Classical School | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminology

The Classical School of criminology is a school of thought that originated in the 18th century and was developed by philosophers such as Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham. It is based on the idea that individuals are rational actors who make choices based on a cost-benefit analysis. According to the Classical School, crime occurs when the benefits of breaking the law outweigh the costs, such as the risk of punishment.

The Classical School advocates for a system of criminal justice that is based on the principles of rationality, deterrence, and individual rights. It emphasizes the importance of rational decision-making and free will in criminal behavior, and it suggests that individuals can be deterred from committing crimes through the use of punishment that is certain, swift, and severe. The Classical School also emphasizes the importance of protecting individual rights, such as the right to a fair trial and the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The ideas of the Classical School have had a significant influence on the development of modern criminal justice systems and continue to shape contemporary thinking about crime and punishment.

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Last Modified: 01/08/2023


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