In about 500 words, provide case analysis of a real-life offender and use one of the theories presented in this week’s unit to explain the likely causes of this offender’s criminal behavior. Please provide a brief discussion about what you know of the offenders’ personal background and criminal history. In addition, identify the specific assumptions of the theory that best explain how or why the offender became involved in crime.Below are some resources to help you identify a theory to write on.1. The Classical School:
The Classical School is the original and oldest explanation of criminal behavior. It was
founded in the mid-1700’s by the Italian Philosopher Cesare Becarria, who has become known
as the “the father of the Classical School.” Becarria’s explanations for criminal behavior were
outlined in his pioneering book “On Crimes and Punishments” published in 1764. The book was
written during a period in European history where laws were applied randomly and unjustly
without a crime control purpose. In his book, Becarria argued that the existing European legal
system should be abandoned in favor of a new utilitarian system of laws which served to deter
criminal conduct. Thus, such a system would not only have a crime control purpose, but would
also be fair and just.
The following were among the highlights of Becarria’s legal thesis:

All humans are hedonistic and self-serving and will commit crimes if they believe they
can get away with them.
Fear of punishment is the best means for preventing humans from acting on criminal
urges, drives and motivations.
The decision to offend is a rational one. Humans weight the seriousness of the
punishment for a particular crime against the benefits of getting away with a crime. If the
benefits outweigh the punishments, the decision will be made to offend; if the
punishments outweigh the benefits, the decision will be to not offend.
For the laws to effectively deter crime, the punishment for a particular offense must
slightly outweigh the benefits of the crime to the offender
The above assumptions form the core ideas of the Classical School. In general, this school of
thought assumes that humans are basically born “bad.” That is, basic human nature favors
offending behavior over law abiding behavior. This reasoning is similar to that of many theorists
of human behavior, including the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud who formulated his
model of psychoanalysis on the assumption that the average person will go through life trying to
get the most for the least possible effort. This perspective is almost identical to the classical
school’s assumption that humans will choose crime over legal means to get what they want
because it is much easier to steal something than to work for it.
In addition, the Classical School assumes that offenders commit crime on their own “free
will” and are not influenced by any forces beyond their control such as biological abnormalities,
defect learning, bad parents, and so on. Generally speaking, there are no excuses for offending
according to the classical school. The desire to offend is a rational choice made freely by the
offender who has decided to let his or her basic human nature to take hold of their actions in the
face of criminal opportunity. Again, in line with the reasoning of Becarria, deterrence through
laws and the criminal justice system’s threat to punish wrongdoers is the best means to curb
criminal behavior according to the Classical School.
Power Point Lecture 1 provides a discussion of the Classical School.
Question: Are there modern theories of crime based on the Classical School? ANSWER
2. The Positive School:
The Positive School was created somewhere around the turn of the 20st Century (circa
1900) and was founded on the basic premise that crime is the product of forces beyond the
control of the offender. Hence, this theoretical position assumes that all humans are basically
born “good” and that offending behavior is produced through some sort of biological or
environment condition that causes a person to commit crime. The key word here is
“cause.” Theorists belonging to the positive school study crime using the scientific model of
cause and effect. They believe there are distinct causes of crime that can be discovered,
measured and explained through scientific study. Also, they believe if the causes of crime can be
identified, the information surrounding these causes can be used to construct practical means by
which crime can be reduced or alleviated from society.
The father of the Positive School is Cesare Lombroso, an Italian medical doctor who first
wrote about what he believed to be the true causes of crime in his 1876 book The Criminal
Man. Lombroso believed that crime was the product of biological deficiencies in the genetic
make-up of some humans which cause atavistic traits in the outward appearance of
offender. These traits were similar to those of primitive humans. They included large heads,
long arms, excessive hair and various other physical features of less evolved humans. His logic
was that such outward signs of a less evolved physical nature were indicative of a less evolved
genetic make-up—one that would cause a person to act on primitive urges compelling them to
commit crimes. Since the times of Lombroso, there have been numerous other, more
scientifically proven explanations of the causes of crime under the Positive School model. Most
of the theories included in the present course represent this school of thought.
Power Point Lecture 1 also provides a discussion of the Positive School
Question: Were Lombroso’s conclusions regarding physical appearance and crime
correct? ANSWER
Internet Resources:
Cesare Becarria
Biography: Cesare
Culture conflict theories are based on the general assumption that crime is the product
of “conflict” between cultures, communities or other collective groups of people regarding the
social and legal definitions of criminal behavior. In other words, each group has its own
definition of specific behaviors that it would consider to be criminal. For example, in some
cultures, hallucinogenic drug use is considered appropriate for spiritual purposes and religious
ceremonies. However, in other cultures (e.g., the United States), hallucinogenic drugs are
considered “illicit street drugs” and their use may be prohibited by law. Taking this analogy a
step further, if a person from Culture A (where drug consumption is legal) partakes in the use of
drugs in Culture B (where drug consumption is illegal), he or she will be considered a criminal in
Culture B due to a conflict in the legal definition of drug use.
