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Criminology: Property of the State

October 13, 2017


The transition from rural to urban societies and the sudden expansion of urban cultures through mass migration in order to support the post-industrialisation era was accompanied by the inter-group cultural conflicts that led to crime rate increase during 1960s.


Criminology in the post WWII era was a mixture of psychological and sociological ideas where individual and social positivism had dominated the discipline. The top down, simplistic, and investigative prospect into delinquency had led quantitative, scientific, and systematic researches into biological, psychological, and environmental factors of crime.


John Bowlby in 1944 studied 44 juvenile thieves and combined influences of environmental deprivation with the individual psychology and suggested that the juvenile crimes are unconscious responses to the sense of loss.


The majority of the researches were done by professionals who had access to variety of subjects i.e. confined criminals in prisons, mental institutions, etc. and the main goal was to identify and investigate the causes of crime in order to find a treatment. The equivalent parties at present are prison doctors, clinicians, psychologists as well as welfare and probation officers who are more focused on social factors of crime. The outcome of the sociological approaches of criminology researches were the growth of welfare state to further away the vulnerable individuals from social aspects of crime through education, health service, employment, social insurance, and security as the soft end of treatment. However, the penal system aims to normalise and rehabilitate the criminals from the positivistic perspective as the hard end of treatment.


Since the birth of modern criminology in 1935, it has always been funded and supported by policy makers with the aim of engineering social order, conformity, and control. Sociological approaches show that criminology has contributed to controlling mechanism of policy makers in the interest of the state targeting ethnic minorities, working class, non-conformist women, and liberation movements throughout its existence.


The government white paper, penal practices in a changing society, and the role of the home secretary R.A. Butler in promoting research as basis for informed policy development as well as cross-party political support for the funding of terminological research, had merely an instrumental purpose that offered no prospect to theoretical research. Main stream criminology was empowered by The Home office research unit, the Cambridge institute of criminology and penal research unit of the oxford university.


Late 1950s and early 1960s are the failure period of the mainstream criminology. The era of terminological research without terminological thought as J.P. Martin says. It is an era when crime is rising rapidly and as jock young describes that all of the factors which should have led to drop in delinquency were ameliorated and yet the opposite effect were occurring. Meanwhile, through the first national deviancy conference in York in 1968, new schools of thoughts such as radical, critical, and left realist criminology emerged to rivalry.


The failure of mainstream criminology during that decade lied upon the fact that most developments in penal policy were driven from populist concerns and impulses fuelled by ideological and political considerations rather than through terminological research. The importance of criminology to the state is because of its ability to influence policy-making and can be criticised on its collective failure to inform penal change. Therefore, criminology is measured by its lure of relevance. The current mass incarceration in America which is hugely skewed towards the African-American minorities is an example of state favoured criminal justice system. Yet regardless of the policies, the crime and prison population rate in America is still rising.


Influenced by Lucia Zender- The criminological foundation of penal policy- oxford university press








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