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Home / Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs / Accredited Online Criminal Justice & Criminology Degree / Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice Resources / What Is Criminology? The Study of Crime and Criminal Minds

What is criminology? The study of crime and the criminal mind What is criminology? The study of crime and the criminal mind What is criminology? The study of crime and the criminal mind

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Tables of Contents

  • Criminology Definition and History
  • Criminology Theories
  • Criminology vs. Criminal Justice

Careers in Criminology: Salary and Job Outlook

  • Crime Statistics and Key Insights

In a time when the U.S. criminal justice system is under a microscope, criminologists are playing a key role in establishing a more equitable, science-based understanding of crime, policy, and social justice. Applying their theoretical knowledge and practical experience, professionals in this field support and strengthen the work of law enforcement agencies and legal professionals.

But what is criminology, really? This article will explore the many components of this rapidly evolving discipline and offer insights on how to pursue a variety of criminology careers.

criminology meaning essay

Criminology definition and history

Criminology is the study of crime and criminal behavior, informed by principles of sociology and other non-legal fields, including psychology, economics, statistics, and anthropology.

Criminologists examine a variety of related areas , including:

  • Characteristics of people who commit crimes
  • Reasons why people commit crimes
  • Effects of crime on individuals and communities
  • Methods for preventing crime

Origins of criminology

The  roots of criminology  trace back to a movement to reform criminal justice and penal systems more than 200 years ago. The first collection and use of crime statistics in the 19th century then laid the groundwork for generations of increasingly sophisticated tools and methods, leading to our modern use of descriptive statistics, case studies, typologies, and predictive analytics.

18th-century origins of criminal theory

Cesare Beccaria’s “On Crime and Punishments,” published in 1764, called for  fitting the punishment to the severity of the crimes , as explained by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

  • Punishments for crimes should be “public, prompt, necessary, the minimum possible under the given circumstances, and established by law.”
  • Punishments are intended to deter the offender from further criminal activity.
  • Severity is based on the level of harm caused by the offense rather than the intent of the offender.

The legal reference website JRank highlights the work of Beccaria and Jeremy Benthem: The motivation for people’s choices is to seek pleasure or avoid pain.  Punishment for a crime  should deter potential choices to break the law by ensuring that the pain of potential punishment is greater than the pleasure derived from committing the crime. This idea spurred the first efforts in the U.S. and Europe to codify and standardize the law.

Mid-20th century development of modern criminology

The mid-20th century development of  “modern” criminology  involved seeking to understand crime’s causes by studying sociological, psychological, and economic conditions. The American Law Institute’s work on the  Model Penal Code  was a 10-year effort completed in 1962. The code established new standards of criminal liability that considered the mental elements of crime.

The code served as a model for penal code revisions in several states. It was also instrumental in charting the federal penal code for the first time. The code inspired other efforts to reform criminal law through criminology research application.

“New Criminology” and the impact of social upheaval on crime

In the 20th century, new approaches to criminology focused on the causes of crime, such as  conflicts between social and economic classes leading to social upheaval , as JRank explains. Social-process criminology emphasizes criminal behavior as something people learn through interaction with others, usually in small groups.

In contrast, control theory focuses on training people to behave appropriately by encouraging law-abiding behavior. Control theory’s basis is the belief that personal bonds give rise to our internal controls, such as conscience and guilt, and our external controls, such as shame, that deter us from breaking the law.

A multidisciplinary approach to criminology

In their research, criminologists consider many perspectives on crime’s causes and effects. This  multidisciplinary approach of criminologists  accepts there is no single answer to why people commit crimes. JRank notes attempts to control bad behavior date back to the earliest civilizations. Today, factors may be biological, psychological, economic, or social. Criminals are motivated by greed, anger, jealousy, pride, and other emotions. They seek material gain; they want control, revenge, or power.

Potential causes of or motivations for criminal activity include:

  • Parental relations
  • Hereditary and brain activity
  • Peer influence
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Easy opportunity

Criminology and the legal perspective

Criminologists study crime as an illegal action society punishes through the government’s legal system. Researchers focus on the causes, prevention, and correction of crime generally. By contrast, the legal industry’s perspective of crime emphasizes specific crimes and punishments governed by statutes and regulations, as well as established legal processes.

The legal definition of a crime is  an offense against public law , as UpCounsel explains. To qualify as a crime, the offense must be punishable, whether by fine, loss of freedom, or other method.  Criminologists have broadened the definition of crime  to include conduct that doesn’t violate existing law, as JRank reports. This includes economic exploitation, racial discrimination, and unsafe or unhealthy work environments.

Criminology resources

  • The Internet Journal of Criminology  — Links to government organizations, national and international organizations, academic institutions, and other criminology resources
  • Critical Criminology  — A compilation of resources that examine law, crime, and justice from the perspective of people of color, women, restorative efforts, and community justice
  • S. Department of Justice, National Criminal Intelligence Resource Center  — Links to criminal justice professional associations and groups that assist law enforcement in establishing policies, standards, training, and education

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Criminology Theories: Classical, Positivist, and Chicago School

Research into criminology theories is primarily sociological or psychological.  Sociological theories of criminology  perceive crime as a normal human response to social conditions that are “abnormal and criminogenic,” according to JRank.

Psychological theories of criminology  date back to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. Crime results from a failure to form healthy and loving attachments to parents. Behavioral psychology introduced the concept of rewards and punishments: A rewarded crime is repeated; a punished crime is not.

Three principal approaches to criminology

Today, three criminology theories predominate: the Classical, Positivist, and Chicago schools.

  • The Classical School argues that people freely choose to engage in crime.  Bentham’s utilitarianism theory  states they are driven either by a desire for pleasure or by aversion to pain, as the Oxford University Press states.
  • The Positivist School applies scientific theory to criminology. It focuses on factors that compel people to commit crimes.
  • The Chicago School states that crime results from “ social disorganization ,” which is defined in the Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice as “the inability of a community to realize common values and maintain effective social controls.”

Criminology’s impact on reducing and preventing crimes

Two statistical programs run by the DOJ demonstrate the  impact that criminological studies have had on responding to, reducing, and preventing crimes .

  • The Uniform Crime Reporting program (UCR) collects information from law enforcement agencies across the country on dozens of crimes. It is intended to assist researchers in studying crime among neighboring jurisdictions and those with similar populations or other characteristics.
  • The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) analyzes crime incidents, victims, and trends. It collects data on reported and unreported crimes and provides researchers with demographic data on perpetrators and victims.

Research conducted by the Minnesota House Research Department  studied the effectiveness of the theory of criminal deterrence , which dates back to the 18th century. It reached three conclusions:

  • Deterrence is most effective for preplanned crimes.
  • Making already-long prison sentences even longer does little to deter crime.
  • Increasing the likelihood of getting caught is a more effective crime deterrent than increasing punishment.

Criminology and society’s treatment of criminals and victims

Little attention was paid to the needs of crime victims until the 1970s, when the DOJ’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) determined that a  primary reason for unsuccessful prosecutions  was the poor treatment of witnesses and victims by the criminal justice system. Since that time, legislation and law enforcement programs, including the Violence Against Women Act of 1990, have worked to protect and assist victims and witnesses.

Similarly, criminology research has affected how criminals are treated in custody. The American Bar Association (ABA) has developed  Standards on Treatment of Prisoners  that describe correctional policies and professional standards that comply with constitutional and statutory law.

Criminology has also highlighted the real cost of crimes on individuals, families, and communities. The 2017 report  “Costs of Crime”  from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that new study methods will improve the accuracy of crime cost estimates, particularly in the area of compensating victims for their pain and suffering.

Criminology theory resources

  • “Predicting Pathways into Criminal Behavior: The Intersection of Race, Gender, Poverty, Psychological Factors”  investigates the factors involved in women’s involvement in criminal activity, including economic disadvantage related to education and employment.
  • The National Institute of Justice discusses mapping in law enforcement in this paper:  “From Crime Mapping to Crime Forecasting: The Evolution of Place-Based Policing” .

Criminology vs. criminal justice: what’s the difference?

The  primary distinction when it comes to criminology vs criminal justice  is the former’s emphasis on the study of crime and the latter’s focus on society’s response to crime, as the Balance Careers explains. Criminal justice applies principles and concepts developed by criminologists to enforcing laws and investigating crimes, as well as to the trial, punishment, and rehabilitation of criminals.

Criminal justice definition

The Legal Dictionary  defines criminal justice  as a set of procedures:

  • Investigating criminal conduct
  • Gathering evidence of the crime
  • Making arrests
  • Bringing charges in court
  • Raising defenses
  • Conducting trials
  • Rendering sentences
  • Carrying out punishments

By contrast, its definition of criminology emphasizes the scientific and academic aspects of the field’s study of crime, criminal behavior, and law enforcement. Criminal justice includes the work of:

  • Criminal courts
  • Prisons and other correctional institutions
  • Juvenile justice systems

Criminal justice and effective law enforcement

In the 20th century, the  field of criminal justice arose  as an effort to improve the effectiveness of law enforcement in light of expanding due process and other rights for criminal defendants, as Encyclopedia Britannica explains. The study of criminal justice expanded in the 1980s and 1990s in the form of qualitative descriptive analyses of the operations of specific criminal justice agencies.

More recent research in criminal justice emphasizes quantitative studies about the effectiveness of particular crime-fighting strategies and approaches. Researchers have studied whether an abusive spouse’s arrest prevents future incidents of abuse, and whether prison rehabilitation programs are effective in reducing recidivism.

One area of criminal justice research proven to be ineffective is the effort to predict which offenders are most likely to commit other crimes. Not only were models unable to identify habitual offenders, but researchers were questioned about whether such efforts violated people’s constitutional rights. The fear is that offenders may be punished not for what they had done but for what they might do in the future.

Such issues are at the forefront of modern discussions about the relationships between civil rights and law enforcement. With numerous  studies indicating a need to address systemic racism  in many corners of the justice system, future criminologists will play an important part in creating a more equitable framework for crime prevention.

Criminology and criminal justice work together to fight crime

Criminal justice and criminology are distinct fields, but they’re closely linked, theoretically and practically. From the viewpoint of potential criminologists and law enforcement professionals, the big difference is criminology’s focus on science and research, and criminal justice’s emphasis on application and administration.

For example, criminologists respond to a rise in homicides by studying underlying economic, sociological, and psychological conditions. By contrast, criminal justice officials respond by working to prevent future homicides and capture the perpetrators.

The two fields merge in  applied criminology , which studies “real-world” problems relating to crime and criminal justice. It applies criminology concepts to actual criminal justice policy and practice. The goal is to make criminology relevant in addressing crime, victimization, and the relationship between “governmental agendas and knowledge production.”

Criminologists promote crime-fighting efforts via tools such as the  New York Police Department’s CompStat system , which is now used by police departments across the country to  combine crime analysis and geographic information system technologies . Their work suggests innovative ways to improve law enforcement and instill trust in the criminal justice system.

Criminology vs. Criminal Justice: Additional Resources

  • Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
  • International Journal Of Criminal Justice Sciences, List of World Agencies/Organizations in Criminal Justice/Criminology
  • The Balance Careers, “The Difference Between Careers in Criminology and Criminal Justice”

criminology meaning essay

Typical  employers of criminologists  include law enforcement and other government agencies, university research labs, and other research institutions, as explains. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)  defines criminologists  or penologists as sociologists who specialize in the study of crime. They investigate the social influences of crime on individuals, groups, and organizations.

Career options for criminologists

The Balance Careers  distinguishes criminology positions  as being more academic than those in criminal justice, although there is a great degree of overlap between the two fields. For example, people typically earn a bachelor’s degree in criminology followed by a master’s degree in criminal justice, or vice versa.

Among the daily tasks of criminologists are collecting and examining evidence, visiting crime scenes, attending autopsies, and exploring the psychological aspects of a crime from investigation through conviction and rehabilitation. These tasks require the ability to organize data and evidence, conduct statistical analysis, and write reports.

The range of  positions available to criminologists  include jobs with federal, state, and local law enforcement, as well as public and private research organizations, think tanks, legislative bodies, and public policy bodies, as the Balance Careers reports. Criminologists strive to improve police operations via innovative programs, such as community-oriented policing and predictive policing.

Criminology Positions: Salaries and Employment Outlook

The BLS forecasts that the number of jobs for all sociologists, the category that includes criminologists, will increase by 9% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average growth projected for all occupations. reports that the median annual criminology salary is around $44,000.

These are among the career options available to criminologists.

Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians  assist in criminal investigations . They collect and analyze evidence, including fingerprints, weapons, and body fluids. They photograph and sketch crime scenes, and they catalog and preserve evidence before it is transferred to crime labs. They also work in labs, investigate possible suspects, and consult with experts in forensic medicine.

The BLS reports that the median annual salary of forensic science technicians as of May 2019 was $59,150. The number of jobs is forecast to increase by 14% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average projected for all occupations.

criminology meaning essay

Probation and Community Control Officer

According to BLS figures, the  median annual salary for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists  was $54,290 as of May 2019. The number of jobs for the position is forecast to increase by 3% between 2018 and 2028, which is lower than the average projected for all occupations.

Probation and community control officers help former offenders transition to productive lives after incarceration. The Balance Careers lists the  duties of probation and community control officers .

  • Supervise probationers and parolees, including visiting their homes and meeting with their families
  • Collaborate with church groups and community organizations
  • Monitor probationers and parolees electronically
  • Perform pretrial investigations, submit sentencing recommendations, and testify in court
  • Prepare status reports on probationers and parolees, and assist them in job training and job searches

Police Officer

The median annual salary for police officers and detectives as of May 2019 was $65,170, according to the BLS. Jobs for police officers and detectives are expected to increase by 5% between 2018 and 2028, which is equal to the average projected for all occupations.

Police officers are tasked with protecting the lives and property of community residents. The BLS explains the  duties of police officers :

  • Respond to emergency and nonemergency situations
  • Patrol specific areas
  • Issue citations and conduct traffic stops
  • Use computers in the field to search for warrants and vehicle registrations
  • Conduct investigations at crime scenes
  • Collect and secure evidence
  • Prepare cases and testify in court

Corrections Officer

The median annual salary of corrections officers as of May 2019 was $47,830, according to BLS figures. The number of positions for corrections officers is forecast to decline by 7% between 2018 and 2028 as a result of expected reductions in prison populations.

Corrections officers oversee people who have been arrested and are awaiting a hearing or trial, as well as people who have been convicted and sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. The BLS notes the  duties of corrections officers :

  • Maintain order in jails and prisons by enforcing rules
  • Inspect facilities to ensure they meet safety and security standards
  • Supervise inmate activities and search them for contraband
  • Escort and transport inmates, and report on inmate conduct

Loss Prevention Manager reports the median annual salary for loss prevention managers is around $52,000. The most common tasks of loss prevention managers are security risk management, safety compliance, inventory control, theft prevention, and security policies and procedures.

A loss prevention manager’s primary responsibility is to  prevent business losses due to internal or external theft, fraud, accidents, mishandling, or other causes , as explains. Other  duties of loss prevention managers  appear on O*Net Online:

  • Investigate employee theft and other violations of the company’s loss-prevention policies
  • Develop and implement programs to manage inventory, promote safety, and minimize losses
  • Ensure that prevention exception reports and cash discrepancies follow corporate guidelines
  • Train staff and managers on loss prevention strategies and techniques
  • Interview people suspected of shoplifting and other forms of theft

Detective/Criminal Investigator

Also referred to as detectives, criminal investigators are  police officers who gather facts and collect evidence in criminal cases . The BLS notes that criminal investigators often specialize in a single category of crime, such as fraud or homicide. These are the primary duties of criminal investigators:

  • Conduct interviews with crime victims, witnesses, suspects, and relevant experts
  • Examine police and other records
  • Monitor the activities of suspects and participate in raids and arrests
  • Write reports, prepare cases for trial, and testify during court proceedings

The median annual salary for detectives and criminal investigators as of May 2019 was $83,170, according to BLS figures. The number of jobs for police officers and detectives is forecast to increase by 5% between 2018 and 2028, which is equal to the average for all occupations.

criminology meaning essay

Fish and Game Warden

The BLS reports that the median annual salary for fish and game wardens as of May 2019 was $57,500. The number of jobs for fish and game wardens is expected to increase by 2% between 2018 and 2028, which is below the average projected for all occupations.

Fish and game wardens are  responsible for enforcing laws related to hunting, fishing, and boating , as the BLS describes. These are among their primary duties:

  • Conduct interviews with complainants, witnesses, and suspects
  • Patrol fishing and hunting areas
  • Participate in search and rescue efforts
  • Monitor people suspected of violating regulations relating to fishing and hunting
  • Educate the public about laws governing outdoor activities

Private Investigator

The median annual salary for private detectives and investigators as of May 2019 was $50,510, according to BLS figures. The number of jobs for private investigators is forecast to grow by 8% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average growth projected for all occupations.

