Crime, Justice, and Correction

Crime, Justice, and Correction

Crime, Justice, and Correction

Crime, Justice, and Correction

Excerpt

The fundamental subject matter of criminology is included in this volume: the nature, prevalence, and causation of crime; the procedures and major problems in the administration of justice; and the methods of correctional treatment. Several features, however, distinguish it from other texts. Perhaps the most basic of these is the effort to achieve a fuller synthesis of the behavioral sciences and in doing so to avoid reliance upon any narrow and deterministic concept of the offender. In recent years the idea of developing "systematic" and broadly generalized theories of causation has become popular in some quarters. Loosely eclectic concepts of "multiple factor" causation have been criticized, but at the same time equally loose forms of cultural determinism have been proposed in their place. Often, in attempts to explain too much too simply, "integrated theories" have been stretched while the facts of criminality have been distorted in order to fit complex social realities into a doctrinal scheme. There appear to be at least four sound reasons to limit the emphasis on cultural influences in theoretical and applied criminology and to view such influences as only one phase, however important, in criminal etiology: (1) Noncultural phenomena are fundamental. Why, in an "exploitative" and criminogenic culture are not all individuals habitual criminals? The query in more realistic form: In a society where there is some balance of forces that, on the one hand, promote conformity, and on the other nonconformity, how should the criminality of a minority be explained? Rather clearly the divergence in behavior results from variabilities in individuals and in group relationships rather than merely in culture or subcultures. (2) As a practical matter, not all the phenomena relating to criminal behavior can be defined or measured equally well. Tools of empirical research can be and are applied with reasonable effectiveness to differentiate between criminals and noncriminals in their personal and social characteristics and in their interrelationships and in recent years to distinguish the qualities of criminals of different types. We lack comparably sound devices to determine those elements of culture that may be criminogenic or to measure their impact. Cultural evaluations in criminology are imprecise and often . . .

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