CRIM 110 Introduction to Criminal Justice: Theories of Crime and Deviance

Finding Theories on Crime & Deviance

While criminal justice refers to the system of law enforcement, courts, and corrections, criminology is a separate discipline. Criminology refers to the study of the nature, extent, and causes of criminal offending and victimization. By understanding these two fields and the overlap between them, we are able to gain a more holistic perspective of the criminal justice system and the society in which we live.  

1.  Positivist Theories a) Humans are born a "blank slate" and non-criminal --if experiences are bad or teach that crime is acceptable, then crime is more likely; b) Deterministic (no free will); Criminogenic forces 'cause' individuals and groups to be more likely to commit crime, commit serious offenses, and offend at a higher rate.

  • Biology: exposure to lead or other toxins that affect behavior and impulse control
  • Psychology: unable to handle emotions of anger and stress; personality traits - low self-control, impulsivity,aggression, mental Illness: psychopathy
  • Environment: poverty & discrimination; lack of opportunities; suffering victimization or abuse

2.  Classical Theories a) Human nature is selfish and crime is a quick and easy way to get what you want-criminal behavior comes naturally to us. Why obey the law? b) assumes free will c) factors that influence perceived penalties and benefits for crime are explained here:

  • Opportunity: target suitability, guardianship
  • Rational choice: real and perceived consequences of behavior
  • Social control (informal/formal): sanction certainty, celerity, and severity

Use the RIT Libraries Catalog to find books on this topic. Use the keywords criminology theory.

There are some encyclopedias and handbooks related to criminal justice. Use the keywords criminal justice AND encyclopedia. There are different types of courts that you can look up using the subject courts filter in the catalog. You can also look up landmark Supreme Court cases

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