The work done by private investigators for businesses and individuals mirrors that done by criminal investigators for public law enforcement agencies. These professionals examine records and conduct other research relating to legal, financial, and personal matters. The BLS lists the  duties of private detectives and investigators :

  • Conduct criminal and other background checks and verify statements made by individuals
  • Interview suspects, witnesses, and experts and perform other research into missing persons
  • Search for evidence in online, public, and court records
  • Perform surveillance and collect other evidence for clients

Insurance Fraud Investigator

The BLS reports that the median annual salary for claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators was $66,790 as of May 2019. The agency expects the number of jobs for the category to decline by 4% between 2018 and 2028 due to automation of claims processing.

The position of insurance fraud investigator is included in the broad category of claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators who evaluate insurance claims. These are among the  principle duties of insurance fraud investigators , as listed by the BLS:

  • Examine and research insurance claims to confirm that they are legitimate
  • Conduct interviews with claimants’ doctors, employers, and others to review suspicious claims
  • Work with attorneys and other legal professionals to verify information related to claims
  • Perform surveillance to identify fraudulent claims resulting from staged accidents, arson, unnecessary medical treatments, and other criminal activity

Crime statistics and key insights

An important role played by criminologists is compiling and reporting on crime statistics.  The New Yorker  highlights both the importance of crime statistics in formulating crime-prevention strategies and enforcement policies and the  difficulty criminologists encounter in accurately measuring crime .

The article describes the challenge in determining whether cannabis use increases or reduces crime levels. Various analyses of crime rate trends in states where cannabis has been legalized have come to conflicting conclusions, pointing to the complexity of arriving at a definitive answer about what contributes to criminal activity. Criminologists use a variety of sources and techniques to try to provide statistics that can accurately portray crime trends and inform criminal policies.

How criminologists support law enforcement

Two of the DOJ’s most effective statistical analysis tools for assisting local crime-fighting efforts are the FBI’s UCR system and Bureau of Justice Statistics’ NCVS, both of which are described above. The systems share a shortcoming: Local jurisdictions disagree on what constitutes a crime. Some jurisdictions only report offenses that involve incarceration, while others include fined infractions.

Criminologists have developed a range of statistics-based tools that support federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

  • The City-Level Survey of Crime Victimization and Citizen Attitudes analyzes surveys conducted by the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to  determine people’s perceptions of community policing and issues in their neighborhoods .
  • Emergency Room Statistics on Intentional Violence surveys a sample of hospital emergency rooms throughout the U.S. to  identify instances of domestic violence, rape, child abuse, and other intentional injuries .
  • The Police-Public Contact Survey interviews a representative sample of people across the country who either reported a crime or were detained in a traffic stop to  gauge their perceptions of the police’s conduct and response during the encounter .

Other organizations involved in the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information about police activities include the Center for Policing Equity’s  COMSTAT for Justice , which is intended to identify bias in policing, and the  U.S. Commission on Civil Rights , whose 2019 report titled  “Police Use of Force: An Examination of Modern Policing Practices”  recommended that  more data on the use of force by police  be made available to law enforcement agencies, and that police be trained in de-escalation techniques, cultural differences, and anti-bias mechanisms.

Criminology’s impact by the numbers

Many of the statistics used and shared by the DOJ and the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention are compiled by the  U.S. Census Bureau .

  • The Annual Survey of Jails reports on the  number of inmates in regional, county, city, and private jails , as well as demographic and criminal justice statistics of the jail population, among other areas related to incarceration.
  • The Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities gathers information on the  operation of the prisons and jails, and the conditions of confinement , such as capacity and crowding, court orders, staff workloads, and safety and security.
  • The Survey of Sexual Victimization (formerly the Survey of Sexual Violence) collects data on  sexual assaults in correctional facilities , including state prisons, state juvenile correction facilities, federal prisons, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities, and the U.S. military.  

Other sources of information on the impact of criminology research in law enforcement include the  Historical Violence Database  maintained by Ohio State University Criminal Justice Research Center, the University of Michigan’s  National Archive of Criminal Justice Data , the  National Criminal Justice Reference Service , and the University at Albany’s  Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics .

Criminologists: Serving Communities and Society

The work of criminologists touches nearly all aspects of social life. Crime investigation calls for specialized skills and training, sophisticated number-crunching ability, and a great deal of fieldwork interacting with colleagues within and outside criminal justice, and with the public.

Infographic Sources

The Balance Careers, “What Does a Criminologist Do?”

PayScale, “Average Criminologist Salary”

PayScale, “Average FBI Agent Salary”

PayScale, “Average Forensic Scientist Salary”

PayScale, “Average Police Detective Salary”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, “Detectives and Criminal Investigators”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Forensic Science Technicians”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Police and Detectives”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Sociologists”

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1.2 What Is Criminology?

“Trying to understand the behavior of some people is like trying to smell the color 9.”

Janis Ian, activist and singer/songwriter

Criminology can be described as trying to understand people’s behavior as it relates to crime. Janis Ian’s quote humorously shows how challenging that can be. Still, it is this effort that sets criminology apart from criminal justice in terms of focus, approach, and perspective.

First, what is criminology exactly? Criminology  is the study of crime and why it happens. It considers individual factors and societal factors to better understand what drives someone to commit a crime. Once we, as a society, understand the why , we can address that cause and stop it in its tracks. With this goal in mind, criminologists look at crime from many perspectives—psychological, sociological, economic, political, biological, and more.

We can see criminology in action when criminologists attempt to break down why there has been an increase in violent crime since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically gun violence in Portland, Oregon, as described in the Chapter Overview. Criminologists are looking at what happened during the pandemic to figure out what caused the increase in crime, what the impacts of the crimes were, and what needs to change based on what they learn. Again, they do this with the belief that if they know why crime is happening, they can figure out how to prevent it.

1.2.1 Criminology and Criminal Justice Perspectives

Edwin Sutherland, one originator of this approach to understanding crime, explained criminology as the scientific study of breaking the law, making the law, and society’s reaction to those who break the law (1934). With a focus on crime and law, how is criminology different from criminal justice?

In the simplest terms, criminal justice is the what  and criminology is the why . Criminal justice  is the system that deals with crime and its consequences. It is made up of the three Cs—cops, courts, and corrections. Although the criminal justice system is essential for addressing crime, it is not set up for analyzing and addressing why the crime occurred in the first place. Rather, the criminal justice system is tasked with addressing the crime itself through law enforcement, the courts, and corrections.

Criminology, on the other hand, focuses on understanding crime. It is important for criminal justice and criminology to work hand in hand to have a positive impact on public safety, which is the goal of both areas and everyone involved in these fields. From the criminal justice perspective, when we talk about why , we are often talking about motive. However, from the criminology perspective, when we talk about why , we are talking about causes.

Let’s go back to the example in the Chapter Overview to see how the same phenomenon of an increase in gun violence in Portland is looked at differently through a criminal justice lens versus a criminology lens. In figure 1.2, the column on the left, Criminal Justice Perspective, lists several potential reasons those in law enforcement, the courts, and others focused on addressing crime may consider. The column on the right, Criminology Perspective, lists several potential reasons someone analyzing why this crime is happening in the first place may consider. As you can see, there is no simple answer on either side.

Figure 1.2. Criminal Justice and Criminology Perspectives on the Increase in Gun Violence in Portland, Oregon during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consider how these different perspectives could lead to different attempts at solutions. What action might someone in a leadership position decide to take if they believe the cause of the increased gun violence in Portland is due to budget cuts in the police department? Compare this to the action they might take if they believe the cause is a lack of a safe place for teenagers to hang out in neighborhoods where gun violence is the highest.

Criminologists base their understanding of causes for crime on existing theories in psychology, sociology, economics, politics, and biology. Then they create new theories with the goal of painting an even clearer picture. We will discuss what it takes to create a theory and what that process looks like in the next section.

1.2.2 Licenses and Attributions for What is Criminology?

“What is Criminology?” by Taryn VanderPyl is licensed under CC BY 4.0 .

Figure 1.2. Criminal Justice and Criminology Perspectives Table by Taryn VanderPyl is licensed under CC BY 4.0 .

 Introduction to Criminology Copyright © by Taryn VanderPyl. All Rights Reserved.

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How to Write a Criminology Essay: Writing Guide, Examples, Outline & Structure

Criminology is a fascinating area of study that looks at the causes, implications, and prevention of crime. If you are a criminology student, you may be needed to craft essays on number of topics relevant to this topic.

Writing a criminology essay can be difficult, particularly, if you are unfamiliar with the writing style and forma needed for academic writing.

In this blog post, we will offer you with techniques and instructions on how to write a criminology essay that satisfies the academic specifications. We will also give you with some example of criminology essays to give you a concept of how to structure and convey your ideas. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced  essay writer , this blog post will be resourcefully of value for you.

Table of Contents

Understanding the essay prompt and selecting a topic.

Comprehending the essay prompt and choosing a topic is essential steps in writing a effective criminology essay. Here are some pointers for every stage of the process:

Understanding the essay prompt:

  • Read the prompt keenly: Before you begin writing, ensure you comprehend exactly what the prompt is asking you to do. Search for main phrases or words that show the scope of the assignment, like “compare,” “contrast,” “analyze,” or “evaluate.”
  • Determine the topic: after you’ve parsed the prompt, you should have a clear idea of the general topic your essay will discuss.
  • Identify the scope: based on the length of your essay and the focus of the prompt, you may need to narrow your topic down to a particular element of the wider theme.

Selecting a topic:

  • Think about your interests: When selecting a topic, it’s crucial to pick something that you find involving in person.
  • Search for gaps in the research: One way to select a topic is to look for areas of criminology that have not been extensively researched or that haven’t been looked at from a particular angle.
  • Think about recent events s: picking a topic is another approach is to look for current events or ongoing debates in criminology that you find interesting.
  • Brainstorm potential angles: after you have a general topic in mind, brainstorm different angles or ways you could take to assess the topic.

Sample Topic : The  Impact of Solitary Confinement  on Prisoners’ Mental Health

For instance, when, your essay prompt requests you to evaluate the effects of specific element of the criminal justice system on a problem in criminology, you might pick to concentrate on the use of solitary confinement in prisons. This is a subject that has been the topic of ongoing debate in recent years, and it has significant consequences for the mental health and wellbeing of incarcerated person. To narrow your focus, you might select to the specific impacts of long-term solitary confinement on prisoners’ mental health, or you might evaluate the ethical consequences of using this practice as a kind of punishment.

Conducting Research and Organizing Your Ideas

Carrying out research and structuring your concepts is an important step in writing an effective criminology essay. Here are some tips and sample ideas to assist you do it successfully:

  • Begin with research query: Before you start your research, it’s crucial to have a clear idea of what you want to look at in your essay.   Related : How to write a research paper .
  • Find trustworthy sources: after you have a research question, it’s time to find sources to back up your argument. Look for reputable academic journals, books, and other scholarly sources that offer in-depth analyses of your topic
  • Take proper notes: As you read through your sources, take in-depth notes on the most crucial points and claims.
  • Organize your notes into an outline: after you have completed your research, it’s time to arrange your ideas into a clear, logical structure for your essay
  • Employ evidence to back up your arguments: As you write your essay, make sure to use evidence from your research to back up your arguments.

Sample topic: Exploring the connection between poverty and crime Research question: How does poverty add to criminal behavior?

  • Wilson, W. J. (2012). The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy. University of Chicago Press .
  • Sampson, R. J., & Laub, J. H. (1993). Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points through Life. Harvard University Press.
  • National Bureau of Economic Research . (2020). “Crime and the Labor Market.” NBER Working Paper No. 27539.

Criminology Essay Outline

  • Introduction
  • Definition of poverty and its effect on society
  • Research question
  • Poverty and crime
  • Illustration of the connection between poverty and criminal behavior
  • Evidence from academic studies
  • The role of social factors
  • The effect of family structure and social networks on crime
  • The impact of education and job chances on criminal behavior
  • Policy implications
  • possible solutions for lowering poverty and crime
  • The significance of discussing poverty in criminal justice reform efforts
  • Summary of main arguments
  • Suggestions for future research

Writing A Compelling Introduction and Thesis Statement

When it comes to crafting a criminology essay, a strong introduction and thesis statement are important in capturing the readers interest and setting the stage for your argument. Here are some tips for crafting successful introduction and thesis statement:

  • Hook the reader with an interest grabbing opening sentence. The initial sentences of your essay need to be memorable and involving.
  • Give some history information on your topic. Once your opening sentence, you need to give some context for your argument.
  • Introduce your thesis statement. Your thesis statement needs to be the last sentence of your introduction. This is the major point that you will be arguing throughout your essay, so it needs to be clear, concise, and precise

Here’s an instance of a successful introduction and thesis statement for a criminology essay:

Opening sentence: “Did you know that hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by 149% in major U.S. cities in 2020?”

Background information: “As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world, so did racist rhetoric blame Asian people for the outbreak. This xenophobic sentiment has manifested in a surge of hate crimes intended for Asian Americans, especially in urban places.”

Read the comprehensive guide on how to write a Covid-19 essay .

Thesis statement: “This essay will argue that social media platforms have facilitated the spread of racist and xenophobic messages, adding to the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Supporting Your Argument with Evidence and Analysis

When writing a criminology essay, backing up your argument with evidence and analysis is a critical element of an effective essay. Here are some tips and sample ideas to assist you successfully incorporate evidence and analysis into your essay:

  • Select related sources: ensure to pick sources that are directly related to your argument.

Sample idea: If you’re arguing that harsher sentencing does not deter crime, you could utilize sources that give data on crime rates before and after the implementation of mandatory minimum sentences.

  • Employ credible sources: Your sources need to be trustworthy and credible. Look for sources that have been published in reputable journals or crafted by experts in the field.

Sample idea: If you’re arguing that the death penalty is not an efficient deterrent to crime, you may utilize sources like academic studies or reports from organizations like Amnesty International .

  • Evaluate your evidence: Don’t just convey your evidence; evaluate it to show how it backs up it to demonstrate how it supports your argument. Illustrate why the evidence is related and how it back up your thesis.

Sample idea: If you’re arguing that mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses disproportionately affect people of color, you could analyze data on the racial breakdown of those serving mandatory minimum sentences to demonstrate your point.

  • Employ a variety of evidence: utilize different forms of evidence to back up your argument, like statistics, case studies, or expert testimony.

Sample idea: If you’re arguing that police brutality against minorities is a systemic issue, you could utilize case studies of high-profile incidents and also statistical data on police use of force to back up your argument.

Related: statistics homework help and Case study homework help .

  • Think about counterarguments: Anticipate and discuss counterarguments to your position. This will indicate that you have taken into account different perspectives and strengthen your general argument. Read more about how to write an argumentative essay .

Sample idea: If you’re arguing that gun control laws are necessary to lower gun violence, you could discuss counterarguments that suggest that gun control infringes on Second Amendment rights or that criminals will find a way to acquire guns regardless of the law.

Related: How to write a gun control essay .

Editing and Proofreading for Clarity and Coherence

Editing and proofreading are crucial steps in crafting any academic essay, involving a criminology essay. Here are some techniques for editing and proofreading your essay to be sure clarity and coherence:

  • Take a break before editing: It’s crucial to step away from your essay for a while before you begin editing
  • Read your essay out loud: Reading your essay out loud could assist you to determine awkward sentences, grammatical mistakes, and other problem that might not be apparent when reading silently.
  • Utilize spellcheck and grammar tools: Spellcheck and grammar tools can assist you spot spelling and grammar mistakes, but keep awareness that they are not foolproof
  • Verify for consistency: ensure that your essay is consistent in terms of formatting, language, and style.
  • Check your transitions: ensure that your essay smoothly flows from one paragraph to the next. Check your transitions to make sure that your ideas are linked and that your arguments are logical.
  • Remove unnecessary words and phrases: make sure to remove any unnecessary words and phrases that may be distracting the clarity and coherence of your essay.

Sample topic: The effect of community policing on crime rates in urban areas.

Editing and proofreading for clarity and coherence are crucial to producing a high-quality criminology essay. By spending the time to review your work keenly and make necessary revisions, you can make sure that your essay is simple to comprehend and efficiently discuss your ideas. By following the tips above, you can ensure that your criminology essay is clear, coherent, and convincing.

Examples of Essay on Criminology

Sample 1: capital punishment.

Criminology is the scientific study of crime, criminal behavior and the criminal justice system. It is a multidisciplinary field that draws upon knowledge and theories from a variety of social sciences, including sociology,  psychology , and law. Criminologists seek to understand the causes of crime, the impact of crime on society and the effectiveness of criminal justice policies and practices.

One of the most important tasks of criminologists is to identify the risk factors that contribute to criminal behavior which includes examining factors such as poverty,  family dynamics , mental illness, and drug addiction. By understanding these risk factors, criminologists can develop strategies to prevent crime and intervene early to address the underlying issues that lead to criminal behavior.

