This is a critical analysis of the criminal opportunity theory Classical Perspective as applied in conventional local crime, transnational crime, and international crime. The application of the classical perspective in the three levels of crime based on different magnitudes sums up the course work. The classical perspective theory gives the crime opportunity a sense that offenders commit crimes on their own volition. That is, an offender acts on their own free will, with a rational mind, and in understanding of the effects of their actions. The theory illustrates a situation where criminals or crime should meet an equal punishment that fits the crime. That is, the punishment of the magnitude of the crime should be befitting to serve as an example to others and deter similar tendencies of law violation. However, despite proposing a subsequent punishment that fits a crime, classical crime theory opposes the use of capital punishment that is equivalent to the crime of murder. This forms the basis of criticism towards the classical crime theory, as well as, critique on the assumption that criminals are rational and only act in accordance to the costs and benefits of their actions.
Critique #1: Crime opportunity theory – Classical perspective
Purpose, Goals, and Objectives
The purpose of this paper is to critique the application of classical theory into the three levels of crime from the conventional local crimes, transnational crime, and international crime. The pursuant of classical theory of crime illustrates the prevalence of immoral behaviors in the society. These immoral behaviors are found to weaken the society’s resolve to develop a stable society that is just and progressive. The classical theory of crime outlines the capacity of individuals to make rational decisions that directly negate the society’s will for a better future and living for all its members. Instead, some of the individuals in the society make deliberate choices to commit crime and break the law in pursuit of the gains attained from the activity. The immoral nature of human behavior sets a precedent of continuous moral decay of the society.
The analysis of the critique of classical crime theory has an objective to question the relevance of punishment as a deterrence to the immoral behavior of humans. This promotes the need to refrain from committing the crime in the first place. The cost and benefit analysis that drives criminal actions weakens the society as it robs the affected persons adversely. For example, for a crime of murder – the classical crime theory fails to illustrate how it is beneficial to the criminal or the society. The utilization of capital punishment as an equal consequence to the crime further alienates the society and fails to provide a healing path for both the offenders and offended persons. The classical crime theory proposal of equal punishment fitting the crime illustrates a further suffering of the society. Therefore, the goal of the critique paper is to illustrate the failures of the classical crime perspective as applied in different contexts of crime levels.
Review of Relevant Literature
The premise of the classical crime theory comprises of the anticipated costs and benefits of the action leading to a crime (Paternoster & Fisher, 2017). This is to present that the classical crime theory is highly driven by the pursuit of potential benefits associated with a criminal activity or action. For example, in an action of larceny involving the theft of personal property is committed in the efforts to benefit from the stolen property. This could be a set of television that petty criminals will steal and sell in the black markets for meagre benefits. According to Paternoster and Fisher (2017), classical crime theory highly resonates with the views and application of rational choice theory and deterrence theory. The rational choice theory is the driving force of the classical crime theory in which individuals rely on their own free will to commit a crime (Roshier, 1989). The criminal action is solely individualistic is based on self-interests and greed. The deterrence theory acts as a caution to the potential punishment a crime committed on free will can attract. The deterrence theory attempts to prevent the crime from happening or serve as an example to future offenders who may be intent of repeating the crime. Roshier (1989) argues that, the deterrence theory’s application in classical crime theory entails an emphasis which attempts to achieve control of the crime.
Criticisms on the classical crime theory and reliance on deterrence theory to achieve control of crimes has often come to question and review. Sealer (2015) questions the relevance and effectiveness of the mandatory sentences such as promotion of severe detention lengths and popular mechanisms in the fight against crime occurrence (Roshier, 1989). In many cases, offenders in human trafficking and drug trafficking from countries such as Mexico into the United States have been put on blacklist to deter them from committing the crimes. In cases, they have been captured and subjected to severe detention conditions and interrogations However, the baseline question revolves on the relevance and significance of the classical crime theory’s perspective on use of punishment as a deterrence to crime occurrence. How effective has this approach been over the years? (Sealer, 2015). Human and drug trafficking – pursuing transnational crimes from Mexico to United States, from Colombia, Panama, among other Latin American and Caribbean countries has continued for centuries. Doesn’t the classical crime theory, deterrence theory, or rational choice theory ever work for centuries despite the measures put in place to deter such criminal activities? (Paternoster & Fisher, 2017).
