2. The Classical school of
criminology is a body of
thought about the
reform of crime and the
best methods of
punishment by a group of
and scholars in the
It took place during the
countries that promoted
the use of reason as the
basis of legal authority.
Italian philosopher Cesare
Beccaria is considered to
be the founder of the
3. The most important feature of the classical
school of thought is its emphasis on the
individual criminal as a person who is
capable of calculating what he or she wants
to do (Lilly, Cullen, & Ball, 2011).
4. Cesare Beccaria and other members of the Classical
School of criminology believed that criminal
behavior could be minimized using the basics of
According to the Classical School of criminology,
individuals were guided by a pain-and-pleasure
principle by which they calculated the risks and
rewards involved in their actions (Lilly, Cullen, &
Overall, punishment should be suited to the offense,
not to the social or physical characteristics of the
5. For a rational system of criminal justice to work,
punishment must be certain, swift, and proportional.
The ultimate goal was to insure that the benefits of
crime never outweighed the potential pain from
punishments the offender would receive (Greek,
Certainty required that all offenders be punished; the
more criminals who escaped punishment the less the
impact on the minds of others contemplating such
behavior (Greek, 2005).
6. The Classical school of criminology
argued that the most effective
deterrent for criminal behavior would
be swift punishment rather than long
They felt that criminal actions were
irrational behavior and came from
people who could not or did not act in
their best self-interests or society’s.
The school sought to reduce crime
through reform to the criminal
punishment system, which they felt
tended to be cruel and excessive
without reason as well as an
ineffective deterrent (WiseGeek,
Members of the school
punishments needed to
be consistently enacted
for specific crimes with
circumstances in order
to demonstrate to
people that criminal
activity will not benefit
them because there are
7. A major part of the criminal punishment
reform that the Classical school of criminology
fought for was fair and equal treatment of
Prior to the school’s fight for reform, judges
could punish criminals at their own wills
regardless of the severity of the crime, which
led some to view the criminal punishment
system as oppressive, cruel, and unfair.
8. Cesare Beccaria and other members fought
for punishments for specific crimes to be set
by legislature and not to allow judges
They felt that if judges could only apply
legislatively sanctioned punishments, trials
would be quick and criminals would receive
their punishments faster.
9. The Classical School mainly focuses on the
crime itself and not necessarily the criminal.
The Classical School aims to prevent crimes and
have punishments for each offense committed
by criminals established in advance.
Overall, the Classical School focuses on
preventing crimes than to punish the people
who commit them.
10. Greek, C. (2005). The classical school. Retrieved from
Lilly, J. R., Cullen, F.T. & Ball, R. A. (2011).
Criminological theory: Context and consequences (5th
Ed.).Washington D.C: Sage.
WiseGeek. (2003). What is the classical school of
criminology? Retrieved from