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The Positivist School Of Criminology Essay

1096 words - 4 pages

The positivist school was created in the 1800's and was based on the principle that the only way to truly understand something in society was by looking at it from a scientific point of view (Adler, Mueller, and Laufer 2012). There were many people who contributed to the positivist school, however the person who first placed an emphasis on a scientific approach was Auguste Comte (Adler et al 2012). By approaching criminology in a more scientific way, a lot more progress was made, as people began to consider the reasons for criminal behavior from a different perspective. Another key figure in the positive school was Charles Darwin (Adler et al 2012). When he proposed the theory of evolution it caused society to become more open-minded in regards to their views about the world, as people started to rely more on science (Adler et al 2012). Due to the contributions from Comte and Darwin, the positive school of thought was able to gain traction and in turn was able to help develop the field of criminology.
After Comte and Darwin developed their theories about the world, they were followed by several criminologists who also believed that science could answer many of the problems that were present in society, particularly in the field of criminology. One of these men was Cesare Lombroso, who was the first to actually focus on criminology as a science (Adler et al 2012). Lombroso believed criminals could be identified because of physical differences between them and non-criminal members of society (Adler et al 2012). In order to recognize these people he created what he called the "atavistic stigmata" which are characteristics exhibited by humans who were less developed (Adler et al 2012:66). Individuals who exhibited those characteristics tended to be larger, and have more of a resemblance to animals (Adler et al 2012). Essentially Lombroso believed criminals were not as evolved as the rest of society was and therefore were unable to control themselves.
Along with Cesare Lombroso, Enrico Ferri also believed that a scientific approach was the best way to look at criminal behavior. However Ferri placed less emphasis on the physical characteristics exhibited by criminals and focused more on the mental aspect of criminals. Ferri believed criminals did not make a conscious choice to become criminals, "but rather were driven to commit them (crimes) by conditions in their lives" (Adler et al 2012:67). Since criminals did not choose to be the way they were, Ferri felt it was unfair to hold them "morally responsible" for their actions (Adler et al 2012:67). He believed crime could be significantly reduced by focusing on preventing crime by using scientific methods (Adler et al 2012). While he might have gotten some of his ideas from Lombroso, Enrico Ferri was less interested in why criminals acted the way they did, or what made them different from the rest of society, and focused more on how to help make society safer for...

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