Another key area of focus for criminologists is the criminal justice system itself including examining the effectiveness of various criminal justice policies and practices, such as policing strategies, sentencing guidelines, and prison reform initiatives. Criminologists also study the impact of the criminal justice system on individuals and communities, including issues of racial and economic inequality.

The field of criminology plays a critical role in understanding and addressing crime and its effects on society. Through rigorous research and analysis, criminologists can provide policymakers with evidence-based recommendations for improving the criminal justice system and reducing crime. Conclusively, criminology is an important field for anyone interested in promoting social justice and public safety.

Sample 2: Capital Punishment Essay

As a definition , Capital punishment , also known as the  death penalty , refers to the practice of executing individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes, typically murder. The use of capital punishment is a largely controversial issue with proponents arguing that it serves as a deterrent to crime and ensures justice for victims. Opponents argue that it is a violation of human rights and has no proven deterrent effect.

One argument in favor of capital punishment is that it serves as a deterrent to crime. According to on the topic , the idea is that the fear of execution will deter potential criminals from committing murder, as they will be aware of the consequences. However, this argument is hotly debated, with opponents citing studies that show no significant difference in murder rates between states with and without the death penalty.

Opponents of capital punishment argue that it is a violation of human rights, as it involves taking the life of a human being. They also point out that the death penalty is often disproportionately applied to  marginalized groups , such as the poor and people of color, and that there have been cases of innocent people being executed.

Another argument against capital punishment is that it does not provide closure for victims’ families. While proponents argue that the death penalty provides justice for the victim, opponents argue that the lengthy appeals process and uncertainty surrounding execution dates can prolong the pain and trauma experienced by the families of murder victims.

Conclusively, capital punishment is a contentious issue that raises complex ethical and legal questions. While proponents argue that it serves as a deterrent to crime and ensures justice for victims, opponents argue that it violates human rights and is often applied in a discriminatory manner. As such, the use of capital punishment remains a deeply divisive issue, with no easy answers.

Pay Someone to Write My Criminology Essay for Me

If you are struggling with your criminology essay or need help with research or arranging your ideas, there are numerous reputable  assignment writing services  available that specialize in  academic writing . By hiring our writing service, you will be sure of reliable, trustworthy, and delivering high-quality work. Some factors to be sure of when you think about selecting a writing service include:

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A criminology essay purposes to look at particular element of criminology, like a theory, policy, or phenomenon, and deeply evaluates. The objective is to convey a well-supported argument that adds to the field of criminology and shows critical thinking and analytical skills.

When picking a topic, think about what interests you within the field of criminology, and what particular element of the topic you want to look at. You should also take into account the availability of sources and research on the subject, and whether you can make a specific contribution to the discussion.

A criminology essay needs to have a clear and concise introduction that gives background information and states your thesis statement. The body of the essay needs to convey evidence and evaluation to back up your argument, and the ending needs to sum up your key points and restate your thesis.

You need to utilize various trustworthy sources, including academic articles, books, government reports, and statistics. Ensure to analyze to the credibility and relevance of your sources before employing them in your essay.

You need to employ evidence to back up your argument, but also evaluates and interpret it to show your critical thinking skills. Ensure to illustrate how every piece of evidence backs up your thesis, and think about alternative interpretations or counterarguments.

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criminology meaning essay

Introduction to Criminological Theory

criminology meaning essay

In this overview, we will go over the following topics:

What theory is

What scientific theory is (not)

What makes theory better

What criminological theory is

Criminology is an interdisciplinary field

Course sections

What this course does not do

Development of criminology

Theorist video annotations

Video discussions

What to do after this overview

criminology meaning essay

What Theory Is

Discussing what theory is can be complicated and confusing. In part, that’s because people have different definitions of “theory.” Debates over what theory is are important. But they are not important to this course because they would be more confusing to you than useful. In this course, the word “theory” simply refers to a statement, or idea, about how something affects something else.

Any time a person makes a statement about how something affects something else, they have produced a theory. You probably make theories all the time. For example, “My boy- or girlfriend did ‘something’ because of ‘something.’” Or, “‘Something’ happened during class because of ‘something.’” Of course, those are very simple ideas, but the point you need to grasp is that a theory is a statement about how something affects something else.

Another reason that theory can be complicated and confusing is there are many aspects of it with different names. For this class, though, if you see any of the following words, just think of them as synonymous with “theory” as defined above: “perspective,” “model,” “explanation,” “prediction,” “principle,” “proposition,” “hypothesis.” Again, the differences between these are important, but will be ignored in this class because they would be more confusing than useful.

criminology meaning essay

What Scientific Theory Is (Not)

Whether a theory is scientific depends on its relationship to empirical phenomena and the scientific method. “Empirical” means something that can be heard, seen, touched, smelled, or tasted. Put simply, scientific theories make statements about how something that is empirical affects something else that is empirical. In truth, criminological theories rarely entirely focus on empirical phenomena, which is a problem, but let’s forget about that because, again, it will be more confusing than useful.

The reason it is important to focus on empirical things is because they can be “observed” and, therefore, theories of them can be “tested” and thereby falsified or given support. To be clear, however, scientific theories are not “facts.” Instead, think of them as informed speculation. Theories are like rules: they are meant to be broken. Indeed, part of what makes theories “scientific” is that they can be shown to be wrong because they deal with empirical (i.e., observable) phenomena, unlike religious and philosophical theories.

This paragraph is very important because we’ll be continually talking about “independent variables” and “dependent variables” throughout this course: A few lines above, you read: “scientific theories make statements about how something that is empirical affects something else that is empirical.” In other words, what that means is that scientific theories make statements about how “independent variable(s)” change a “dependent variable.” For example, a theory we all know is that consuming more calories (an independent variable) leads to more weight (a dependent variable), but weight is decreased by running more (another independent variable).

You’ll read more about all this in the Wikipedia entry on “Scientific Theory.”

criminology meaning essay

What Makes Theory Better

Whether a theory is “valid” – meaning “correct” or “right” – is one way that people judge how good it is. However, there are other ways to evaluate theory. For example, is the statement simple or complicated? Does it apply to a lot of communities, people, and situations, or only a few? Is it truly a new idea or essentially a rip-off of a prior one? Does it offer practical ideas for how to solve problems – such as how to reduce crime – or not? Thus, what makes one theory better than another is not simply whether it is valid, but also if it is simpler, more general, more original, and more useful.

Throughout this course, you should not simply ask yourself, “Do I think ‘this’ theory is valid?” Rather, you should also be asking yourself: "Is it (too) simple or (too) complicated? Is it (too) specific or (too) general? Is it useful or useless? Is it too focused on being useful and, thus, potentially biased? Is it original or unoriginal?"

criminology meaning essay

What Criminological Theory Is

Discussing what a “criminological theory” is can be complicated and confusing, also. Like the word theory, people have different meanings and words for “criminological” and its synonym “criminology.” In this class, “criminological theory” and “criminology” only refer to statements about what affects crime. In other words, crime is the dependent variable. What criminological theories do is specify the independent variables that affect crime.

The vast majority of criminological theories make statements about the types of communities, individuals, and situations most likely to have or commit crime.

“Community-level” theories make statements about why some communities have more crime or criminals than others. For example, why is there more crime in a particular neighborhood, city, state, region of the U.S., or country than others? Also, why is there more or less crime over time in any given community?

“Individual-level” theories make statements about why some people commit more crime. For example, why do you commit more or less crime than me? And, why do you or I commit more or less crime over time?

“Situational-level” theories make statements about why some interactions or small geographic areas are more associated with crime. For example, why are robbers more likely to rob strangers than friends? Why do some bars have more crime than others? And why does any given bar have more crime at some hours, days, or times of the year?

criminology meaning essay

Criminology is an Interdisciplinary Field

What makes one criminological theory different from another is how they answer those questions. Some theories are very different, but others are more similar. The reason for differences and similarities across theories reflects how criminology is an “interdisciplinary field.”

This too can get a bit complicated and confusing, but, basically, a “discipline” is a major branch of knowledge. Disciplines include economics, biology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and so on. A “field” is a more specific area of study, such as crime. Thus, to say “criminology is an interdisciplinary field” means that multiple disciplines are used to study crime.

criminology meaning essay

Course Sections

After this introductory period, the course has seven sections. These sections reflect major disciplinary approaches to the study of crime. However, because criminology is interdisciplinary, sometimes the lines between disciplines have become murky, so some of the sections have elements of multiple disciplines.

Section 1 is an overview of and introduction to criminological theories. Section 2 is about how economic factors affect crime. Section 3 does the same, but also touches on ecology. Section 4 is about biological influences on crime. Sections 5 through 8 blend sociology and psychology, with the first and last of those (i.e., 5 and 8)  having biological and anthropological influences, too.

criminology meaning essay

What This Course Does Not Do

Before going further, it may be useful to specify what will not be done in this course. Because criminology strictly refers (in this course) to the study of crime, we will not examine theories of law, policing, courts, or corrections; in other words, we will not treat these things as dependent variables. However, some criminological theories treat law, policing, courts, or corrections as independent variables that affect crime, so those things will become relevant when examining those theories.

Nor will we examine every criminological theory, or even close to that. There are hundreds if not thousands of such theories. Instead, then, we will only cover some of the most popular theories, though that does not necessarily mean they are the best. For this introductory section, you’ll gain a broad overview of criminological theory by reading a Wikipedia entry on “Criminology” and also a couple articles, mentioned below.

criminology meaning essay

Development of Criminology

To better understand what you’ll be doing in this course, we should take a step back and discuss the “development of criminology.” What does it mean to say that criminology “develops”? Because theories are not facts, they change. A useful analogy is to think of theories as like people who are part of a lineage. Like people, theories are born, develop, grow old, and die. And like people, all theories have parents, and some have children.

That analogy is important for another reason: namely, it emphasizes that theories are developed by people, or “theorists.” Why does this matter? Because by making it personal, it is easier to remember who did what and to see how ideas are different or similar. For instance, you may know how different types of music are related, such as how jazz led to rock and roll as well as how they compare to rap, and associate different individuals with each of these. Likewise, I know the key traits of different theories, their connections, and the individuals associated with them. You should be able to do the same by the end of this course.

You’ll learn about the development of criminology by watching overview lectures like this one, by reading older and newer “works” (meaning scholarly articles and book excerpts), and watching Theorist Videos (more is said about those later). For this introductory section, you’ll gain a broad overview of criminology’s development by reading two articles: Jeffrey’s “The Historical Development of Criminology” and Dooley’s “The Emergence of Contemporary Criminology”.

criminology meaning essay

In Jeffrey’s “The Historical Development of Criminology”, you’ll read about some of criminology’s “pioneers,” meaning scholars who made a big impact on the field’s beginning and subsequent development. Think of them as the great-grandparents of criminology. Early in the course, you’ll read some of their works, such as those of Bentham and Lombroso. You’ll also learn about some of the key developments and “schools of thought” in the history of criminology.

Sometimes, theories are referred to as “classic.” In this course, to say a theory is classic simply means it is old(er), though note that the word “classicAL” is used in other ways among criminologists, too (you’ll see another way in the Wikipedia entry on “Criminology”).

Newer theories are referred to as “contemporary.” As time goes on, what used to be contemporary theory becomes classic. In this course, for example, you’ll read works of Foucault, Shaw, McKay, Hirschi, Elias, Wolfgang, Sutherland, and Merton. Think of them as the grandparents of criminology, as they did criminology in the early- and mid-20th century.

In Dooley’s “The Emergence of Contemporary Criminology”, you’ll read about some of criminology’s foremost contemporary theorists. These are the scholars making the biggest impact on the field at present. Think of them as parents of what goes on today in criminology. Over the span of this course, you’ll read works of Clarke, Gould, Raine, Sampson, Laub, Gottfredson, Pinker, Anderson, Akers, Rosenfeld, Messner, and Agnew.

Maybe now is the best time to mention that you’ll be quizzed over all the readings, including those for this introductory section.

Wikipedia. Scientific Theory. (Open access here .) Wikipedia. Criminology. (Open access here .) Jeffrey, Clarence Ray. 1959. The Historical Development of Criminology. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 50:3-19. (Open access here .) Wolfgang, Marvin E. 1963. Criminology and the Criminologist. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 54:155-162. (Open access here .) Dooley, Brendan. 2016. The Emergence of Contemporary Criminology: An Oral History of Its Development as an Independent Profession. Crime, Law & Social Change 66:339-357. (Paywalled here but open access here .)

These quizzes make up the Overview and Reading Quizzes. The syllabus and Overview and Reading Quizzes assignment guide have more details on what exactly you’ll be doing.

criminology meaning essay

Theorist Video Annotations

Another reason you’ll read Dooley’s article is it introduces you to a major part of the course: Theorist Videos. These videos were collected as part of the Oral History of Criminology Project , which is directed by Dooley. You’ll watch, annotate, and be quizzed over a theorist video for each of the major theoretical perspectives covered in this course. Some of these are more entertaining than others, but each is interesting. By watching each video, you’ll gain a greater sense of how criminology developed, and also come to better appreciate that criminology is personal.

In each theorist video, a “parent” is interviewed by Dooley or someone else. During these conversations, the parents discuss their ideas, where their ideas came from, and where the ideas may be going. As explained on the project’s website,

[It] is an ongoing effort to preserve the accounts of prominent scholars of their role in shaping the evolution of the field. Through the use of taped interviews, an enduring record—an “oral history”—is established of how personal, social, historical and professional influences intersected to give rise to criminology’s landmark ideas and initiatives.

The syllabus and Theorist Video Annotations assignment guide have more details on what exactly you’ll be doing.

criminology meaning essay

Crime Video Discussions

The best test of whether someone really understands a theory is whether they can apply it to the real world. Think of different theories as different sets of eyeglasses, such as those with different lens colors and different prescriptions. When wearing one pair or the other, you see the world differently even though the same things are within sight. Thus, when looking at data on crime, a rational choice theorist may see something different than does a biological theorist, for instance. Neither is necessarily wrong. Rather, what they see reflects the theoretical perspective that they look at the world with.

To see if you really understand criminological theories, you’ll complete a video discussion for each of the major theoretical perspectives covered in this course. The syllabus and Crime Video Discussions assignment guide have more details on what exactly you’ll be doing.

criminology meaning essay

Now that you have reviewed this overview lecture, you should do the following: Complete the study guide material, which covers material in this introductory overview and in the syllabus. After that, you should do the four readings listed in the course outline. While doing so, you’ll also want to complete the study guide for those readings. Once you complete the study guide and mostly memorize the material, you’ll be ready to complete the associated quiz. And after all that, take a breather before moving on to the course’s next section.

Criminology Open

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Criminology: A Very Short Introduction

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2 (page 5) p. 5 What is crime?

  • Published: April 2018
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‘What is crime?’ considers the definitions of crime. Should the focus be simply on violations of legal codes or should we extend it to violations of moral and social codes? The relativity of crime is also discussed: not everything that was once criminal remains so, and vice versa, and not everything considered criminal in one place is treated as criminal everywhere else. Is criminal justice effective? Through the process of criminal justice, criminals are constructed, but asking questions about what and who becomes labelled as a ‘crime’ or a ‘criminal’ necessarily invites one to contemplate the importance of power. Who makes the rules? Who do the rules affect, or protect?

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Kristopher J. Brazil & Lisa M. Whittingham

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Brazil, K.J., Whittingham, L.M. (2019). Criminology. In: Shackelford, T., Weekes-Shackelford, V. (eds) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer, Cham.

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Crime, Deviance, and Criminology as a Mainstream Discipline

Module 1  introduces criminology as an intellectual domain comprised of various academic disciplines; that is, psychology, biology, anthropology, law, and sociology. In addition, the module provides a historic overview of the development of the discipline and considers how its intellectual foundation has prepared it for the analysis of crime within the twenty-first century.

Learning Objectives

After completing this module, you should be able to:

  • define criminology.
  • discuss the difference between criminal justice and criminology.
  • describe the work of criminologists.
  • summarize the history and evolution of criminology.
  • recognize those contributions to the discipline made by Edwin Sutherland.
  • Identify variables used during social science inquiry.
  • define determinism.
  • restate the tenets of rational choice theory.
  • explain the difference between determinism and positivism.
  • discuss the difference between applied and theoretical criminology

Criminology is a field of study that focuses on understanding crime, criminals, and the criminal justice system. It involves the examination of various aspects of crime, including its causes, consequences, and prevention. Criminologists utilize theories, research methods, and data analysis to gain insights into criminal behavior and its societal impact.

The main objectives of criminology are to develop an understanding of why crimes occur, to identify patterns and trends in criminal behavior, and to find effective strategies for crime prevention and control. Criminologists study various factors that contribute to criminal behavior, including individual, social, economic, and environmental factors. By examining these factors, criminologists aim to explain why some individuals are more likely to engage in criminal activities than others.

Criminology draws upon multiple disciplines, including sociology, psychology, economics, and law. It incorporates a range of research methods, such as surveys, interviews, experiments, and statistical analysis, to collect and analyze data. These methods help criminologists to study crime rates, victimization patterns, offender profiles, and the effectiveness of different interventions.

