In the late 18th and early 19th centuries people who committed offenses, such as robbery, stealing or those perceived to be witches were usually punished by either burning at the stake, hanging, decapitation, and drawing and quartering. The justice system of the day was very cruel and people, mostly the lower class, who were deviant, had no recourse to a fair trial.
Jurors were made up of people who allegedly witnessed the crime, while people with property judged trial proceedings.Rick Linden and Tullio Caputo (2000: 179) further confirmed this by stating that the techniques used to punish deviance in eighteen-century Europe was oppressive, inhuman, and often times very “barbaric” (mentioned in Hermann Mannheim, 1972). An Italian philosopher, Cesare Beccaria, who presented a subtle and convincing argument against these oppressive and brutal punishments, criticized the criminal justice system of the day in his book titled, “On Crimes and Punishment” (1764).He asserted that human beings were rational thinkers who were able to distinguished between right or wrong (183) and only became deviant because of motivating factors, which were as a consequence of “a natural result of our self interest” (181); he also argued that, if people were able to break the law and get away with it then, obviously, they would have the tendency to do so. He further criticized the justice system for severely punishing people for crimes that did not warrant certain types of punishment (such as decapitation for stealing a piece of fruit), and emphasized that the death penalty was a rather crude way of punishment.
Beccaria argued that if the principles of proportionality were introduced to fit the degree of the crime committed this would give the criminal some incentive to alter his or her behaviour for fear of receiving a worse sentence. As well, in order for people to respect the law deterrence should be the key focus in alleviating crimes in the society. He insisted that the solution was to set up a system of punishment that would deter repeated offenders, while keeping society in check, and would serve as a continual reminder of the costs of wrong doing.He proposed that the system should incorporate the techniques of punishment to fit the crime, be a deterrent at best and should be proportionate to the harm done in society.
(181). Beccaria’s “punishment to fit the crime” advocacy was made towards the social dimension (legal and administrative reform) of the criminal justice system. He declared that if the benefits of the legal system failed to be justly distributed by favouring the rich people over the poor, then, such a system would be promoting crime.He believed that the social contract lay behind people’s allegiance to the state, and if the poor gained no benefits from the law then they had no moral obligation to obey it; that the legal system should distribute equal punish for the same crime; and that the habitual use of capital punishment indicated a condition of war between the state and its citizens, arising out of failure for the state to correct huge social equalities and gaps in the society. Thus the Classical School mandate was to urge people to study the criminal justice system (189).Positive School The Positive School ideology emphasized a shift from the crime itself to focus on the criminal thus its mandate was to encourage the justice system to study people (189). Unlike Cesare Beccaria whose focus was on the legal and administrative improvement of the criminal system, Cesare Lombroso, instead sought to explain crime through scientific observation of incarcerated offenders. Lombroso advocated that criminal behaviour was a natural occurrence determined by hereditary – natural selection.
Lombroso observed both non-prisoners and prisoners by their physical abnormalities, such as physical measurements and examinations, and concluded that most of the prisoners show the same physical anomalies, which supported his claim that they were of the same criminal type. These physical “stigmata”, as he called them, indicated that the criminals were “atavistic” – a kind of genetic throwbacks to an earlier form of animal life (187). “Criminals were born not made. They were atavisms who were less evolved than the law-abiding.
” (Linden and Caputto, 2000: 195) and were the lowest form of organism on the “evolutionary ladder” (187).Lombroso thought that criminals were the sorts who were driven to act like savages, but refrain from doing so because their behaviour was against the norms in society. He insisted that everyone has the propensity to demonstrate criminal behaviour, but born criminals were easily identifiable by their body features, such as deviation in the head size and shape, eye similarities and defects, receding chin, and various other so-call body-type combinations, which was broken down in two distinctive categories: (1) born criminals, and (2) occasional criminals.