the fact, which may get overlooked usually, that criminology is concerned not with the offences committed by adults only but also deals with juvenile offences.

According to another noted sociologist Webster, the science of Criminology may be described to be “the scientific study of crime as a social phenomenon, or of criminals and their mental traits, habits and discipline.” This definition has the merit of emphasizing equally the sociological as well as psychological aspects of the crime and the criminal.

Nature of Criminology

The foregoing discussion about the meaning and description of criminology makes abundantly explicit and clear the nature of this science. Fundamentally speaking, the task of criminology is a scientific, systematic, statistical, structural and functional in depth study of crime. The behaviour covertly deviant is liable to become overtly offensive of social norms and laws, both from sociological and psychological standpoints. Besides having a theoretical understanding of crime, criminal and his behaviour, the object of criminology is also to devise effective tools to minimize the incidence of crime, reform and rehabilitate the criminal. Lastly, criminology also tries to suggest reform in penal code and its enforcement in order to make these rational and humanitarian.

Scope of Criminology

Like other social sciences, the scope of criminology is also quite vast and extensive. It is related to each and every social class and structure. Though the scope of criminology is very vast and coextensive with many sciences, the criminologists have tried to limit its scope in order to be able to study the subject scientifically, systematically and exhaustively. The viewpoints of certain notable criminologists are given on next page:

(A) According to Sutherland the science of criminology, “includes within its scope the processes of making laws, of breaking laws, and of reacting towards the breaking of laws.” In the opinion of Sutherland criminology has three distinct aspects of departments. Though distinct, these are nonetheless not independent, but inter-linked. A thorough study of these aspects exhausts the scope of criminology; to study all of them is the same as studying the whole science of criminology. In accordance with Sutherland’s description of the scope of criminology, we can divide it into departments:

(a) The sociology of law-In this we study the nature of crime from legalistic point of view. Also we investigate into the effects of present laws upon them and study the possible reforms in the laws in order to prevent and control the occurrence of crime. The major concern of the sociology of law is to critically examine the impact of various legal systems upon crime. This study can go a long way to evolve suitable changes in the laws to curb crime.

(b) Criminal Etiology-In this department a systematic investigation into the various causes of crime is made. Here we study the social and personal factors responsible for the occurrence of crime and growth of criminals.

(c) Penology-Besides knowledge and determination of the causes and factors which generate or encourage crime, it is equally, if not more essential to know the ways and means of controlling and preventing the crime. This aspect is studied systematically and in a scientific manner to achieve control over crime. The facts and theories in this regard from the scope of Penology, an important department of criminology.

The Viewpoint of Elliot and Merrill

The eminent scholars Elliot and Merrill have made an exhaustive and thorough study regarding the scope of criminology. According to these scholars, in criminology we study four sets of facts. These are as follows:

(a) The Nature of Crime-What are the features of crime? What type of action is crime? In what respect does a criminal act differ from a social or moral act? Is it just the action which may be considered criminal or can the motive make difference to our description of a crime? For example, the theft committed for personal gain and the theft committed for impersonal reasons or social gain are both cases of theft. Can we make any distinction between the two? The answers to these questions tell us the nature of crime.

(b) Investigations into the causes of Crime-Under this aspect of Criminology we study the reasons of criminal behaviour. The different types of crime have different causes. Are these differences apparent or real? Can we come by a general theory of crime which will be adequate to explain all types of crime? Are there relations, inverse or direct, between various crimes. These questions are investigated under this head. Besides, we also study the question of responsibility of crimes. If criminals are made and not born, who is responsible for encouraging criminality? Is it parent education or social system that is responsible in conjunction or one of these alone? All these questions form the subject mater of this aspect of criminology.

(c) Individualized Study of Criminals-How and when does one turn into a criminal? What particular event or series of events happen which turn man towards criminality? In order to know all these facts we have to study in detail the personal lives of the criminals. Also we have to study the life of a person in totality for understanding the nature of crime and criminal. For this purpose we make use of what has come to be known as the technique of case-history method.

(d) Study of Prevention of Crime & Reform of the Criminal-Most obviously crimes is inimical to the interests of the society. They not only disturb the social equilibrium but make life hell for the criminal as well as his relatives. Even more, due to crime the normal law abiding citizen lives in fear. Therefore it is most essential to devise ways and means to prevent crime and reform the criminals. Should the system of punishment the deterrent, preventive, reformative or exemplary? What type of punishment is adequate for each type of crime? Such questions are studied under this head.

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