The findings of criminological research can be applied to policy development and crime prevention strategies. Criminologists often work closely with law enforcement agencies, policymakers, and social organizations to develop evidence-based approaches to crime reduction. They may also contribute to the development of laws and policies that aim to promote social justice and reduce crime rates.

Some areas of specialization within criminology include:

  • Theoretical criminology – Examining various theories that seek to explain why individuals commit crimes, such as strain theory, social learning theory, and rational choice theory.
  • Criminal profiling – Analyzing offender characteristics, behaviors, and patterns of criminal activity to develop profiles that assist in the identification and apprehension of criminals.
  • Penology – Studying the punishment and rehabilitation of offenders, including the effectiveness of correctional programs and the impact of imprisonment on recidivism.
  • Victimology – Investigating the experiences and consequences of crime on victims, as well as the factors that contribute to victimization and ways to support and empower victims.
  • Comparative criminology – Comparing crime rates, criminal justice systems, and crime prevention strategies across different countries or regions to understand the impact of social and cultural factors.

Overall, criminology aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of crime and contribute to the development of evidence-based policies and interventions to prevent and address criminal behavior in society.

Criminologists have developed several theoretical domains to explain why individuals engage in crime, including:

  • Rational Choice Theory : This theory suggests that individuals engage in crime because they believe it is a profitable and low-risk activity. In other words, they weigh the potential benefits of committing a crime against the potential risks of getting caught and punished.
  • Social Structure Theory : Social structure theory is a criminological perspective that examines how social structures and institutions in society contribute to criminal behavior. It suggests that the arrangement and organization of social institutions, such as the family, education, economy, and the community, play a significant role in shaping individual behavior and influencing the likelihood of criminal involvement.
  • Social Learning Theory : This theory argues that individuals learn to engage in crime through observing the behaviors of others, particularly those who are close to them. They may also be influenced by media portrayals of hackers as glamorous and successful.
  • Strain Theory : This theory posits that individuals engage in crime when they experience strain or pressure in their lives, such as economic hardship or social exclusion. Crime may provide a way for them to alleviate their stress or gain a sense of power and control.
  • Routine Activities Theory : This theory suggests that crime occurs when there is a convergence of three factors: a motivated offender, a suitable target (such as a vulnerable computer system), and the absence of capable guardians (such as effective cybersecurity measures).
  • Self-Control Theory : This theory proposes that individuals who engage in crime have low levels of self-control, which makes them more likely to act impulsively and make decisions without considering the consequences.

Overall, these criminological theories help us understand the various motives, opportunities, and situational factors that contribute to crime. By better understanding the underlying causes of this type of criminal behavior, we can develop more effective strategies for preventing and responding to cybercrime.

Key Takeaways

  • Criminology is the study of crime as a social phenomenon. It includes the processes of making, breaking, and reacting to laws, as well as the causes, nature, and consequences of crime.
  • Criminology has evolved from various intellectual influences and paradigms. These include the classical school, positivism, determinism, social ecology, and subjectivism. Criminology also draws from multiple disciplines, such as sociology, psychology, biology, law, and geography.
  • Criminology relies on theory and methods to establish scientific knowledge. Criminologists use variable analysis, hypothesis testing, correlation, causation, and operationalization to explain and predict crime patterns and variations.
  • Criminology is becoming more interdisciplinary and policy oriented. Criminologists are increasingly concerned with the real-world impact and implications of their theories and research for crime prevention, intervention, and social justice.
  • Criminology faces challenges and opportunities in the 21st century. These include the emergence of new forms of crime, such as cybercrime, the globalization and diversification of crime, the advancement of technology and data sources, and the collaboration with other fields and practitioners.

Key Terms/Concepts

Applied Criminology Chicago School of Social Ecology Classical School of Criminology Comparative Criminology Correlation Criminal Justice Criminologist Determinism Edwin Sutherland Positivism Rational Choice Theory Theoretical Criminology Theory Variables

Modern Application

There is a growing need to understand internal and external factors that contribute to various forms of digital crime. Therefore, traditional aspects of criminology must embrace new paradigms that consider the digital context and its influence on human behavior. Applications of newly proposed cybercriminological frameworks will invariably prove beneficial for both private and public sectors.

Understanding what internal and external conditions contribute to the commission of cybercrime makes it possible to stop, respond to, and even disincentivize them. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is the Nation’s central hub for reporting cyber crime.

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – Cyber Crime news and press releases

Read, Review, Watch, and Listen

1. Read Chapter 1: Criminology as Social Science: Paradigmatic Resiliency and Shift in the 21st Century by J. Michell Miller, University of Texas at San Antonio (M. J. Miller, 2009)

  • Print a copy or have access to this reading via a digital device for in class review and discussion.

criminology meaning essay

This chapter:

a. provides a comprehensive overview of criminology as a social science, tracing its historical development, theoretical and methodological foundations, and future directions.

b. concludes that criminology is a dynamic and evolving discipline that is influenced by multiple disciplines and perspectives, and that criminology has a vital role in informing social policy and criminal justice practice.

c. implies that criminology is a relevant and important field of study that can enhance our knowledge and understanding of crime as a social phenomenon, and that criminology can contribute to the prevention and reduction of crime and the promotion of justice and peace.

2. Read Chapter 2: History and Evolution of Criminology , by Charles F. Wellford, University of Maryland (as cited in M.J. Miller, 2009)

a. introduces criminology is the scientific study of the making, breaking, and reaction to lawbreaking.

b. explains that criminology has two main foundations: (1) the interdisciplinary explanation of crime and (2) the analysis of the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

c. describes criminology as a separate field of study in the 1930s and 1940s, influenced by the works of Beccaria and Lombroso, among others. provides an overview of the development of criminological theories of crime and describes various phases of theoretical development: (1) single-factor reductionism, (2) systemic reductionism, (3) multidisciplinary approaches, and (4) interdisciplinary theory.

d. describes the future of criminology and criminal Justice, which has become one of the most dynamic and fastest growing social sciences, with a commitment to scientific rigor, interdisciplinary theory, and improving the criminal justice system.

3. Review Florida State University’s Department of Computer Science, Why Major in Cyber Criminology

Cybercriminology is important for several reasons in today’s digital age:

Rising Cybercrime Rates – With the increasing reliance on technology and the internet, cybercrime has become a significant threat. Cybercriminals engage in activities such as hacking, identity theft, phishing, ransomware attacks, and more. Understanding the motivations, methods, and trends of cybercriminals is crucial for developing effective countermeasures.

Economic Impact – Cybercrimes can cause significant financial losses for individuals, businesses, and governments. These losses include expenses related to data breaches, theft of intellectual property, disruption of services, and costs associated with recovery and prevention. By studying cybercriminology, researchers and practitioners can work to mitigate these economic impacts.

Technological Advancements – As technology continues to evolve, so do the techniques and tools used by cybercriminals. By studying cybercriminology, experts can stay updated on the latest tactics employed by cybercriminals and develop strategies to defend against them.

Privacy and Data Protection – Cybercrimes often involve breaches of personal and sensitive information, leading to concerns about privacy and data protection. Studying cybercriminology helps to identify vulnerabilities in data systems, improve encryption methods, and develop effective security protocols to safeguard sensitive information.

Global Reach – Cybercrimes transcend geographical boundaries. A cybercriminal from one part of the world can easily target victims in another. This global reach makes it necessary to have a comprehensive understanding of cybercriminal behavior, legal frameworks, and international cooperation to combat cybercrime effectively.

Legal and Regulatory Challenges – Cybercrimes can be complex in terms of jurisdiction, making it challenging for law enforcement to apprehend and prosecute cybercriminals. Cybercriminology helps legal experts understand the intricacies of cybercrime and develop relevant laws and regulations to address these challenges.

Public Awareness and Education – Cybercriminology research can contribute to public awareness and education about online threats and how to protect oneself from cybercrime. Educating individuals and organizations about best practices for online safety can help reduce the risk of falling victim to cybercrimes.

Cybersecurity Workforce Development – As cybercrimes become more sophisticated, there’s a growing need for skilled professionals in the field of cybersecurity. Studying cybercriminology can provide insights into the skill sets required to counter cyber threats and contribute to the development of a well-trained cybersecurity workforce.

Policy Formulation – Policymakers need accurate information to develop effective strategies to combat cybercrime. Cybercriminology research provides valuable insights into the motivations and behaviors of cybercriminals, helping policymakers make informed decisions about legislation, regulations, and international cooperation.

Prevention and Detection – Understanding the psychology and techniques of cybercriminals can help in early detection and prevention of cybercrimes. By analyzing patterns of cybercriminal behavior, experts can create better predictive models to identify potential threats before they escalate.

In essence, cybercriminology plays a critical role in enhancing our understanding of cybercriminal behavior, devising effective countermeasures, protecting sensitive information, and maintaining the overall security of digital systems and networks.

4. Watch the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Hypothesis 101 (and other Social Science Concepts ) [28:50] (also embedded below)

Hypothesis testing is a fundamental concept in statistics that is used to make informed decisions about a population based on a sample of data. It involves the formulation of hypotheses, statistical analysis of sample data, and drawing conclusions about the population. Hypothesis testing helps researchers and analysts determine whether observed effects or differences in data are statistically significant or if they could have occurred by chance.

The process of hypothesis testing typically involves the following steps:

  • Formulate Hypotheses – A key step in the scientific method and is typically associated with experimental research. A hypothesis is a clear, testable statement or prediction about the relationship between two or more variables. It serves as a guide for designing and conducting an experiment to determine whether there is evidence to support or refute the proposed statement.
  • Null Hypothesis (H0) – This is the default or initial assumption. It states that there is no significant difference, effect, or relationship between variables. It’s often denoted as “H0: parameter = value” or “H0: parameter1 = parameter2.”
  • Alternative Hypothesis (Ha or H1) – This hypothesis contradicts the null hypothesis and suggests that there is a significant difference, effect, or relationship in the population. It’s what researchers are trying to provide evidence for. It can be one-sided (greater than, less than) or two-sided (not equal to).
  • Select Significance Level (α) – The significance level, denoted by α (alpha), is the probability of making a Type I error. It represents the threshold for considering evidence strong enough to reject the null hypothesis. Commonly used values are 0.05 or 0.01.
  • Collect and Analyze Data – Collect a sample of data from the population of interest. Apply appropriate statistical methods to analyze the data. This might involve calculating means, proportions, standard deviations, etc., depending on the nature of the data and the hypothesis being tested.
  • Calculate Test Statistic – The test statistic is a measure calculated from the sample data that quantifies the extent to which the observed data deviates from what would be expected under the null hypothesis.
  • Determine the Critical Region – Based on the significance level and the distribution of the test statistic under the null hypothesis, determine the critical region or critical values. This is the region in which, if the test statistic falls, you would reject the null hypothesis.
  • Make a Decision – Compare the calculated test statistic to the critical values or critical region. If the test statistic falls within the critical region, you reject the null hypothesis in favor of the alternative hypothesis. This suggests that the observed effect is statistically significant. If the test statistic does not fall within the critical region, you fail to reject the null hypothesis. This suggests that the observed effect could be due to random chance.
  • Draw Conclusions – If the null hypothesis is rejected, it implies that there is evidence to support the alternative hypothesis. However, it doesn’t prove the alternative hypothesis true; it simply indicates that the data provide enough evidence to suggest a difference or relationship. It’s important to note that hypothesis testing provides a formal framework for making decisions based on data. However, it doesn’t provide absolute certainty. There’s always a possibility of making errors (Type I and Type II errors), and the conclusions drawn are subject to the quality of the data, the appropriateness of the statistical methods used, and the assumptions made. Hypothesis testing is widely used in various fields, including science, economics, medicine, social sciences (e.g., criminology), and more, to make informed decisions and draw conclusions based on empirical evidence.

5. Watch Careers in criminology (UniSC University of the Sunshine Coast, Aug. 30, 2021) [also embedded below]

6. Listen to the Module 1 Crime, Deviance, and Criminology as a Social Science summary (Ramirez-Thompson, E.R., 2023)

To access the PPT file, click HERE . Note that files are updated regularly and as such might change in content and appearance.

Read, Review, Watch and Listen to all listed materials by the due date listed within the course LMS (i.e., Blackboard) site.

Contact the professor with any course-related questions

Click HERE to report any needed updates, e.g., broken links.

Discussion Questions

  • How would you define criminology and what are its main objectives?
  • What are some of the major paradigm shifts in criminology and what factors influenced them?
  • What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of different research methods in criminology and how do they relate to theory?
  • What are some of the current and emerging trends and challenges in criminology and how can they be addressed?
  • How can criminology be more interdisciplinary and policy relevant and what are some of the barriers and opportunities for doing so?

Supplemental Resources

  • Additional resources are added by the professor if/when they deem relevant to the module.
  • Wellford, Charles F. “History and Evolution of Criminology.” 21st Century Criminology: A Reference Handbook, edited by J. Mitchell Miller, vol. 1, SAGE Reference, 2009, pp. 10-17. 21st Century Reference Series. Gale eBooks, Accessed 29 Dec. 2023.
  • Why major in cyber criminology . Computer Science. (n.d.). Accessed 29 Dec. 2023.
  • UniSC: University of the Sunshine Coast. (2021, August 31). Careers in criminology . YouTube.  Accessed 29 Dec. 2023.
  • Crime, Deviance, and Criminology as a Social Science. Ramirez-Thompson, E.R., 2023. Accessed 29 Dec. 2023.

Applied criminology is a multidisciplinary field that utilizes theories, research methods, and practical knowledge to address and solve real-world problems related to crime, criminal behavior, and the criminal justice system. It involves the practical application of criminological theories and concepts to develop strategies and interventions that can prevent crime, reduce criminal behavior, and improve the functioning of the criminal justice system.

Applied criminology draws from various disciplines such as sociology, psychology, law, anthropology, and public policy. Its primary focus is on practical outcomes and the implementation of evidence-based practices to create safer communities, enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies, and promote social justice.

Professionals working in applied criminology may engage in a range of activities, including conducting research to evaluate the effectiveness of crime prevention programs, analyzing crime patterns and trends, developing policies and interventions to address specific crime issues, providing expertise and guidance to law enforcement agencies, advocating for criminal justice reform, and working with communities to implement crime prevention strategies.

Overall, applied criminology aims to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world application, with the goal of reducing crime, improving the criminal justice system, and creating safer societies.

Chicago School of Social Ecology also known as the Chicago School of Sociology, refers to a sociological tradition that emerged in the early 20th century at the University of Chicago. It is recognized as a prominent and influential approach within the field of sociology.

The Chicago School of Social Ecology emphasized the importance of studying social phenomena within their specific social and physical environments. Its scholars sought to understand how social structures, urban environments, and community dynamics influenced individual behavior and social interactions.

The school's researchers conducted groundbreaking studies, particularly in the areas of urban sociology and criminology, focusing on the city of Chicago as their primary laboratory. Their work explored the relationship between social disorganization, urbanization, and crime rates, as well as the impact of community structures and institutions on individual behavior.

Notable scholars associated with the Chicago School of Social Ecology include Robert E. Park, Ernest Burgess, Louis Wirth, and Clifford Shaw. Their studies often involved conducting field research, employing qualitative methods, and employing concepts such as social disorganization, urban ecology, and the concentric zone model.

The Chicago School's ideas and research methods had a profound influence on the development of sociology, criminology, and urban studies. The school's emphasis on the importance of social context and environmental factors in shaping human behavior continues to inform research in these fields today.

Classical school of criminology - A theory of crime and punishment that originated in the 18th century and was developed by various Enlightenment thinkers, most notably Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham. It is considered one of the foundational theories of criminology.

The classical school of criminology is based on the idea of free will and rational choice. It posits that individuals are rational beings who weigh the potential benefits and costs of their actions before engaging in criminal behavior. According to this perspective, people choose to commit crimes when the perceived benefits outweigh the potential risks or punishments.

Key principles and concepts of the classical school of criminology include: 1. Hedonistic Calculus: Individuals seek pleasure and avoid pain. They make rational decisions based on the expected outcomes and weigh the pleasure or gain against the potential negative consequences. 2. Deterrence: The main purpose of punishment is to deter individuals from committing crimes. The certainty, severity, and swiftness of punishment are believed to influence an individual's decision-making process and discourage criminal behavior. 3. Punishment: Punishments should be proportionate to the crime committed, based on the principle of proportionality. Excessive or overly harsh punishments are seen as unjust and ineffective. 4. Legal Equality: The law should apply equally to all individuals, regardless of social status or wealth. This principle emphasizes the importance of fairness and equal treatment under the law. The classical school of criminology had a significant impact on the development of modern criminal justice systems. Its principles have influenced the establishment of legal codes, the design of punishment systems, and the focus on deterrence in criminal justice policies. While the classical school has been criticized and supplemented by other theories over time, its emphasis on rationality, free will, and deterrence remains influential in the field of criminology.