From a theoretical standpoint, the key to understanding how all culture conflict theories
explain crime is to understand the idea of social norms. Simply defined, a social norm is
behavior that is approved or disapproved for a particular group. Thus, social norms are really
the “rules” of behavior for any given society or culture. Furthermore, as in the drug using
example stated above, different groups can and do have different rules or social norms
regarding proper conduct. Therefore, it is actually the conflict between the social norms of
different groups that results in who and what is considered “criminal” according to culture
conflict theories.
Perhaps, the most important assumption made by culture conflict theorists is that within
every dominant culture are one or more subcultures. Subcultures are groups that socialize
their members to behave according to social norms that are different than those of the
dominant culture. Street gangs, for example, are a subculture. Their members are socialized to
dress, speak, think and behave in a manner that is different than that from individuals who do
not belong to a street gang. Within the street gang subculture, social norms may encourage the
use of violence as an appropriate response to a person who “disrespects” the reputation of a
particular street gang by painting graffiti on a wall. By comparison, a person not belonging to
the street gang subculture would probably call the police when confronted with the same
situation. The difference in these two behavior responses, according to culture conflict
theories, is due to differences in the norms to which the gang members and non gang members
have been socialized by their respective groups regarding how to react to personal
When applied to crime in American culture, conflict theories assert that it is
the hegemonic center of society that defines criminal behavior. The term hegemony refers to
the concentration of political power and wealth in a community, culture or other group. In the
U.S., the middle class is considered the hegemonic center of society. Collectively, the middle
class has more wealth and voting power than the upper or lower classes. Thus, middle class
norms are dominant in American society and they are enforced by laws and the criminal justice
system against all other subclass norms that come into “conflict” with them.
Many culture conflict theories will be presented in this course. When you review each
theory, challenge yourself by trying to discover why a particular theoretical paradigm is
classified as a culture consensus theory. Somewhere among the assumptions for each theory
will be an explanation of how and why the offender has been socialized by the subculture to
which he or she belongs in a way that comes into conflict with middle class norms. If you can
identify this point in a particular theory, then you will be able to answer the question “Why is
this culture consensus theory?”
The Culture Conflict perspective is further explained in Power Point Lecture 2.
Question: According to Culture Conflict theories, do offenders believe that their criminal
conduct is wrongful behavior? ANSWER
In many respects, the assumptions made by culture consensus theorists are in direct
opposition to those made by culture conflict theorists. First, crime is not a product of social
definition according to the consensus perspective. Rather, there are behaviors that are innately
wrong and are offensive to basic human nature. Murder, rape, robbery and theft are just a few
examples of these innately wrong behaviors. Thus, the average person does not need to be
socialized to understand that committing crimes or being the victim of a crime is bad
thing. Second, culture consensus theories do admit that subcultures exist in societies, but they
also believe that the socializing influences of subcultures are simply not very strong when it
comes to teaching individuals which behaviors are criminal and which are not. Instead, the
consensus theorists assume that regardless of the subculture or culture to which an individual
belongs, all humans share a basic understanding of what behaviors should be classified as
“criminal.” This being the case, it can be said that society is composed of collective norms that
are shared by all individuals. However, the main question that is asked by conflict theorist is: “If
all people share the same norms (that is, define criminal behavior in a similar way), why is
it some people deviate from those norms (that is, commit crimes)? In other words, if all people
believe in the same rules for proper behavior, why is it some people cannot follow the rules?
The one theoretical assumption that culture conflict and consensus perspectives share is
the belief that crime is somehow the product socialization. As it may be recalled, under the
culture conflict model, crime is produced by groups that socialize their members to different
sets of norms or rules governing appropriate behavior. However, in the consensus model, it is
weak or ineffective socialization of the same norms or rules that results in the inability of some
individuals to effectively follow the rules. In other words, all individuals are playing by the same
set of rules, but those behaving in a criminal way have not be taught the rules in an effective
manner. In turn, the weak or ineffective rules do not have a controlling influence on criminal
impulses for some individuals. On the other hand, individuals who have been socialized to
effectively understand and believe in the rules will be able to control criminal urges when they
Some culture consensus theories explain the motivation for crime in terms of basic
human nature. That is, they assume that most humans would act on impulses to commit
crimes is they were permitted to do so. It is the socializing influences of the law that provides a
mental control over these urges. This is an example of the deterrent effect of the law and the
criminal justice system, which plays a key role in controlling crime under the culture consensus
model. Other consensus theories assume that criminal behavior is motivated “wanting to be
the same as others.” In particular, persons who are financially deprived or seek more status will
violate the rules of society in order to get more money or status to satisfy their personal
desires. However, regardless of the motivating factors for criminal behavior, all persons play by
the same set of rules.
There are just about as many culture consensus theories as there are conflict
theories. When they are presented in this course, you can pick them out by looking for key
assumptions that state how or why everyone believes in the same collective social norms. This
is why they are called consensus theories: There is a consensus (i.e., agreement) among
everyone regarding which behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate for members of society.
The Culture Consensus perspective is also explained in Power Point Lecture 2.
Question: According to Culture Consensus theories, do offenders believe that their criminal
conduct is wrongful behavior? ANSWER
ey and Culture Conflict Theory
crimes against women
Richard Quinn
Culturally based
defense in court
Using culture as a
Universal Taboos
the Natural Law
Crime and

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