Apr 9, 2019 in Law

Criminology and Criminal Justice as Sciences

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Criminology is a scientific study of nature, causes, extent, and control of criminal behavior, which revolve around individuals and the entire society. It is a part of the interdisciplinary field of behavioral sciences, which draws upon the research of sociologists, psychiatrists, social anthropologists, and law. As a part of science, criminology incorporates the research areas such as forms, incidences, causes, in addition to governmental and social regulation, to curb crime. On the other hand, criminal justice is an interdisciplinary social science that incorporates the study of societal responses and crime.

The concept that criminology and criminal justice platforms are sciences is not far-fetched but very true, as per the practices of the two disciplines. The concept is fetched from the fact that the disciplines of criminology and criminal justice operate from the resources of the social sciences, such as sociology, psychology and political science. A science is defined by Derry (1999) as a “method to bring about practical change in life”. Derry (1999) further illustrates that the science contains the two platforms of theoretical and empirical activities, in which the “theoretical statements of a science must be tested against the behavior of the outside world”. This is because just like most social sciences, criminology deals with the research and verification of the way criminal minds work developing criminal strategies and deriving theories that can assist in capturing the criminals.

Criminal justice, on the other hand, deals with theoretical and empirical methods that encourage suppression of crimes by reversion of the criminal minds through rehabilitation and punishment measures meant to deter crime. The dependence and need of theory in criminology and criminal justice justify the existence of the disciplines as sciences.

Science Branches that Deal with Criminology and Criminal Justice

This section illustrates the different branches of science depending on the subject that the science tries to give an answer to. It is through the illustration of the different branches of science that are associated with criminology and criminal justice that the section gathers information to prove that criminology and criminal justice are sciences. The section is guided by Derry’s (1999) observation that social science is “a systematic study of society and its institutions, and of how and why people behave as they do” through platforms “such as psychology, sociology, criminology, criminal justice and political science”. Under such consideration, the section tries to justify description of criminology and criminal justice as sciences.

The science branches that deal with criminology revolve around the society and human nature. These science branches include the following: criminal sociology, crime laws, criminal psychology, penology, victimology, crime policing, and crime forensics. Criminal sociology incorporates individual aspect that describes the natural genesis of crime, and has recourse to the statistics of criminals under the social studies. This branch involves anomalies of feeling and intelligence in particular the moral sense, and specialties of criminal in slang and writing. Criminal sociology also incorporates personal biological characteristics of a criminal, such as bio-social conditions and sex. Penology is another science branch of criminology, which deals with practice and philosophy of the diverse societies. It attempts to satisfy the public by repressing criminal activities using appropriate treatment for persons found guilty of offenses. Penitentiary is its aspect of science, which relates to the secure detention and retraining of offenders in the secure institutions.

The science branches, which deal with criminal justice, are forensic science, psychology, and sociology. Forensic science applies sciences to civil, law, and criminal issues; it covers both archaeology and zoology by incorporating all offense types that range from arson, tax evasion, and money laundering. This is a scientific investigation of crime that exhibits practical, rational, and valid methods, leading to the unbiased services in the system of justice.

Theories Development in Criminology and Criminal Justices

This section observes the various developments over the years that have been presented to define criminology and criminal justice as sciences, and the ways they operate. The sections look at the reasons the theories were developed and the ways they served the purpose they were developed for. The section relies heavily on the observation of theories development, as per the criminal behavior change from a “dumb robber” to “intelligent and organized profession”, and the emergence of tension during the world war era (Beare, 2003). During the twentieth century, the theoretical development in criminology fell under one of the four categories. Those were the theories of individual differences in offending, theories of diversity of crime rates in the social entities, variation theories in offending via life cycle, and theories of differences in the social situations.

The trends in development of the theories exhibited progress, when criminologists began to focus on the issues of criminal propensity. The theories findings also reveal that a section of people had more or less constant pattern that exhibits misbehavior in their lifespan. In addition, individuals extend their limited periods by showing their high probabilities of offending during their early teen years. The theories of differences in the criminal behavior focus on the immediate context of such behaviors. On the other hand, the theory of criminal justice is a law philosophy branch, which deals with punishment in the criminal justice. Its development is evident, when it enhanced changes in the US politics, developing the way they passed sentences, and also developed the American police structure.

Role of Theory in Criminology and Criminal Justice

This section describes the most important roles played by theories in the discipline of criminology as a science. The section utilizes Bachman & Schutt (2003) claim that the theory helps criminologist in their research to identify “what to look for to understand, explain, predict and do something about the crime”. The section reviews a simple theoretical tool, criminal profiling, utilized by the law enforcement officers since ancient times in increasing chances of capturing criminals. The role of the theories in criminology and criminal justice was to explain tendency of certain individuals to commit crimes. For instance, the theory of action plays a significant role in pairing beliefs and desires to form intentions. They depict self-control as a capacity to act in relation to best decisive judgments. These theories also make different predictions concerning the nature of a crime, and provide the ways of handling the criminal.

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Need for Theory in Criminology and Criminal Justice

This section discusses the importance of theories, which are aimed at the identification of various types of crimes, their causes, and prediction of the future events in relation to the present crime (Turvey, 2002). It is through the use of paradigms, that the theory in criminal justice discipline tries to identify the reason the crime has happened, and the ways to prevent it from happening again in the future. For instance, situational action theory is essential in criminology and criminal justice, because it advances effective crime policies and prevention strategies. This theory develops to overcome the key shortcomings in the prominent criminological theories.

Theories offer great assistance in handling criminal matters by exhibiting a wide range of deviance, which supports its tenets. Theories try to solve the problems by identifying risk factors in crimes and initiating a prevention paradigm, which helps to determine the risk factors and causes related to crimes. The reason why there is a need for theory in the criminal justice and criminology is that they act as empirical disciplines that offer help to the policy makers, practitioners, and politicians. This further assists them to base their interventions and policies on best available knowledge in science concerning crime causation.

Reasons for Shortage of New Criminology and Criminal Justice Theory Since the 1960's

This section covers the trend of criminology and criminal justice theory development within the period of early 19th century up to the early 20th century. The section explains the reasons and events that have contributed to the shortage of theories since 1960s and high concentration of studying the developed theories, rather than developing the new ones (Pollock, 2007). Criminology trend in 19th century to early 20th century developed enabling social philosophers to advance in handling crimes and law concepts. This also led to the development of various schools of thought from the early criminological period spanning from 19th century to mid 20th century. It also led to the contemporary paradigms of criminology that incorporated control, postmodern criminology, subculture, strain, and critical criminology. The reason why there was shortage of theories in 1960s is misconceptions that the elderly and women were afraid of crimes. This situation led to the increase in victimization for young males, and fostered criminal activities in the US.

According to William in his article “Demise of Criminology Imagination”, there are three reasons that explain lack of the theoretical contribution in the field from 1960s. First, there was absence of sociological imagination, which meant that the emphasis for methodological data overshadowed creation of the new theories. Secondly, the presence of critical intellectual environment emphasized on the analysis differences in theories, instead of creating the new theories contributing to scarcity of theories. The third aspect that led to the lack of theories since 1960s is rise of criminal justice as a discipline. This led to federal funding that attracted intellectual energy applied once in research to issue of crime efforts and control, contributing to the lack of theories since 1960s.

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