A field of study within criminology that involves the systematic comparison of criminal justice systems, crime rates, and related phenomena across different countries or regions. This interdisciplinary field draws on principles from sociology, law, political science, anthropology, and other disciplines to analyze and compare various aspects of crime and criminal justice.

Researchers in comparative criminology aim to understand the similarities and differences in the patterns of crime, the effectiveness of criminal justice policies, and the social, economic, and cultural factors that may contribute to variations in criminal behavior and law enforcement practices. By examining these factors across different contexts, scholars in comparative criminology seek to identify commonalities and unique features that can inform theories and policies aimed at preventing and controlling crime.

Correlation refers to a statistical measure that quantifies the relationship or association between two or more variables. It describes the extent to which changes in one variable are related to changes in another variable. Correlation does not imply causation, meaning that a correlation between two variables does not necessarily indicate that one variable causes the other to change. Correlation analysis is widely used in various fields, including statistics, social sciences, economics, and medical research. It helps researchers and analysts understand the degree and direction of association between variables, identify patterns, make predictions, and guide decision-making. However, it is important to note that correlation alone does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between variables, as other factors or variables may be involved.

Criminal Justice refers to the system of practices and institutions established by governments to maintain social order, deter and control crime, and administer justice to those who violate the law. It encompasses a broad range of processes, organizations, and individuals involved in the detection, investigation, prosecution, and punishment of criminal offenses.

The criminal justice system typically consists of three main components: (1) law enforcement, (2) courts, and (3) corrections.

A criminologist is a professional who studies the causes, consequences, prevention, and control of criminal behavior. Criminology is a multidisciplinary field that draws from various disciplines, including sociology, psychology, law, anthropology, and criminal justice. Criminologists apply scientific methods and theories to analyze and understand crime patterns, criminal behavior, and the functioning of the criminal justice system.

The work of a criminologist can vary depending on their specialization and the context in which they operate. Some common roles and responsibilities of criminologists include:

1. Research: Criminologists conduct empirical research to examine crime trends, identify risk factors for criminal behavior, and evaluate the effectiveness of crime prevention programs and policies. They collect and analyze data, design research studies, and interpret findings to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of crime and its implications. 2. Crime Prevention: Criminologists develop and assess strategies and interventions aimed at preventing crime and reducing recidivism. They work with communities, law enforcement agencies, policymakers, and other stakeholders to implement evidence-based practices and policies that promote public safety and crime reduction. 3. Policy Analysis: Criminologists analyze existing laws, policies, and practices within the criminal justice system to assess their impact and effectiveness. They provide recommendations for policy reform and improvements based on their research findings and understanding of criminological theories. 4. Criminal Profiling: Some criminologists specialize in the field of criminal profiling, where they use psychological and behavioral analysis to create profiles of unknown criminals based on crime scene evidence and patterns. They assist law enforcement agencies in investigations by providing insights into the likely characteristics and motivations of offenders. 5. Education and Advocacy: Criminologists often work in academic institutions, teaching criminology courses and mentoring students. They contribute to the education and training of future professionals in the field of criminal justice. Additionally, criminologists may engage in public outreach and advocacy, promoting evidence-based policies and raising awareness about criminal justice issues. Overall, criminologists play a crucial role in understanding, analyzing, and addressing issues related to crime, criminal behavior, and the criminal justice system. Their work aims to inform policy, improve crime prevention strategies, and contribute to the development of effective and fair criminal justice practices.

Determinism is a philosophical concept that posits that every event or phenomenon, including human actions and choices, is causally determined by preceding events and conditions. It suggests that there is a fixed chain of cause and effect in the universe, and given the same circumstances, the same outcome will always occur.

According to determinism, free will is an illusion, and human behavior is ultimately governed by factors beyond individual control, such as genetics, environment, upbringing, and societal influences. It suggests that individuals do not have true autonomy or the ability to make choices that are independent of causal factors.

Edwin Sutherland (1883-1950) was an influential American sociologist and criminologist who made significant contributions to the field of criminology. He is best known for developing the theory of differential association, which has had a lasting impact on our understanding of crime and delinquency.

One of Sutherland's most notable contributions was the development of the theory of differential association. In 1939, he published his influential book "Principles of Criminology," where he introduced this theory. The theory proposes that criminal behavior is learned through social interaction and communication with others. According to Sutherland, individuals acquire criminal attitudes, values, techniques, and motives through their associations with others who engage in criminal behavior.

Sutherland's theory challenged the prevailing views of his time, which focused primarily on individual traits and biological factors as the primary causes of crime. His differential association theory emphasized the importance of social and environmental influences on criminal behavior, highlighting the role of interpersonal relationships, peer groups, and subcultures in shaping individuals' propensity for criminality.

In addition to his work on differential association, Sutherland made significant contributions to the study of white-collar crime. He coined the term "white-collar crime" to refer to offenses committed by individuals of higher social and economic status during their occupational activities. His research and writings on this topic shed light on the prevalence and impact of corporate and financial crimes, challenging the notion that crime is solely a product of lower-class or marginalized individuals.

Edwin Sutherland's work continues to be highly influential in the field of criminology, shaping our understanding of the social and environmental factors that contribute to criminal behavior. His focus on the importance of social learning and the role of influential social groups has informed subsequent research and theories in the field.

Positivism within criminology refers to a theoretical approach that emphasizes the application of scientific methods and empirical observation in the study of crime and criminal behavior. It emerged in the late 19th century as a response to the limitations of earlier philosophical and moralistic explanations of crime.

Positivist criminology rejects the idea that crime is solely a result of individual choices or moral failings. Instead, it seeks to understand crime as a social phenomenon influenced by various factors, including biological, psychological, and social determinants. Positivist criminologists believe that scientific methods can uncover the underlying causes of criminal behavior and inform effective crime prevention and control strategies.

The key principles of positivist criminology include: (1) empiricism, (2) determinism, and (3) objectivity, and (4) use of the scientific method.

Positivist criminology has led to advancements in the understanding of crime through the use of empirical research and statistical analysis. It has influenced the development of various subfields within criminology, such as biosocial criminology, psychological criminology, and sociological criminology. Positivist perspectives have also influenced the development of evidence-based policies and interventions in the field of criminal justice.

Rational Choice Theory is a perspective within criminology that suggests individuals make decisions and engage in behavior based on a rational calculation of costs and benefits. It is a framework that assumes individuals act in their own self-interest and seek to maximize their personal advantages while minimizing potential disadvantages.

According to rational choice theory, individuals consider the potential rewards and risks associated with a particular action before deciding whether to engage in it. They weigh the expected benefits, such as financial gain or personal satisfaction, against the potential costs, such as legal consequences or physical harm. The theory posits that individuals make rational choices by comparing the potential outcomes and selecting the course of action that offers the greatest net benefit.

Theoretical Criminology refers to the study of crime and criminal behavior through the lens of various theoretical perspectives. It seeks to understand the causes, patterns, and dynamics of crime by developing and applying theoretical frameworks. Theoretical criminology plays a crucial role in shaping our understanding of crime, informing policy and interventions, and guiding research in the field of criminology.

Theoretical criminology encompasses a wide range of perspectives and theories, each offering different explanations and insights into criminal behavior. Some prominent theoretical perspectives within criminology include:

1. Classical Criminology: Based on the ideas of the Enlightenment thinkers, classical criminology emphasizes rationality, free will, and the concept of deterrence. It posits that individuals choose to engage in criminal behavior when the perceived benefits outweigh the potential costs or punishments. 2. Biological and Biosocial Theories: These theories explore the role of biological factors, genetics, and physiological characteristics in shaping criminal behavior. They examine how biological predispositions, brain functioning, and hormonal imbalances may contribute to criminal tendencies. 3. Psychological Theories: Psychological theories focus on individual traits, personality disorders, cognitive processes, and social learning as factors that influence criminal behavior. They explore concepts such as impulsivity, self-control, psychopathy, and the impact of childhood experiences on later criminality. 4. Sociological Theories: a. Social Disorganization Theory: It suggests that crime is a result of social and structural factors, such as poverty, neighborhood characteristics, and community disorganization. b. Strain Theory: This theory posits that crime arises when individuals experience strain or frustration due to the inability to achieve socially valued goals through legitimate means. c. Social Learning Theory: It highlights the role of social interactions, observation, and imitation in the acquisition of criminal behavior. Individuals learn criminal techniques and attitudes through their interactions with others. 5. Critical Criminology: This perspective focuses on the power dynamics, social inequalities, and structural issues that contribute to crime. It examines how social, economic, and political factors shape criminal behavior and highlights the role of class, race, gender, and other forms of social oppression. These are just a few examples of the theoretical perspectives within criminology. Theoretical criminology provides a framework for understanding the complex causes of crime and helps generate hypotheses and guide empirical research. By studying these theories, criminologists seek to develop effective crime prevention strategies, inform policy decisions, and contribute to the broader understanding of crime and criminal justice.

Succinctly, an explanation. Also, a part of everyday life and an attempt to identify and explain the order of natural occurrences through statements about correlations between observable events that would be otherwise unexplainable.

Variables in the social science refers to a measurable or observable concept or characteristic that can vary or take on different values. Variables are used to study and understand the relationships between different phenomena or concepts. Variables can be classified into two main types; that is independent and dependent.

Criminology: Foundations and Modern Applications Copyright © 2023 by Eric Ramirez-Thompson, PhD is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Criminology Essay Examples

Cathy A.

12+ Criminology Essay Examples to Inspire Your Writing

Published on: May 6, 2023

Last updated on: Jan 30, 2024

Criminology Essay Examples

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Many students struggle to understand the complex world of criminology and may have difficulty finding essay examples to guide their writing. Without proper guidance, students may show subpar academic performance.

But fret not! Our blog post offers 12+ diverse and unique criminology essay examples to help students expand their understanding.

So let’s dive into these examples.

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Descriptive Essays about Criminology 

Read the following examples to learn more! 

Title: The Impact of the Death Penalty on Crime Rates - Criminology Essay 

The psychological effects of Incarceration on Inmates

The history of forensic science and its impact on modern criminal investigations

Expository Essays about Criminology 

Here is a top example of an expository essay about criminology. 

Title: The Role of Social Media in the Spread of Criminal Activity

The factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency

The Impact of community policing on crime prevention

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Persuasive Essays about Criminology 

Title: The Need for Criminal Justice Reform in the United States

The ethical implications of using facial recognition technology in Law enforcement

The effectiveness of restorative justice programs in reducing recidivism

Compare and Contrast Essays about Criminology 

Looking for a compare-and-contrast essay example on criminology? Read the following. 

Title: A Comparison of the Criminal Justice Systems in the United States and Europe

A comparison of the theories of crime causation of Cesare Beccaria and Emile Durkheim

A comparison of the effectiveness of prison sentences versus probation in reducing recidivism rates

Tips for Writing a Criminology Essay

Writing a criminology essay requires careful attention to detail and a clear understanding of the subject matter. Here are some tips to help you write a successful criminology essay:

  • Conduct thorough research: Before writing your essay, make sure you have a solid understanding of the topic. This requires conducting thorough research using a variety of sources, including academic journals, books, and government reports.
  • Develop a clear and concise thesis statement : Your thesis statement should clearly state the purpose of your essay and your position on the topic. Make sure your thesis statement is concise and easy to understand.
  • Use relevant and credible sources: When researching your topic, make sure you use credible sources that are relevant to the subject matter. Avoid using sources that are biased or unreliable.
  • Follow a logical structure: Your essay should have a clear structure that follows a logical sequence. Use headings and subheadings to organize your essay and make it easy for readers to follow your arguments.
  • Edit and proofread carefully: After completing your essay, make sure you edit and proofread it carefully. Check for errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Make sure your essay is well-organized and flows smoothly.

In conclusion, criminology is a fascinating subject that requires in-depth research and analysis. Writing a criminology essay can be a challenging task, but it is an essential requirement for students studying in this field. 

By reviewing the examples of criminology essays provided in this blog, students can gain insights into the different approaches to writing a criminology essay and develop their skills in the subject.

However, if you are still struggling with your criminology essay or need help getting started, consider using our essay writing company . 

Our AI essay generator can help you craft a high-quality criminology essay that meets your requirements. 

Don't let the stress of writing a criminology essay overwhelm you - reach out to our criminology essay writing service today and take the first step toward academic success.

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criminology meaning essay

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The state of the field of criminology: a brief essay.

The State of the Field of Criminology:

A Brief Essay*

by Chris W. Eskridge University of Nebraska [email protected]

This article suggests that while crime and deviance are subject to the dynamics of global socio-economic-political events, the field of criminology can have a marked, positive impact in this realm. To achieve this end, there is a need to advance interdisciplinary criminology/justice education worldwide, to embraces systematic, evidence based program and policy evaluation, and to become effective political as well as scientific criminologists.  Criminology is not a mature science at this point, and we are not certain how to systematically respond to the crime problem.  We lack accurate diagnostic instruments, a definitive body of knowledge, an understanding of cause and effect, and we do not possess a series of generally consistent treatment modalities.  In this context, criminologists are somewhat akin to physicians of the 18 th century.

A Brief Essay

While I believe crime and deviance to be important matters to study, it is impossible to divorce them from contemporary social and political events.  Placed within such a framework, quite frankly our field of study verges on the inconsequential.  Events are in the saddle and ride mankind, wrote Abraham Lincoln.  A frighteningly all to possible detonation of a weapon of mass destruction within a major urban center, a devastating natural disaster, or a significant disruption of the world=s oil supply, among other possible catastrophic events, would obviously have a much greater influence on the longitudinal global crime and deviance factor than any crime prevention model I or any other criminologist could propose. 

One obvious global concern at present is that we seem to be sliding toward a clash of civilizations.  While the current American presidential administration seems to have toned down of late, basic attitudes are clearly unchanged, and are surely reflective of the views of other religious zealots worldwide.  Fundamentalists of many faiths are convinced of their unilateral legitimacy and have projected themselves in a war against evil.  In such a battle, ration and reason have no standing, and we need only consult the history of medieval Europe to visualize the result of this kind of thinking.  It is in the best interests of contemporary civilization to see to it that voices of moderation are amplified, and as they are, the caustic cocktail of fundamentalism and fanaticism will give way to tolerance and stability.  Academic criminology has a role in this global mix, and has great potential to impact positively on social justice in a world-wide context.


It is useful at times to pause and examine, to assess where we are and to consider where it is that we need to go.  Academic criminology has perhaps a greater need than most disciplines to engage in such introspection, given its rather convoluted history.  We trace our intellectual roots to those who would classify themselves as philosophers (Beccaria), physicians (Lombroso), lawyers (Blackstone), sociologists (Durkheim), psychologists (Garafalo), practitioner politicians (Vollmer).  And yet like the proverbial elephant in Aesop=s fable, criminology is all of these, and yet none of these in their entirety.  At the dawn of the 21 st century, criminology has morphed into something different, something quite unique that tends to incorporate virtually all other disciplines in some fashion or another.  It is the purpose of this essay to examine the state of the field of criminology, and to propose a model for its future growth and development.

Reduction of Crime

I would suggest initially that I ascribe to the principles laid out by Emile Durkheim a century ago (Durkheim, 1971).  I ascribe specifically to his constantly dictum - there will always be behavior that society defines as deviant, unacceptable, criminal.  In an aggregate, longitudinal context, we cannot reduce the extent of crime.  It is omnipresent.  Occasionally I hear a politician speak to the need of embarking upon one policy or another so as to Aeliminate@ crime.  We cannot eliminate crime anymore than a physician can eliminate death.  And like a physician, criminologists and justice officials can develop preventative and curative responses that can impact positively upon the problems at hand. 

Let me draw another analogy.  A financial planner takes personal economic portfolios, identifies various investment instruments that meet individual situations and needs, and incorporates them into each portfolio in personally unique ways so as to maximize returns.  Our jobs as criminologists and justice professionals is much the same , but in the inverse.  Within the distinctive socio-economic portfolio of each individual community or nation, we need to be about the business of identifying and incorporating various preventative and curative programs and responses that will minimize the impact of crime and deviance.  This is what criminology is about.  Not about eliminating crime in the aggregate, but rather minimizing the impact of crime; reducing the severity of the nature of crime.  From an aggregate, longitudinal context, the extent of crime may remain constant, but the seriousness of the nature of crime can be reduced. 

For example, it is quite apparent to this author that if handgun controls were instituted in the United States, there would be fewer murders (1).  Fewer murders you might ask?  That is a reduction in crime.  To the contrary, the scenarios would play out like this....two people would get into an argument, but since there is no gun available, they would grab a knife or club.  They could still kill, but a knife or club have a decidedly lower killing capability quotient, and the victim would be more likely to live.  Result - murder down, aggravated assault up, extent of crime the same, nature of seriousness decreased.  This is what modern criminology should be about; finding programs and policies and procedures that can reduce the severity of the nature of crime.

