Lombroso and Beccaria on Criminology

Lombroso used physiognomic attributes to tell criminals from law abiding people. Lombroso classified criminals into born criminals, insane criminals, and criminaloids.  The only acceptable category of criminals is the insane criminal. Individuals suffering from disorders including epilepsy, or who suffered abuse at a young age at the hands of their parents, or guardians can, in maturity, be driven by their condition to commit crimes they may not have committed had they not suffered from these conditions.

An insane criminal permanently or temporarily loses the power of free will and can break the law during such moments. Psychiatrist tests are thus recommended in cases where the sanity of the criminal is in doubt.

Beccarias classical theory still finds much application in todays justice and law-making systems. Unlike Lombros, Beccaria argued that people had the power of free will and rational behaviour. An efficient justice system was required to discourage crime. Beccaria stated that the government had the right to punish law-breakers. However, punishment had to be commensurate with the crime committed and harsh or arbitrary punishments were inappropriate.

Another aspect of Beccarias theory applied in the modern justice system is his proposition that clear laws were to be set by legislators who could not judge law-breakers. This ensures that neither legislators nor judges twist the law to hurt others.


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