Criminality has been sociologically defined as a form of deviant behavior from the norm and the acceptable rules of society. A more generic definition of criminality is a behavioral predisposition that disproportionately favors criminal activity. It is based on the premise that the act or acts committed by an individual violates the natural rights that are given to the person by birth and or by right. The statement “Are criminals born, or made? ” is wide reaching and still the subject of many debates.Each year when Crime in the United States is published, many entities—news media, tourism agencies, and other groups with an interest in crime in our Nation—use reported Crime Index figures to compile rankings of cities and counties.
These rankings, however, are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents.To assess criminality and law enforcement’s response from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, one must consider many variables, some of which, while having significant impact on crime, are not readily measurable nor applicable pervasively among all locales. (1) In various societies the idea of criminality differs and therefore makes the definition of criminality very broad. Criminality could be stated that it is a political idea rather than a moral form of behavior. An act that is considered immoral may not be criminal but an act that is moral may also be criminal depending upon the culture an...
d political foundation.
In context of such a theory then, criminality can be understood using various sociological contexts. Through this we will attempt to understand or explain criminality and whether criminals are born or made. Beginning over a hundred years ago in the late 18th century social and criminal anthropologists began to speculate at the causes of criminality and delinquency and set about to investigate. There are still many disagreements connected with the definition of criminality as sociologists and anthropologists struggled to understand and attempt to produce a universal understanding of criminality.Most theorists at the time believed that it had to be a deep-rooted trait, or an innate tendency. Over the years that followed, many other sociologists and psychologists have tried to determine this complicated question.
Some sociologists and psychologists would remain on the side of biological causes, and some would look further into environmental and social causes. There are many factors surrounding the arguments for all sides, a few of which will be addressed.Known as the father of criminology, Lombroso studied phys¬ical characteristics of convicted prisoners and found that there were many physical features that were common among criminals. Though he later modified his views, he originally concluded that what was common to the criminals that he studied were their atavistic or primitive features such as: receding foreheads, prom¬inent chins, and long arms. He would describe these criminals as either insane or “criminaloid” (criminal types).
He further maintained that their criminal tendencies were the result of these inherited characteristics.Lombroso believe
that a particular physical characteristic or attribute could predict criminality, thus creating a “born” criminal. Lombroso theorized, a result of certain atavisms whereby the criminal would be both mentally and physically inferior to normal human beings, and that they would bear a resemblance to our predecessor, the ape. He used certain physical characteristics as indicators of criminality, and measured them. If a person were to portray five or more of these atavisms, then they were seen to be a born criminal. He also added other factors to this theory, including that of an excessive use of tattooing and excessive idleness.
In 1894, Enrico Ferri, who was a follower of Lombroso’s, his research for the first time linked crime and social class. In 1901, Enrico Ferri, one of the fathers of positivist criminology, was invited to deliver a series of lectures at the University of Naples. Ferri used the occasion to admonish classical criminologists and to advance the principles of positivism. (2) He approached the study of criminals from a sociological perspec¬tive, that is, by studying the criminal’s relationship to society rather than the criminal’s individual personality or physical traits.
He also recommended that society focus on the preven¬tion rather than the punishment of crime. William Sheldon had similar ideas, however these were mainly based around body types. He described three basic body types and different temperaments that corresponded with them. These were: Endomorphs who would be soft and round with relaxed personalities; Mesomorphs who were athletic and tended to be aggressive; and finally Ectomorphs who were thin frail and introverted.Sheldon rated these physical attributes in any given individual, and gave ratings of 1 – 7 to indicate the degree of each body type they possessed then the person would be given a three-digit rating showing his or her possession of these characteristics.
Sheldon compared these ratings between a group of 200 male delinquents, against 200 non-delinquent students. He found that the delinquents were significantly higher in mesomorphy and lower in ectomorphy. He concluded that a Mesomorph was the one most likely to be a criminal.Other studies were based around heredity, by Francis Galton and were set up to measure degrees of resemblance or association.
Charles Goring used these new statistical techniques in the analysis of criminality. He concluded that crime was inherited much in the same way as ordinary physical traits and features. He also found that those with frequent and lengthy terms of imprisonment were physically smaller and less intelligent than other people and although there could be a distinct environmental explanation for this, Goring believed that these were primarily inherited characteristics.As you can imagine, there are many criticisms of these theories, mainly that a majority of Lombrosso’s atavisms could describe almost any ethnic minority, and any fit or sporty person in Sheldon’s books, would be delinquent. Lombrosso’s theory however, was very popular at the turn of the century and dispelled any theories that a person became criminal, simply because they fell victim to unfortunate social circumstances.
However, the International Congress of Criminal Anthropology was critical of this.They believed that the origins of crime lay in social conditions rather than with
- Arnold Rothstein
- Capital Punishment
- Crime Prevention
- Criminal Justice
- Criminal Law
- Drug Trafficking
- Juvenile Delinquency
- Organized Crime
- Personal Offense
- Property Crime
- Serial Killer
- Sexual Offence
- Crime scene
- Computer crime
- Charles Manson
- Juvenile Crime
- Death Penalty
- Illegal Drug Trade
- Hate Crime
- Human Trafficking