Reducing the Severity of Crime

How do we reduce the severity of crime?  A comprehensive United States Congress sponsored study concluded that we simply do not know (Sherman et al, 1997).  Some programs and policies seem successful, others are clearly dismal failures, but we are not sure why, on either count.  We have not been able to crack the cause and effect barrier with any degree of surety.  But what we have concluded, is that there is a procedural model that we now must embrace which will put us on the path to eventually be able to better answer those questions.  That model has three components:

1. Embrace a cross-national model and expand academic criminology/justice education programs into universities throughout the


            2. Embrace an interdisciplinary perspective in academic criminology/justice education.

            3. Incorporate systematic, evidence based evaluation into the fabric of the field. 

Cross National Academic Criminology/Justice Education

We need to embrace a cross national model, and seek to enhance the level of growth and development of academic criminology/justice education in universities throughout the world.   It is my proposition that in time this strategic plan will, among other benefits, reduce the scope and extent of crime and corruption in every nation.  This in turn will yield an enhanced opportunity for all, and particularly the developing nations, to secure external investment, realize increased economic stability, and eventually participate to a greater degree in the global economy (see, Eskridge, 2003).

This notion is of some significance, for we will not even begin to adequately address the world=s crime problems until the developing and transitional nations are able to participate in the market economy as full partners.  They are not full partners at present, but developing justice programs can, among other things that need to be done, can help them move in that direction.

Let me couple these initial observations with another that is to some extent a blinding flash of the obvious -- the Western concept of the rule of law, democratic traditions, the professional development of and the communal legitimization of institutions of public order have not been firmly established in most transitional and developing nations.  Due in large part to this factor, these nations have particularly struggled to adequately address their crime and corruption problem, which in turn has contributed to their difficulty in becoming fully integrated into the Western world=s market economy, and ultimately to their disproportionate contribution to the crime problem worldwide.  The problem is that social democracy and contemporary capitalism cannot be easily grafted onto many traditional societies.  It is my proposition that justice education can help reverse this trend.

Specifically, there are three positive impacts that will accrue for nations that embrace academic criminology/justice education:

      1.   Over time, graduates from university justice education programs will gradually begin to fill justice system positions within their respective countries, which will slowly and steadily help to further professionalize justice operations within each country.

      2.   Most who take university classes in criminology/criminal justice will not seek employment in the justice system per se, but will move on to careers in other areas, ie., business, engineering, nursing, etc.  They become the body politic, and their exposure to the principles and concepts outlined in their criminology/justice education classes will have increased their understanding as to the proper role and function of the justice system and its personnel.  Subsequently this more attuned and aware general populous will hold justice system personnel to a higher standard.  The synergy of this proposal is that the justice system personnel who are going to be held more accountable by the more attuned public, will have had the academic background to draw upon which will give them more tools to be able to respond positively.

  • Justice officials will also be able to respond more positively to increased public demand due to perhaps the most important aspect of all; by embracing justice education, nations will benefits from an enhanced research capability.  The faculty and students of the university justice programs will engage in research activities that will produce a more complete knowledge base and shed further light on ways and means of improving justice system practices, programs and policies.  Armed with these new tools and a more refined knowledge based, justice system personnel will be in a better position to perform their duties in accordance with heightened public demand.

In sum, criminology/justice education will, over time, produce thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of informed citizens who will hold justice officials more accountable, who will demand a higher standard of performance.  In addition, academic criminology/justice education will produce thousands of justice officials with the academic background to be able to respond professionally, and who can turn to locally developed and locally relevant research undertaken by local university criminologists (students and faculty) to help them.

While justice education certainly has a place in the developed countries, its greatest impact would clearly be in the developing and transitional nations, and its adoption in those settings would help nudge these regions of the world further along the road towards the rule of law.  Transitional and developing nations typically have weak rule of law traditions and skeletal legal infrastructures.  Justice education can assist in changing that.

There have been some positive developments with respect to the international growth of academic criminology and justice education in the past decade.  Courses and degree programs are now offered in many countries throughout the world.  In addition, professional societies of criminology are emerging all across the globe.  A recent joint meeting of the world=s societies and associations of criminology attracted some 30 different organizations with representatives from nearly 50 nations.  Academic criminology, which for many years has been rooted in American institutions, is now beginning to truly spread its wings.  As a result, as Smith (2004:10) has noted, new ideas in this field are no longer coming primarily from the United States...truly a positive development and suggests a maturation of the field.

An Interdisciplinary Academic Model

We need to continue to embrace an interdisciplinary perspective within academic criminology and justice education.  The hard sciences and medicine were two of the great success stories of the 20th Century.   Conspicuously absent in this great leap, however, were the social and behavioral sciences.  In a recent newspaper column, Allan Bloom (see Bloom, 1987) criticized the academic social and behavioral sciences for being scholastically stagnant.  He argues that there have been no new ground-breaking perspectives, no new paradigms, no theories of value or impact proffered for decades.  Compared with the hard sciences and medicine, the traditional disciplines of sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, history, political science are comatose, if not all-together dead.  The primary reason he argues, is intellectual incest; an unwillingness to engage in cross-disciplinary and cross-national fertilization and exchange.

There is, unarguably, some merit to his point.  Ph.D.'s in the social sciences do tend to anoint their own.  Sociologists train sociologists, psychologists teach psychologists, political scientists prepare political scientists, and the result is inevitably some measure of academic atrophy in these fields.  In an essay appearing in the January/February l997 edition of ACJS Today , Robert Engvall echoed some of these latter sentiments, noting how faculty tend to hire younger versions of themselves, which invariably leads to a parochial, closed academic environment.   

While there are a few social science research think tanks, there is nothing in the social and behavioral sciences that even comes close to paralleling NASA, the Center for Disease Control, or the Mayo Clinic.  Cross-disciplinary consultations are the rule of the day in the hard sciences and medicine.  The old barriers in the hard sciences are being torn down daily, with stupefying results.  The social and behavioral sciences have not kept pace with the rate of development and progress in the hard sciences.  There have, however, been some contributions of merit coming from the soft sciences in this past century.  The social sciences are not as stone-cold dead as Bloom surmises, but his basic causal premise is well taken.  There is a lack of significant inter-disciplinary exchange and cross-fertilization in the academic world of the social and behavioral sciences, and this is inhibiting growth and development in these fields of study.    

I would suggest that much of the reason behind the rather rapid rise of criminal justice as a field of study in the United States has been its cross-disciplinary diversity.  A marginal field of study in the l960s and l970s, criminal justice exploded onto the academic scene in the l990s in part due to the emergence of crime as a fundamental matter on the mind of the body politic, but also in large part due to academic diversity, and to its multi-disciplinary character.    It is not unusual to see criminal justice faculty members degrees in history, psychology, sociology, public administration, law, political science, urban studies, as well as criminology and criminal justice.

There is a need to continue to cling to the multi-disciplinary model that has fueled this rather abrupt contemporary rise of justice education in the world of academe (2), and extend our reach to include colleagues from all nations.  Such a proposal has two distinct advantages:

     1.    Students will have their educational experience enhanced due to this academic cross-breeding.  They will interact with both faculty and students from other disciplines and see things from a broader perspective.  The very nature of education suggests the need to break out, to examine and explore from new perspectives and new horizons.  A narrowly focused degree in the social science/liberal arts tradition is an oxymoron.  My experience is that the superior criminal justice students frequently indicate a desire to take courses outside of the major, not because of problems with the criminal justice program, but out of a desire to enhance the breadth of their educational experience.     

    2.     This will serve to increase the nature and scope of the interaction between faculty members from different fields of study, with a resulting increase in productivity as a result of this cross-fertilization.  It will also strengthen ties between academic departments on campus.  There is, in fact, a need to break down the walls of disciplinary sterility that infect so many academic institutions, and this proposal will go far to achieve that end.  A side effect will be multi-departmental grant proposals, and a general aura of collaborative research and writing.  As noted, the hard sciences have already moved in this direction, particularly the medical field; a single author piece in a medical journal is as passe as a prescription for laudanum.  The social sciences, with their archaic traditions of "lone wolf writers" are clearly out of step with the times.  No one individual can possibly be expected to absorb and assimilate all relevant material in the vast and exploding entity we call the Abody of knowledge.@  An interdisciplinary justice education program recognizes this reality, and it serves as an aggressive and robust response to the realities of modern social science.   

We in criminology, must emulate the progressive hard science research centers and reach out to all fields and disciplines, and to colleagues from all nations, and collectively seek to address crime and justice issues.

Evidence Based Criminology

What do we know about reducing the severity of crime?  What works, specifically what operational programs and policies reduce the severity of crime in a relatively consistent and uniform fashion?  Do the answers to those questions vary from one community to another; from one neighborhood to another?  What specific programs and policies can improve our cities and our neighborhoods in a justice and equity context?  As has already been noted in this essay and by others (see generally Latessa, Cullen and Gendreau, 2002; Austin, 2003), we are not certain; we lack specificity, we lack causal understanding, and what we do implement has generally not been systematically evaluated.

We criminologists are somewhat akin to physicians of the 18 th century.  We have a few ideas, we are making progress, but we have yet to attain the status of a mature, evidence based and evidence driven science.  We lack consistent, proven diagnostic instruments, we lack a definitive body of knowledge, we lack generally consistent treatment modalities.  Indeed, we have no criminological thermometers, no criminological CAT scans, no criminological penicillin, no criminological vaccines.  We are using relatively crude instruments, as did the physicians of the 1700s, and largely respond to the crime problem using crude, homespun, untested remedies, as did the physicians of the 18 th century.  We cannot mock the physicians of that era.  They did the best they could with the knowledge and tools they had at that time; Louis Pasteur had yet to be born.  Once he entered the laboratory, his discoveries propelled the fields of bio-chemistry and medicine forward at warp speed.  Medicine, of course, is still developing and does not possess all the answers.  But it does have numerous proven diagnostic instruments, a solid body of knowledge, a cause and effect/epistemological understanding, and a wide variety of effective, disease specific and patient specific treatment modalities. 

The latter points warrants some further review.  There are a wide variety of treatment modalities available today.  There are different treatment modalities for different diseases, and patients with the same disease often receive different treatment modalities, geared for individual need.  In other words, there are both intra-disease and inter-disease treatment modalities.  

Academic criminology needs to develop the same kind of specificity we see in medicine, but at present, we are hampered in this quest due to the fact that we have little systemic epistemological understanding.  For example, numerous studies have concluded that the effects of arrest on intimate partner violence is associated with less repeat offending, yet as the victim ages, the violence from the perpetrators gets worse if the police intervene.  Why?  We have no idea.  We can provide case-study reasoning, but we have no systematic, evidence-based explanation. 

As a consequence, justice policies and programs that are adopted are generally implemented due more to political consideration rather than scientific merit.  In the final analysis, academic criminology is generally polluted by political criminology, for public policy tends to be a pinch of science (and often bad science at that), and a pound of ideology.  I would suggest that much of what passes for knowledge in criminology today is myth; it is not backed with systematic evaluation.  That which is implemented (or shunned) is not based on sound inquiry, but generally on the omnipresent query of all politicians, Ais this a politically palatable program or policy.@  It may be unsupported by systematic evaluation, but if it is politically appealing it will be embraced.  If it is not politically appealing, merit notwithstanding, the program stands little chance of implementation. 

My field, our field, the would-be science of criminology, is polluted by power and politics, which often renders carefully crafted evaluations useless in a pragmatic context.   We can speak of scientific criminology, but it has a Siamese twin, political criminology.  It is incumbent upon us as criminologists to not only engage in the science of criminology, but to also engage in political criminology if we ever expect to see our findings have any practical value (see, Austin, 2003).

Scientific and Political Criminology

Let me address both of these ideas...that we are somewhat behind, akin to physicians in the 1700s, and that politics pollutes this field, with a couple of stories.  In 1799, the former American president George Washington lay in bed with a bad case of strep throat.  The finest physicians of the day concluded that he needed to be bled, a common treatment modality of the day.   Bleeding, among other impacts, contributes to dehydration.  Ironically, Washington died not due to strep throat per se, but primarily due to the complications brought on by the bleeding induced dehydration.  We know today that when a patient contracts a case of strep throat, they need to be hydrated, not de-hydrated.  Yet the physicians of the day, using the popular mode of treatment, did exactly the opposite of what they needed to do. 

Had Washington=s health improved, the physicians likely would have suggested it was due to the bleeding, and perhaps touted his case as yet another example of the value of that treatment modality.   But of course, such treatment is de-habilitating, and any improvement in Washington=s health subsequent to the bleeding would have been despite , not because of the treatment received.  A systematic analysis would have revealed this to be the case of course, but, there were few systematic analyses undertaken within the field of medicine prior to the 1800s, and as a consequence the field was relatively stagnant, awaiting the breakthroughs that would come from Louis Pasteur and other evidence based researchers. 

It is interesting to note that regardless of the disease, the physicians of that day generally resorted basically to two treatment methods - bleeding and laudanum, that had never been systematically tested and generally made people worse.  This is not much unlike political criminologists in America today - steal a car, go to prison; commit an assault, go to prison; use drugs, go to prison.  We now have more than two million behind bars in the United States, and yet we know that imprisonment generally makes people worse.  Imprisonment is a failed program, a policy that does not work, but it is politically popular and thus continually utilized, much to the detriment of individuals and society at large.  Gun by-back programs have likewise proven to be inefficient, but they are very popular so they are embraced.  The DARE program is another that has been  empirically invalidated, but quite popular so it continues.  By in large, the crime prevention programs that we utilize in the United States have not been systematically evaluated.  Quite an interesting state of affairs.  Imagine a pharmaceutical firm introducing a new drug into the market that has not been adequately tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Yet American criminological literature is filled with accounts of such programs.   We need a criminological FDA.  No program should be implemented until it has been adequately tested, until it has been subjected to repeated, thorough, systematic quantitative evaluation. 

We should also consider the fact that there are programs that have been shown via systematic evaluation to be viable, but are not politically palatable.  This situation is not limited to criminology.  Consider, for example, the case of Dr. Joseph Goldberger, sent by the United States government to the southern American states in 1913 in an attempt to discover the cause and cure for pellagra, a disease that was ravaging that area of our nation.  He discovered that the disease was due to a lack of niacin in the diet.  Dr. Goldberger, a Jew, then began to relay his findings to the southern community populous and leadership.  It was summarily rejected, due in part to the fact that he was a Jew, in part due to the fact that he was from the north, and in part because of general xenophobic fear of change.  He was eventually recalled by the federal government due to the animosity spreading throughout the south on this matter.  He died, definitively knowing he had found the cause and cure of pellagra, but infinitely frustrated in that he had been unable to reach the body politic with the finding.  

This account highlights the need of scientific criminologists to recognize that there are actually two fields that need to be surmounted if impact is to be achieved....scientific criminology and political criminology.   As quantitatively sound as it is, removing handguns from the American public is just not going to happen, despite the fact that such a policy would definitively result in few murders.  As quantitatively sounds as it is, the horribly unbalanced social inequality quotient is not going to be addressed in America, despite the fact that this is clearly a precipitating factor when it comes to crime issues.  There is no political capital for seriously addressing either notion in the United States.  They are not politically palatable themes.  There are political truths and there are scientific truths.  Our role as criminologists and justice professionals is not only to uncover scientific truths, but to also engage in activities that create an environment where those scientific truths can be implemented. 

Finally, we should recognize that there are some programs that do seem to work (impact positively on crime and streamline justice system operations) and that at least now are somewhat politically acceptable: Project Head Start, community policing, the ADAM project, neighborhood justice centers/dispute resolution centers, hot-spot or ROP patrolling,  These and other programs and ideas seem to work well in a generally uniform fashion across various jurisdictions and regions in the United States, but it remains to be seen if they are transferable to other countries and cultures.  Only by engaging in systematic evaluation in those unique environments will we know for sure.


I have tried to highlight four main points in this essay:

  • We cannot eliminate crime, but we can reduce its severity and thus minimize its negative impact.
  • To reduce the severity of crime, we must adopt a model that:

a. advances academic criminology/justice education on a global scale,

               particularly in the transitional and developing nations, and

b. embraces an interdisciplinary perspective, and

c. incorporates systematic, evidence based program and policy evaluation.

  • We are not a mature science at this point, and we are not certain how to systematically reduce the severity of crime.  We have some ideas and are making progress, but we are not there yet.  We lack instruments, a definitive body of knowledge, an understanding of cause and effect, a series of generally consistent treatment modalities.  In this context, we are somewhat akin to physicians of the 18 th century.
  • Since political criminology often rears its head and supercedes scientific criminology, to reduce the severity of crime, we must become effective political as well as scientific criminologists.

