(1)Criminology is a social science dealing with the nature, extent, and
causes of crime; the characteristics of criminals and their organizations; the problems of apprehending and convicting offenders; the operation of prisons and other correctional institutions; the rehabilitation of convicts both in and out of prison; and the prevention of crime.
(2) The science of criminology has two basic objectives: to determine the causes, whether personal or social, of criminal behavior and to evolve valid principles for the social control of crime. In pursuing these objectives, criminology draws on the findings of biology, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, anthropology, and related fields.
(3) Criminology originated in the late 18th century when various movements began to question the humanity and efficiency of using punishment for retribution rather than deterrence and reform. There arose as a consequence what is called the classical school of criminology, which aimed to mitigate legal penalties and humanize penal institutions. During the 19th century the positivist school attempted to extend scientific neutrality to the understanding of crime. Because they held that criminals were shaped by their environment, positivists emphasized case studies and rehabilitative measures. A later school, the 'social defense' movement stressed the importance of balance between the rights of criminals and the rights of society.
(4) Criminologists commonly use several research techniques. The collection and interpretation of statistics is generally the initial step in research. The case study, often used by psychologists, concentrates on an individual or a group. The typological method involves classifying offences, criminals, or criminal areas according to various criteria. Sociological research, which may involve many different techniques, is used in criminology to study groups, subcultures, and gangs as well as rates and kinds of crime within geographic areas.
(5) Criminology has many practical applications. Its findings can give lawyers, judges, and prison officials a better understanding of criminals, which may lead to more effective treatment. Criminological research can be used by legislators and in the reform of laws and of penal institutions.
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