Within the scientific world, sociology and more specifically, criminology, is a relatively young specialty, considering that for thousands of years, crime has been a germane part of the society. While no single scientist has been fully credited with discovering criminology, Cesare Lombroso was at the forefront of perpetuating criminology and the study of criminal behavior into mainstream academia. Lombroso’s theory has been used severally to formulate policy recommendations for crime control. This paper will take a brief look at the theory then form several policy recommendations based on his theory.
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The basis of Lombroso’s theory is the assumption that all criminals have certain abnormalities and physiognomic features. In his studies, Lombroso’s aim was to come up with a way of detecting criminals so that they can be isolated from the society. According to Lombroso, criminals are a version of a subhuman or primitive human being with physical features close to those of apes and other lower primates. Lombroso spent a lot of time in prisons studying the physical characteristics of prisoners. In addition, he studied normal individuals and the insane. He concluded that prisoners had similar facial characteristics. One can identify criminals through theirunusually sized ears, lips, facial and head asymmetry, the shape of their cranium; they have twisted noses and long arms (Sylvester 71).
Lombroso also believed that we identify certain classes of criminals such as thieves, murderers and rapists by certain characteristics. Criminals are less sensitive to touch and pain, have an acute sight, low sense of morality that includes: low remorse, vindictiveness, cruelty, and vanity. Criminals also have a high inclination towards excessive tattooing.
Between 1876 and 1897, Lombroso produced a five edition series, Criminal Man. Author’s work would evolve from purely biological theories to theories that incorporated some aspects of the environment. The first edition in 1876 based criminology on pathological, biological and atavistic characteristics. According to his findings, seventy percent of criminals were born thieves; they were programmed to be criminals in their infancy. Lombroso studied the behavior of other animals as a means of comparing them to the behavior of human beings (Davie 3).
In addition to physical stigma, Lombroso felt that behavioral and social stigma had a link to atavism. The first social stigma was the language of communication of the criminals, which he likened to the speech of savages. Excessive tattooing mentioned above represents the second of the behavioral stigma as it shows their low sensitivity to pain. Despite the many criticisms that his work received, he never abandoned his theory, rather he extended his findings to incorporate the factors that other scientists were studying at the time (Gibson 22-26).
Insane criminals require special treatment that is different from the treatment afforded to the sane. Criminals by passion are those that, prior to the crime, led respectable lives and are usually remorseful after the crime. In the fourth series, Lombroso included human degeneration in his theory. Degenerates suffer from a psychological or physical malfunction that prevents them from evolving fully. Lombroso also identified the morally insane as those who cannot distinguish between bad and good behavior. He also proposed that epileptic individuals were more likely to be criminals than normal individuals were (Gibson 23-26).
His last book, Crime, Its Causes and Remedies, was a complete revolution on his original theory in 1876. The focus of the book was on the sociological and environmental causes of crime. Among the factors contributing to crime are race, alcoholism, population size, education, prisons, and civil states. In all his works, Lombroso emphasized on the role that punishment plays in influencing criminal behavior. According to him, death sentence was not deterrent to crime because of the insensitivity of the criminals to pain.
The last point above forms the first policy statement that concerning the punishments to be given to the criminals. The focus of punishment for hard-core criminals such as rapists and murders should never be on pain. This is because such criminals are insensitive to pain and as such, pain will not serve as a deterrent to their criminal behavior. The death sentence also serves as no deterrent; rather it only hurts their families. Denying such criminals their freedom is the best form of punishment for them. Tattooed criminals should also have punishments whose intention is not to instill pain, as this would serve as no punishment to them.
Insane criminals should be isolated from the society completely because of the spontaneous nature of their behavior. This is because there is no way of knowing what sort of crime they will commit. In addition, insane criminals are rarely remorseful because they have no control of their actions. Painful punishments can serve as a deterrent to such criminals. Hard core criminals, as mentioned above, have low sense of morality. Although they know that their actions are immoral, they still go ahead and commit the crimes. The focus of the criminal department should, therefore, not be on trying to change their morality, as is the norm today, but on rendering the appropriate punishment to them.
Criminal departments can use physical features of suspects in the identification of the real offenders. Individuals, with most of the physical characteristics mentioned above, should have further investigation to establish their innocence or guilt. The correction department should not use the physical characteristics in isolation to convict criminals; rather they should serve to complement other evidence already available.
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