I would again temper this discussion with the thought that the model I propose (widespread interdisciplinary justice education, systematic evaluation, political efficacy) emerges as quite inconsequential when examined in the context of the complex and dynamic socio-economic-political world.  As noted at the outset of this essay, any number of Armageddon-like events (world-wide famine, detonation of weapons of mass destruction in urban areas, significant reduction in access to energy resources, etc.), would obviously have a much greater influence on the global crime and deviance factor than any model I may propose.  Yet, as criminologists, we can, in our own way, and in our own sphere, offer much.  "The chief duty of society is justice," wrote the American statesman Alexander Hamilton some 200 years ago.  By clinging to this proposed model, we can improve the environments in which we live, and as a result, justice and equity will be more frequent visitors to our homes, our neighborhoods, our nations, and our world.  

1.  There are some who claim that greater access to guns will lead to less crime (see generally John Lott, More Guns, Less Crime .  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998; Gary Kleck, ACrime Control Through the Private Use of Armed Force,@ Social Problems , Vol 35, 1988, pp. 1-21).  This argument has yet to be empirically substantiated in my estimation, and the available empirical evidence suggests quite the opposite impact; greater access to guns increases the severity of the nature of crime within a community.  I would further suggest that the handgun debate, as well as a number of other contemporary social issues for that matter (ie., stem cell research, abortion, capital punishment), has morphed into a theology, rendering reasonable discussion of the evidence virtually impossible.

2.  One particular arena that readily lends itself to multi-disciplinary integration is life-course criminology.  With a focus on longitudinal individual development and the particular movement toward and away from crime, we see an intersection of such fields as genetics, biology, sociology, psychology, economics, etc., etc.

Austin, James 2003. AWhy Criminology is Irrelevant,@ Criminology & Public Policy , Vol 2 (3), July, pp. 557 - 564.

Bloom, Alan 1987.  The Closing of the American Mind , New York: Simon and Schuster.

Durkheim, Emile 1971. ACrime As Normal Phenomenon,@ in Leon Radzinowicz and Marvin Wolfgang, The Criminal In Society: Crime and Justice, Volume 1 , New York: Basic Books, pp. 391-394.

Engvall, Robert 1997. AMinimum Standards for Criminal Justice Higher Education: A Commentary,@ ACJS Today , January/February, pp.1, 3, 24.

Eskridge, Chris W. 2003. ACriminal Justice Education and its Potential Impact on the Socio-Political-Economic Climate of Central European Nations: A Short Essay,@ Journal of Criminal Justice Education , Vol 14 (1), Spring, 105 - 118.

Latessa, Edward, Francis Cullen and Paul Gendreau 2002. ABeyond Correctional Quackery: Professionalism and the Possibility of Effective Treatment,@ Federal Probation , Vol 66 (2), September 2002, pp. 43-49.

Sherman, Larry, et. al. 1997. Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn = t, What = s Promising , Washington, D.C.:  Office of Justice Programs.

Smith, David 2004. ACriminology and the Wider Europe,@ European Journal of Criminology , Vol 1(2), January 2004, preface editorial, pp. 5-15.

Sperber, Kimberly Gentry, Martha Henderson-Hurley and Dena Hanley 2005. ABridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice, Federal Probation , June, pp. 3 - 6.

*An earlier version of this manuscript appeared in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice , Vol 21 (4), November 2005, pp. 1 - 13.  A Spanish translation appeared in Capitulo Criminologico , Vol 32 (4), Octubre-Diciembre 2004, pp. 415 - 432.

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an unequal relation between academics where one group dominates while other groups are ignored or silenced.

laws which criminalize actions which seek to render the animal agriculture and use industries more transparent, specifically, criminalizing undercover investigations and recording of animal agriculture activities, limiting whistleblowing, and otherwise interfering with normal business operations.

the ways in which the media play a role in determining which topics will receive the most attention and, thus, be deemed the most important for the audience to consider

These are factors that are considered by the sentencing judge that would increase the crime’s severity and would result in a more severe punishment. Examples of aggravating factors include previous criminal record for the same crime; use of a weapon; offence motivated by bias, prejudice or hate (based on race, sex, religion, age, sexual orientation or gender identity, or any similar factor); offence was committed against the offender’s intimate partner or family; the offence was committed against a person under the age of eighteen; offence was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organization; the offence was a terrorism offence; or the offence had significant impact on the victim’s health and financial situation.

the process of compiling and reviewing information, and then summarizing and synthesizing the data, often with the aide of statistical techniques, to reach a conclusion or explanation about the phenomenon under study.

the idea that humans are the most important beings; in the context of green criminology, the exclusive focus on humans as victims of crime and harm.

a deeply ingrained and dysfunctional thought process that focuses on social exploitive, delinquent, and criminal behavior most commonly known due to the affected individual's lack of remorse for these behaviors. ASPD falls into 1 of 4 cluster-B personality disorders within the DSM V, which also includes narcissistic, borderline, and histrionic personality disorders.

A psychological , evolutionary and ethological theory concerning relationships between humans . The most important tenet is that young children need to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for normal social and emotional development. The theory was formulated by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby .

The over-emphasis of personal characteristics while devaluing environmental characteristics when judging others.

our connection to our true, genuine self; the ability to show up as us, and connect with our feelings in a meaningful way.

the idea that the way in which media present crime and justice issues is the opposite of the way in which these phenomena occur in real life

a perspective that sees every species and being as equal in worth.

a multidisciplinary approach that seeks to understand criminal behaviour by examining the interactions between biological, psychological and sociological factors.

feminism that advocates for police and prison responses to things like gendered violence, sexual assault, child abuse, etc.

when one variable is said to cause a specific effect, the two variables must at least be correlated, the cause must precede the effect, and other possible explanations must be eliminated.

Circles are a process often associated with restorative justice although the roots of this ancient practice lie in many Indigenous traditions around the world. The circle embodies and nurtures the state of inter-connectedness we exist in as human beings. The circle is a structured process that can be adapted for many different purposes such as relationship and community building, sharing, problem solving and decision making, celebration, or as a response to harm. The circle allows all participants the opportunity to speak about values or a specific topic. Circles create a space for deep listening and to be heard. All voices are honoured equally which can cultivate mutual support and learning.

systematic patterns of deviation from norm and/or rationality in judgment that occurs when people are processing and interpreting information in the world around them.

the practice of controlling a territory, or another nation, and populating it with settlers in an exploitative manner. In this regard, colonization is also closely correlated with the practice of “settler-colonialism.”

the establishment of a colony to expand a nation state or territory. Establishing a colony might involve both the establishment of control over a territory and the Indigenous peoples who previously resided in that area. It may also involve the colonisation of minds through the imposition of Western European ideals, religion, language, and social practices onto the people who were living there before colonisation. The term “colonisation” is closely related to the term “colonialism.”

Provides direct services to victims and receive funding either in whole or in part by the provincial and/or federal government responsible for criminal justice matters.

The repayment of losses to the victim given by the state.

research methods that involve using computers to model, simulate and analyze social phenomena, and to assess patterns and trends working with big data. Big data could be anything from corporate databases or datasets from the government that could not feasibly be examined by humans using discourse or content analysis.

to form a concept or idea about something and to become very specific about what we mean by those concepts for the purpose of our own research.

a learning process in which the likelihood of a specific behaviour increases or decreases in response to reinforcement or punishment that occurs when the behaviour occurs.

A process based on restorative principles whereby the people most impacted by a harm come together to dialogue about what happened, how they were impacted, and explore ways to repair the harm.  These processes are facilitated by a trained facilitator and often include victims, offenders, their supporters, and representatives of the community.

involves parental expectations, limits, rules and control. Parental control can be flexible and democratic, or harsh, rigid and coercive. 

an approach to criminology that privileges the voices and standpoint of persons who have been criminalized or who have been system affected.

when two or more variables are associated with one another. The direction of the association is known when two variables are correlated.  A positive correlation means that as one variable increases, so does the other, or as one decreases, the other decreases.  A negative correlation means that as one increases, the other decreases, and vice versa.  Correlation does not guarantee causality.

A provincial and/or territorial program that provides financial benefits to help offset monetary losses and supports recovery for victims. Programs and eligibility vary by province and/or territory in Canada.

Criminogenic needs may be defined as those offender need areas in which treatment gain will reduce the likelihood of recidivism; they have also been referred to as dynamic risk.

A theoretical perspective in criminology which focuses on challenging traditional beliefs, uncovering false beliefs about crime and criminal justice, and unearthing biases and inequalities within the theories of criminology and the criminal justice system.

method of research to explore the connections between the use of language/text and the social and political context within which it occurs.

a research study that gathers data at one point in time. It provides a snapshot of the phenomenon of interest.

Provides support for people who have become involved in the criminal justice process as either victims or witnesses, offering information, assistance and referrals to victims and witnesses with the goal of trying to make the court process less intimidating.

theoretical perspective that considers the role of media in producing and reproducing culturally relevant and socially constructed meanings

is a general term used to describe all aspects of a society related to individual and collective identity and meaning. Culture can be expressed in the material items of a particular society, such as clothing and other consumer goods, as well as in the ideas and beliefs that circulate and shape the way individuals and groups understand themselves and the surrounding world. Culture can more narrowly refer to aspects of creative output such as art, music and literature, and is often divided into high culture and low culture. While high culture is found in art galleries, museums and opera houses, low culture, or popular culture, can be found all around us and is the stuff of TV, popular music and graffiti art. Cultural criminologists view culture as arising from broader economic and social relations, and therefore tends reflect dominant ideas related to crime and crime control.

an umbrella term which encompasses the social behaviour, institutions, and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, customs, capabilities, and habits of individuals in these groups.

implies rightful ownership of specific data.  This involves allowing Indigenous peoples to control who collects data about their people and what data are collected, as well as how the results are disseminated.

is the process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of the superiority and privilege of Western thought and approaches embedded in western societies such as Canada. Decolonization can also mean cultural, psychological, and economic freedom for Indigenous peoples.

a research model that involves working from the general to the specific, or from theory to data collection. The deductive model employs quantitative methods of research.

the process of discharging chronic mental health patients into the community in order for them to receive care from community mental health services. The deinstitutionalisation movement began in Canada in the 1960s.

the condemnation of an individual’s actions, specifically with regard to offending.

the idea or theory that the threat of punishment will deter people from committing crime and that the punishment of someone else will deter them as well (general deterrence). It also can mean punishing an individual to teach them not to offend again (specific deterrence).

how individuals shape their conduct to line up with expert knowledge and rules of discourse.

the general domain of all statements and classifications about something/anything, like the discourse of child development or discourse of victimhood, and a system of categories that structures the way we perceive reality.

an edict given by the Catholic church to Western European nations to discover, colonize, and spread the Christian message. It gave countries like England, France, Spain, and Portugal the god given right to conquer and colonize new lands that were uninhabited by Christians.

a perspective that holds that humans are relationally connected to the natural world and that, while humans need to utilize resources to survive, they have a duty to use resources responsibly and minimize their impact on other species and the environment.

a perspective holding that natural entities and the natural world is worthy of protection in their own right and not just as resources to be exploited or used instrumentally.

a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit.

a method of study based on tangible and observable facts, evidence, and research.

a branch of criminology that deals with researching special – physical and social – determinations of patterns of criminal behavior and is closely connected with situational criminal prevention

an approach to justice that strives to overcome the manner in which negative impacts of environmental crimes and harms disproportionately affect marginalized groups in society, specifically based on race (Black, Indigenous, people of colour), class (e.g., low-income), and gender (e.g., dangers of male dominated slaughterhouse work, affects of toxic chemicals on female reproduction).

policies or practices that result in a discriminatory environmental impact (whether intended on unintended) on racialized groups or individuals.

the study of knowledge or ways of knowing.

a categorization of a group of people who share a national, cultural, religious, or language commonality. Such categorizations could be either an external labelling or one that is self-defined by the group. A concept of ethnicity can also overlap with a concept of race because ethnic categorization may also use skin colour, hair texture, and other physical characteristics to describe membership in an imagined ethnic community.

is a method of field research pioneered in cultural anthropology that involves immersive and lengthy interaction with cultural groups in order to learn about their ways of life and beliefs. In the nineteenth century, ethnography was used predominantly to study cultures in distant and non-western contexts. However, through the twentieth century, scholars in the social sciences began using this method to study subcultural groups closer to home. Ethnography involves participation in aspects of the culture under study as well as lengthy periods of contact and the development of mutual trust and respect. A common critique of this method is that researchers may grow too close to their subjects, and lose scholarly, detached perspective. A considerable strength of the method is that researchers gain deep, detailed, and realistic knowledge about a culture by adopting the perspective of insiders. Ethnography is a favoured method of cultural criminology, but it is not the only approach in this perspective.

information you use to make decisions that is based on research, not opinion.

when information and research is combined with experiences and expertise to best fit the population and culture being served.

a quantitative scientific procedure performed to determine something or test a hypothesis.

a qualitative method that involves observing and possibly interacting with research subjects in their natural environment.

a qualitative method that involves a group of individuals brought together and led by a moderator to share similarities, opinions, or differences.

in the context of moral panics, these individuals or groups are the perceived menace upon which the public concern is focused

fitting a story into a ready-made social construction such that it is easy for the audience to understand and interpret

a tool to use in social science research to investigate state and criminal justice practices that accesses state records that would not otherwise be disclosed.

a person or position that controls access to something and has the power to decide who obtains resources or opportunities and who does not.

every five years a series of cross-sectional surveys conducted by Statistics Canada which collect comprehensive socio-demographic information and information on one topic in-depth each year. The experiences of victims of crime are captured here.

the degree to which the results of a study can be applied to a larger population. The larger the sample, the greater the ability to generalise the findings of the study.

demonstrates how individuals develop an individual awareness space that consists of their major routine activity nodes (e.g., home, school, workplaces – activity spaces): the travel paths that connect them and everything within the visual range of the offender

the set of practices (rationalities, techniques, knowledges) via which people are (self) governed but also the means by which someone else’s activities are shaped.

a branch of criminology that deals with research into criminality against the environment and associated phenomena (e.g., animal cruelty)

the study of the breadth of victims (environment, human, and animal) and avenues of victimization related to environmental crime and harm, as well as the institutional and state responses to such victimization

the corporate practice of portraying a product as environmentally friendly or not harmful; for example, using images of plants on a bottle to imply connection to environmental sustainability but the ingredients contain harmful chemicals.

information produced outside of traditional publishing and distribution channels, including government and community reports, conference papers, and dissertations.

the dominance of one group’s ideas over another group’s ideas and when the dominant group controls the thinking of other groups, or when the ideas of the dominant class become the ideas of everyone.

the preference shown by journalists towards sources in powerful positions, casting them as primary definers whose opinions and ideas are portrayed as inherently more credible than those of others who might wish to comment upon a story

method of research where a researcher examines a culture or society or social practice by immersing themselves in the history of experiences for the group or individual they are interested in .

multigenerational trauma experienced by a specific cultural or racial group, such as the violent colonization experienced by Indigenous peoples.

refers to the study of the dynamic interrelationships between human populations and the physical, biotic, cultural and social characteristics of their environment and the biosphere

a proposed explanation used as a starting point in the deductive model for further investigation, or emerging at the end of the research process in the inductive model. A hypothesis is typically written as an “if, then” statement and outlines how we expect the variables to be related to one another and the direction of that relationship.

the socially constructed victim who is seen as weaker than their attacker, blameless, and with whom the audience will readily sympathize

Indigenous peoples in Canada were originally referred to as “Indians” by Western explorers because they were looking for a western passage to the East Indies . When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, he incorrectly thought he had discovered a new passage to the imagined territory of the Indies (i.e., China, Japan, and India). The inhabitants were hence thought to be “Indians.”

a research model that involves working from the specific to the general or from observations to the development of theory.  The inductive model employs qualitative methods.

method of research where a researcher examines a specific institution via in-depth study of all of its elements and practices to identify power relations that structure an experience in the institution and how the institution itself is organized

a practice of racism where the racism can be understood as “racism without racists.” It does not require the presence of racist subjects or beliefs; it is the racism practiced by an institution or a governing body. The bias that is produced exists because of the invention and application of a rule or a policy. The racist outcome would not be the product of an individual’s racist ideation.

the argument that the state system always operates as an arm of, or instrument of, capitalism, or the state apparatus and criminal law exists as a direct result of capitalism to uphold capitalism and the capitalist mode of production.

a concept of analysis designed to show how the categories of race, class and gender, sexuality, and (dis)ability—and their social effects—are interlinked or interlocked in a way that makes them difficult to pull apart and to be analyzed as separate entities. Critical legal theorists like Kimberlé Crenshaw and others have used the concept of “intersectionality” to describe how race intersects with social and economic class, gender and sexual expression, nationality, and other institutional markers of identity in such a way that race is more fruitfully examined when considered as co-located and connected with these other social markers.

a qualitative method that involves asking a series of mostly open-ended questions in an effort to capture the participants’ voices in their own words.

a theory of economics arguing for increased government spending (on things like education, employment insurance, etc.) and lower taxes (for businesses) to stimulate demand, meaning employers will invest more and employ more people thereby maintaining economic growth and stabilizing the economy.

refers to the time period beginning in the late twentieth century and extending to today. Social theorists like Anthony Giddens and Zygmunt Bauman argue that the defining features of the modern era were transformed in significant ways in the late twentieth century. Capitalism, communications, and conceptions of the self were markedly altered in this period. However, these theorists dispute the notion that there has been a complete break from modernity heralding a new post- modern era. Instead, they see the present time period as being characterized by an intensification of modernity. Cultural criminology does not completely disavow the ideas and insights of postmodernism, but generally prefers the term late modernity to denote the present era marked by widespread interactive digital communications, commodification of crime and violence, rapid global flows of capital, goods and people, and an intensification of feelings of insecurity and anxiety (e.g. Young, 2007).

a person or other entity that at law has the powers and responsibilities normally associated with an ordinary human; legal personhood is not limited to flesh-and-blood humans but can extend to corporations, municipalities and, in some cases, natural entities.

