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Criminal Acts And Choice Theory Essay

1050 words - 5 pages

Criminal Acts and Choices
Tamara Manning
June 16, 2012

Criminal Acts and Choices
“Choice theories state that the decision to commit (or refrain from) crime is an exercise of free
will based on the offender’s efforts to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.” Choice theories are
perspectives on crime causation that states that criminality is the aftermath of conscious choices made
by people. There are four basic theories that are considered: Psychological positivism, biological,
positivism, rational choice, and sociological positivism. These theories rely on logic to explain why
people commit crimes ...view middle of the document...

In other words, humans make choices; most human
behaviors are a result of free will. The majority of the Classical theories on crime causation share basic
characteristics. Both old and new theories hold that crime is caused by the combination of an
individual’s free will and rational choice; pleasure and pain are feelings that navigate human behavior;
crime is an immoral form of behavior; crime is punishable by law, punishment should keep criminals
from repeating crimes, and criminal punishment should be viewed as an example to other potential
criminals; and Crime can be prevented by swift and certain punishments that offset gains through crime
(The Classical School, 2009).
In his 1764 Crime and Punishment essay, Cesare Beccaria suggested that punishment should be
just and sufficient to deter criminal behavior, but should never be excessive. Beccaria took more of a
humanistic approach to punishment; he didn’t believe in brutality or the death penalty as means of
punishing criminals. He is now known as the founder of Classical Schools of criminology (Cesare
Beccaria: Crime and Punishment, 2009). Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), a theorist influenced by
Beccaria’s work, cam up with his own theory. This theory is called the Hedonistic Calculus and states
that individuals will not exercise free will to commit a crime, if the punishment for the crime is worse
than the benefits of committing the crime. For example: an individual won’t kill their significant other
for ending a relationship if the punishment for murder is life in prison, or the death penalty. The
potential offender understands that he or she would be committing a crime at the expense of their own
life and liberty. This philosophy is referred to as utilitarianism. Bentham and Beccaria both agreed that in
order for it to be effective, punishment had to be swift, certain, and just (Jeremy Bentham: Hedonistic
Calculus, 2009).
A more contemporary and narrowed perspective on criminal behavior is the rational choice
theory. This theory holds that crime is largely the result of conscious choices that an individual makes;
people will choose crime if they believe the benefits of the act outweigh the costs. This perspective is a
bit narrower than the Hedonism Calculus; represented by the routine activities theory, the rational
choice theory demonstrates the likelihood of victimization due to routine activities at certain times....

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