Maculan and Gil Gil (2020) examines the application of criminal sanctions as a mechanism to advance transnational and international justice for serious crime offenders. The classical theory application in criminology proposing sanctions against gross human rights offences in countries such as Yemen, Afghan, Congo, Sudan, among others fails to provide extensive measures to implement the mechanism (Koth, 2019). This follows the lack of authority in respective jurisdictions and other foreign countries where sanctions may fail to be implemented. According to Jalloh (2012), this shows a lack of scope of the contextual elements of crimes against humanity that allow the establishment of effective and permanent tool to counter their occurrence. This posits that violations of international crimes including genocide, gross violations of human rights, war crimes, despicable and heinous crimes against a group of people or society have continued to be a common trend in the globe (Rothe & Mullins, 2009). This is despite of the proposals of the classical crime theory and use of deterrence to prevent the crimes from happening.
The theoretical framework of the classical crime theory revolves on the rational choice theory in which an individual examines the results of a choice prompting the committing of an offence. This is based on the assessment of the potential pleasure that can be experienced after committing a crime and complemented by the potential pain that can be incurred when caught (Pelfrey & Pelfrey, 1980). The acceptable norms present the value of rationally understanding each choice and its potential benefits both gains and pains that can be experienced if the perpetrator is caught. As a prevention and solution measure to the classical criminology school of thought, the utilization of deterrence theory presents the use of punishment that befits the crime (Valasik, 2014). The free will which drives human actions is focused on maximizing pleasure while minimizing pain. This posits that individuals are liable to their actions of committing a crime and their actions irrespective of being in a group are solely individualistic. The attempt to use excuses or mitigating circumstances to absolve an individual from a crime they committed is inadmissible (Sealer, 2015). The utilized punishment is intended to induce an equal pain to the offender and not a form of rehabilitation. Therefore, the framework is one that applies effectively to all accounts of the crime especially when caught intended to serve as an example to others (Sealer, 2015).
Application of Theory to Selected Crimes
o Description of your conventional local crime
The covered conventional local crime comprises of larceny that consist of petty offenses such as stealing of personal property. For example, stealing of television set is pursued by individuals and sold on black markets that allow individuals to collect a meagre fee as a compensation. Petty offenders pose a great threat to society’s peace and security (Thilakarathna, 2019). This is because, petty offenses serve as the breeding ground for individuals to graduate into serious crimes. As a breeding ground, petty offenses attract severe punishment.
o Application of your theory to explain your conventional local crime (strengths and weaknesses)
The application of classical criminology school of thought presents severe consequences for petty offenders. In most cases, petty offenders are subjected to punishment that is not equal to their crime (Thilakarathna, 2019). This negates the primary principle of the classical crime theory which focuses on subjecting offenders to a punishment that fits their crime. As a result, petty offenders are exposed to major criminals creating a chance to advance to other forms of crime (Jeffery, 1995). A high percentage of incarcerated offenders create a social network of criminals developing into serious crimes. This is based on the pursuit of maximum pleasure as opposed to maximum pain (Glaser, 1956).
o Description of your transnational crime
The transnational crime analyzed in this case comprise of human and drug trafficking from the Mexican and other Latin and Caribbean countries into United States. For decades, crime prevalence inform of human trafficking and drug trafficking in the U.S. from Latin American countries has been a common trend. Despite the measures taken to counter the vice, human and drug trafficking continues to persist and remain resilient.
o Application of your theory to explain your transnational crime (strengths and weaknesses)
The application of the classical crime theory on human and drugs trafficking from Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean into the United States baffles the academic world. The theory, classical crime theory fails to attain the objective of deterrence on transnational crimes (Simmons & Lloyd, 2010). The use of severe punishments, hunting down for drug cartels, elimination of the cartels, building of capacity of law enforcement agencies – among other strategies always leave room for the flourishing of human and drug traffickers (Simmons & Lloyd, 2010). The classical crime theory indicates profound failure in explaining the growth of human and drug trafficking as in its wake leaves maximum pain for millions of people and the society.
o Description of your international crime
The covered international crimes comprise of gross violation of human rights. Individuals responsible for committing heinous crimes against others in countries such as Yemen expose people to extensive suffering. Crimes against human rights are serious crimes that have no potential punishment that can fit the crime (Rothe & Mullins, 2009).