Offenders that begin to show antisocial behavior in childhood that continues into adulthood are what Moffitt considers to be life-course-persistent offenders. Their delinquent behavior is attributed to several factors including neuropsychological impairments and negative environmental features.

a written summary and overview of writings and other sources on a selected topic to gain an understanding of existing research relevant to the topic.

personal knowledge about the world gained through direct, first-hand involvement in everyday events rather than through representations constructed by other people

a study which extends beyond a single point in time and involves the collection of data at various time intervals.

the recirculation of media content in different formats, contexts, and media outlets

in addition to the capitalist and working class, Marx identified the lumpenproletariat – a group that was defined as an unorganized, non-political underclass.

theoretical perspective that views media as a business that delivers a product intended to meet market demand

the way in which the perspective on society conveyed in mainstream media is similar to the dominant institutional perspective and encourages the audience to adopt the same perspective

system of methods, procedures and principles used in a particular area of study or discipline.

researchers generally attribute this term to Gwen Ifill, PBS news anchor, referring to the far more frequent and intense news coverage of instances where white women or girls go missing compared to instances where the missing persons are not white or not female

These are factors that are considered by the sentencing judge that would lessen the crime’s severity and support leniency in sentencing resulting a lighter sentence. Examples of mitigating factors include lack of criminal record; minor role in the offence; culpability of the “victim”; past circumstances such as abuse that resulted in criminal activity; addiction or mental health concerns; and circumstances at the time of the offense, such as provocation.

a set of government policies that controls the amount of money in circulation as a way to stabilize the economy.

individuals or groups who attempt to draw attention to and impose their moral perspective on behaviours they deem deviant or criminal in order to advance their own interests or political agendas

period of intensified or frenzied public concern, the level of which is out of proportion with the actual threat posed by the object of concern

the idea that the world is divided into distinct territorial entities, or nations, comprised of peoples with inherent ethnic, cultural, and even biological characteristics. Such nations are almost always territorially-based where a specific land or geography is claimed. The imagined community and territory are often based on an ancient or long established history and identity allowing the group to claim a primordial right to sovereignty and territorial occupation.

reforms that diminish the power of the state and diminish the power of carceral institutions.

governmental reform focused on free-market capitalism – policies that frees the market for capitalists including deregulation, privatization, and free trade.

term used to refer to Internet-based news, entertainment, social media, video games, etc. that are interactive

the aspects of stories used by news media to determine which stories will be deemed of interest to the media audience and, thus, reported on

consists of places (conceptualized as points) that are places within the city that a person travels to and from (e.g., business, entertainment, or industrial districts in the context of large urban centres)

crimes that do not involve the use of any force or injury to another person (e.g., property damage)

deals with ideas that are based on fact and free from bias or personal opinion.

The First Nations principles of ownership, control, access, and possession – more commonly known as OCAP – assert that First Nations have control over data collection processes, and that they own and control how this information can be used.

data sets often produced by official governmental agencies for administrative purposes, such as Census data or crime figures.

the philosophical examination of being. As an invention of Western thought, the concept is often referred to as a “theory of being” and paired with the term “epistemology” that refers to the sister concept of a “theory of knowledge” or how something is known. In this regard, ontology refers to the study of the “thing in itself” and not how it may be represented or interpreted.

turning abstract concepts or phenomena that may not be directly observable into measurable observations. For example, this would involve selecting the exact wording of survey questions.

theoretical perspective that views the routines of day-to-day news production as the most significant factor in shaping news content

a form of discriminatory racism that may be expressed as a clear and unambiguous act of racialization. A subject or victim of such racism can experience overt racism as a direct and personal injury and/or emotional injury. It is often an encounter between two persons where racial bias is experienced by one party in a very personal and subjective manner.

A typical model, example, pattern, or theory of something. Restorative justice is often described as a paradigm shift (a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions).

extent to which parents are aware of their children’s activities, including how they spend their time and who they spend their time with.

represents the channels that we use to move from node to node often limited by streets, walkways, and public transit

examines the ways targets come to the attention of offenders and how this influences the distribution of crime events over time, space, and amongst targets

government programs that focus on helping criminal offenders to stop offending by providing treatment or to provide for the welfare of prisoners.

the process of making something personally relatable for the audience

the characteristic sets of behaviours, cognitions, and emotional patterns patterns that evolve from biological and environmental factors. While there is no generally agreed upon definition of personality, most theories focus on motivation and psychological interactions with the environment one is surrounded by.

the observable properties of an organic organism. Phenotype is often understood as the product of both genotype, which refers to the genes of an organism, and the environment surrounding it. In the context of race and racialization, it might refer to human traits like skin colour, height, weight, or eye colour.

making changes or slight modifications to the existing structure of policing but keeping the original purpose of police.

all members of a particular area or group, or all things, that you want to learn more about from which a sample is drawn.

an orientation to the study of society that focuses on what can be observed – in criminology this means a focus on identifying and studying causes of crime that could then be corrected, which is strongly associated with crime control.

set of theoretical ideas that examines language, text and culture and how these establish social spaces/creates our reality, as opposed to structuralism’s contention that the social is a patterned, rigid, and material set of structures.

the diverse ways in which our actions control and are controlled by our relations (structural and otherwise) to others.

when two or more companies that are supposed to be competitors conspire to set prices at a certain level in order to avoid direct competition when selling the same products

data collected by researchers directly from the subjects or sources for the purpose of  their own original research.

individuals to whom the media turn to first to help define and explain a situation, who are perceived as having more specialized knowledge due to their institutional affiliation or professional position and, thus, as more credible sources (government officials, criminal justice system personnel, academics, etc.)

theoretical perspective that views the media as intentionally manipulating news content so that it aligns with the interests of the media owners and other powerful individuals or groups in society

a neuropsychiatric disorder marked by deficient emotional responses, lack of empathy, and poor behavioral controls, commonly resulting in persistent antisocial deviance and criminal behavior.

an impairment causing difficulties in perceiving what is real and what is not.

An approach to law and criminal justice that involves the intentional infliction of punishment.

research that involves the collection and analysis of in-depth textual or verbal, non-numerical data. Methods include interviews, focus groups, and field observation.

collecting and analyzing data that are non-numerical and focused on the detailed understanding of the subject being researched which can include in-depth interviews, observation, and other non-numerical data.

research that involves the collection and analysis of numerical data. It can involve testing causal relationships and making predictions. Methods include closed-ended surveys and experiments.

the use of race—by the criminal justice system—as the basis for criminal suspicion. This term is often associated with policing. It can be understood as describing race-based policing, or race-biased policing, where police use racial appearance as a deciding factor in who to select for stopping, questioning, searching, detaining, and arrest. Outside of this reference to policing, it can also be used to describe an intentional and deliberate consideration of race that negatively impacts racial minorities in the form of increased contact with public and/or private authorities. That is, it might manifest itself as a) the activity of selecting or examining a racial minority at a rate of selection that is higher and incommensurate with their demographic representation and/or b) attributing racial and stereotypical characteristics to a subject in a manner that is illogical and/or not based on empirical examination.

the assumption that the crimes committed by racial minorities can be explained by their race

racialisation employs the word “race” as a verb to demonstrate that race is a human action or activity and not a biological or scientific certainty. In so doing, the term helps demonstrate that “race” is a man-made or invented category. Racialisation is an everyday happening where “race” is something that we do to somebody else or to ourselves. As a verb, we can understand it to be a common mental shortcut where we might use a person's physical appearance as a stand-in or as a marker of their intelligence, their thinking, or their potential actions. We racialise other people and sometimes we racialise ourselves in this moment of comparison and othering. Some might also understand racialisation as a form of race-based stereotyping.

the process by which groups of people are designated as being part of a "race" and subjected to differential or unequal treatment on that basis

individuals use rational calculations to make rational choices and achieve outcomes that are aligned with their own personal objectives.

data collected directly from the source and that exist at this point without any processing, transformation, or analysis.  Interview notes or survey responses are examples of raw data.

regulatory offences deal with legal activities such as the manufacture of products to the public, driving on roads and highways, and working. The goal of this law is to protect the public from the potentially harmful consequences of otherwise legal activity.

In the context of the criminal justice system, this is the process of helping inmates grow and change, allowing them to separate themselves from the factors that made them offend in the first place. In addition, preparing someone for a productive/crime free life once out of incarceration.

the degree to which a measurement or research method produces consistent results. This consistency can also be understood as replicability, either at different times, and/or by different researchers.

The making of amends for a wrong one has done. This can be done by paying money to or otherwise helping (with service) those who have been wronged. In the criminal justice system, reparation is often court ordered.

the process of socially constructing images and attaching signification/meaning to them

bodies of government/states granted with the legal right to use physical force to control the masses.

An approach to law and criminal justice based on the punishment of offenders with the intention of making the offender “pay” for what they have done (an “eye for an eye”).

requires that a potential offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a capable guardian must come together in order for criminal activity to be realized

the positivist use of science to prove the existence of race as a scientific category. It exploits science and scientific method as a pathway to promote the existence of race and it attempts to use natural and evolutionary science to falsely demonstrate that different “races” of human beings have evolved over centuries and now populate our world. Contemporary scientific research has shown that race is a faulty construct because DNA examination proves there are no “racial” differences in the genetic samples taken from people adapted to the different climates and continents of the world. For example, a person with Western European ancestry might have more genetic similarity with someone with east Asian ancestry than they do with someone with Scandinavian ancestry.

those individuals who have the task of responding to the definition of a situation as set out by the primary definers (including journalists who reproduce and/or filter what the primary definers have stated, as well as oppositional definers who journalists may include to provide a counter-point to what the primary definers have stated)

fulfillment of one’s full human potential.

a form of colonization where newcomers resettle a territory that is already inhabited by Indigenous peoples. The resettlement erases and reterritorializes the land in such a way that the land becomes both foreign and inaccessible to the indigenous first inhabitants.

the process of making something easier to understand, which also results in a loss of detail and complexity

a highly practical and effective means of reducing specific crime problems. Essentially, it seeks to alter the situational determinants of crime so as to make crime less likely to happen

a society or a social structure (e.g., a nation, a city, family, etc.) made up of a complex of concrete economic, political, and ideological relations, bound together and characterized by their historical relation to the economic relations (e.g., capitalism) they are located in.

theoretical perspective that views the media as playing an important role in upholding democracy, ensuring an informed citizenry, and shining light on abuses of power

organized patterns of social relations and institutions such as class, family, law, race, gender.

a branch of criminology that measures and theorizes explicitly spatial processes and relationships

refers to space

an approach to justice concerned with living creatures as having value in their own right; as such humans owe obligations and duties to them.

connected to anthropocentrism, this is the assumption that humans are the superior species; human needs are prioritized and needs of other species are deemed unimportant; most often connected to the privileging of humans over animals.

acts defined by law as criminal and committed by state officials in pursuit of their job as representatives of the state.

socially constructed category or label relying on generalized assumptions about people, behaviours, or situations based on a specific characteristic (such as race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, neighbourhood, gender, social class, etc.)

crimes that include acts that occur in both public and private spaces, as well as interpersonal violence and property crime

the argument that law works to ensure capitalist accumulation and to maintain conditions where the generation of wealth is possible based on the idea that states act on behalf of capital, not at its behest, and ideology is spread out among numerous social structures.

a subdivision within the dominant culture that has its own norms, beliefs, and values.

a mental disorder that affects a person's brain and behavior, leading to a person's inability to control their use of substances such as legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. Symptoms can range from moderate to severe, with addiction being the most severe form of SUDs. Support dimension : warm, responsive parenting. Children who lack support feel rejected, unaccepted or neglected.

crimes that include those referred to as corporate crime, crimes of the powerful, state-corporate crime, and state criminality

a general view, examination, or description of someone or something

an interaction between two individuals or groups that is mutually beneficial

a technique which allows the person to rationalise or justify a criminal act. There are five techniques of neutralisation: denial of responsibility, denial of injury, denial of victim, condemnation of the condemners, and appeal to higher loyalties.

an aspect of personality concerned with emotional dispositions and reactions and their speed and intensity; the term often is used to refer to the prevailing mood or mood pattern of a person.

refers to time

the multiple networks of diverse techniques and the power of normalization to regulate human behaviour that we see in prison as it extends into the entire social body.

an abolitionist concept capturing the idea that abolition is ongoing and requires constant struggle and analysis.

traditional types of media (that existed pre-Internet), including print (newspapers, magazines, books), visual (films, television programs), and audio (radio, music recordings) forms

a genetically modified organism (GMO) that has had DNA from another creature introduced into its genome.

Psychological trauma is a response to an event that a person finds highly stressful. Examples include being in a war zone, a natural disaster, or an accident. Trauma can cause a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms. Not everyone who experiences a stressful event will develop trauma.

recognizes and responds to the signs, symptoms, and risks of trauma to better support the health needs of patients who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress.

ways of talking about victims and victimization that place at least part of the responsibility for the harm done to the victim on their own behaviour or attributes (e.g. how they were dressed, what they said, where they were, what they were doing, which measures they took to defend themselves, etc.)

A process based on restorative justice principles where a victim and offender have direct or indirect dialogue in the aftermath of a harm.  This dialogue is usually facilitated by a trained person who has worked with both parties to prepare them for the encounter.

the outcome of deliberate action taken by a person or institution to exploit, oppress, or harm another, or to destroy or illegally obtain another's property or possessions

a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of their occupation.

the study of social harm; from the Greek zemia , meaning harm or damage.

Introduction to Criminology Copyright © 2023 by Dr. Shereen Hassan and Dan Lett, MA is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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    2. An act or omission constituting an offence (usually a grave one) against an individual or the state and punishable by law. Perhaps the most straightforward way, as in the second dictionary definition above, is to view crime as a violation of the criminal law.

  14. PDF Criminology Essay

    Criminology Essay Critically evaluate the view that media representations of crime distort rather than reflect reality. Since its introduction, the media has always been an important source of communication. However, in the twenty-first century ... mean or forums used for disseminating information, providing

  15. Criminology

    Criminology is a field primarily interested in acts constituted as crimes and the subsequent social responses to these criminal acts. Though sociological theories have played a prominent role in the development of the field of criminology, it is an interdisciplinary field organized around the study of law and crime, incorporating contributions from other disciplines such as psychology ...

  16. Crime, Deviance, and Criminology as a Mainstream Discipline

    Crime, Deviance, and Criminology as a Mainstream Discipline Module 1 introduces criminology as an intellectual domain comprised of various academic disciplines; that is, psychology, biology, anthropology, law, and sociology.In addition, the module provides a historic overview of the development of the discipline and considers how its intellectual foundation has prepared it for the analysis of ...

  17. (PDF) Criminology

    Criminology is an interdisciplinary field of study. that focuses on crime and the responses to crime. Introduction. As the study of crime and society 's responses to it, criminology is an ...

  18. Top Criminology Essay Examples

    Writing a criminology essay requires careful attention to detail and a clear understanding of the subject matter. Here are some tips to help you write a successful criminology essay: Conduct thorough research: Before writing your essay, make sure you have a solid understanding of the topic. This requires conducting thorough research using a ...

  19. A Different Perspective: Introducing Positive Criminology

    Positive criminology is a new conceptual perspective of criminology, encompassing several theories and models. Positive criminology refers to a focus on individuals' encounters with forces and influences that are experienced as positive, which distance them from deviance and crime, whether by means of formal and informal therapy programs and interventions, such as self-help groups; through ...

  20. The State of the Field of Criminology: A Brief Essay

    At the dawn of the 21 st century, criminology has morphed into something different, something quite unique that tends to incorporate virtually all other disciplines in some fashion or another. It is the purpose of this essay to examine the state of the field of criminology, and to propose a model for its future growth and development.

  21. Criminology defining crime essay

    Criminology- Defining crime. Sebastiaan Poelsma ID: 300490493. In this short report I will be presenting a brief summary, or overview, of the way that crime is defined, and/or conceptualised, and the problems or challenges associated with the attempts to define crime.

  22. Glossary

    empiricism. a method of study based on tangible and observable facts, evidence, and research. environmental criminology. a branch of criminology that deals with researching special - physical and social - determinations of patterns of criminal behavior and is closely connected with situational criminal prevention.