o Application of your theory to explain your international crime (strengths and weaknesses)
The application of classical crime theory serves as a deficit in the international crimes against humanity. The international crimes against human rights are characterized by gross violations, extensive suffering of individuals, and destruction of societies (Maculan & Gil Gil, 2020). Countries that have experienced crimes against human rights such as Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda to the extent of genocide and Yemen trending in the same path – shows profound suffering of millions of people (European Parliament, 2018). Also, in its wakes leaves life-long consequences for both individuals and societies affected. This affects generations that come after the occurrence of gross violation of human rights and genocide (Pinto, 2018). Therefore, as classical crime theory proposes in its use of deterrence theory to apply a punishment that fits the crime – there is not substantial punishment that any one individual can be subjected to for such crimes (Sealer, 2015).
Discussion and Conclusion
On all accounts, the application of classical crime theory fails to meet the expected standards in which it can be used to induce equal punishment to the crime committed. This mainly is evident in the local conventional crimes involving petty offenders that are bequeathed a punishment a higher than their crime and the international crimes that lacks any potential punishment that can be subjected to any one individual for causing of suffering of millions of people, the society, and generations to come (Genocide Watch, 2020). However, despite the failures of the classical crime theory – the underlying principle of deterrence has been impactful on many accounts of limiting the occurrence of crime in the world. For example, gross violations of human rights and potentiality of being investigated and prosecuted by International Criminal Court induces a deterrence in many unstable parts of the world. This cautions individuals against committing gross violations of human rights in fear of being sanctioned, issue of an arrest warrant, and being prosecuted at the ICC.
In conclusion, despite the failures of the classical crime theory – the world has experienced relativism in crime occurrences. This is based on the established of laws in reaction to the occurrence of crimes. The establishment of laws provide clear measures in which offenders are subjected to and punished. As a reactive measure to government corruption and failure of the society to protect individuals, classical crime theory provides a framework in which offenses are tried and punished. Therefore, to a large extent it achieves the objective of deterrence on future similar offenses.
European Parliament. (2018, October 4). Situation in Yemen. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-8-2018-0383_EN.html?redirect
Genocide Watch. (2020, July). Genocide emergency: Yemen. The Alliance Against Genocide. https://d0dbb2cb-698c-4513-aa47-eba3a335e06f.filesusr.com/ugd/d0bbf9_a54409b2a47a4d94aa8b4aeb23fa255b.pdf
Glaser, D. (1956). Criminality theories and behavioral images. American Journal of Sociology, 61(5), 433-444.
Jalloh, C. C. (2012). What makes a crime against humanity a crime against humanity. Am. U. Int’l L. Rev., 28, 381.
Jeffery, C. R. (1995). Criminal behavior and learning theory. In Contemporary Masters in Criminology (pp. 175-186). Springer, Boston, MA.
Koth, K. (2019). Yemen events of 2019 Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/yemen
Maculan, E., & Gil Gil, A. (2020). The Rationale and Purposes of Criminal Law and Punishment in Transitional Contexts. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 40(1), 132-157.
Paternoster, R., & Fisher, D. (2017). The foundation and re‐emergence of classical thought in criminological theory: A brief philosophical history. The Handbook of the History and Philosophy of Criminology, 173-188.
Pelfrey, W. V., & Pelfrey, W. V. (1980). The evolution of criminology. Anderson Publishing Company.
Pinto, M. (2018). Awakening the Leviathan through Human Rights Law-How Human Rights Bodies Trigger the Application of Criminal Law. Utrecht J. Int’l & Eur. L., 34, 161.
Roshier, B. (1989). Controlling crime: The classical perspective in criminology. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
Rothe, D. L., & Mullins, C. W. (2009). Toward a criminology of international criminal law: An integrated theory of international criminal violations. International journal of comparative and applied criminal justice, 33(1), 97-118.
Saeler, A. (2015). ” The Classical School, Deterrence Theory, and Zero Tolerance” An analysis of a mandatory zero tolerance sanctioning policy in relation to The Classical School of Criminology and Deterrence Theory.
Simmons, B. A., & Lloyd, P. (2010). Intersubjective frames and rational choice: transnational crime and the case of human trafficking. In Hauser Globalization Colloquium Fall 2010.
Thilakarathna, K. A. A. N. (2019). Classical School of Criminology and Its Application in the Sri Lankan Criminal Justice System. US-China L. Rev., 16, 271.
Valasik, M. (2014). Classical Criminology. The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 1-5.
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