neoclassical criminology | Definition

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

Neoclassical criminology is a school of thought within criminology that emerged in the late 19th century as a response to the classical school of criminology. Neoclassical criminology builds on the ideas of classical criminology, which emphasizes the importance of rationality, free will, and individual responsibility in criminal behavior.

One of the key features of neoclassical criminology is the recognition that some individuals may not have the same capacity for rational decision-making as others due to factors such as mental illness, developmental disorders, or addiction. Neoclassical theorists argue that the law should take these factors into account when assessing criminal responsibility and determining an appropriate punishment.

Another important aspect of neoclassical criminology is the recognition that situational factors can influence criminal behavior. Neoclassical theorists emphasize the importance of situational crime prevention strategies, such as target hardening and increasing the risk of detection, as a means of reducing criminal behavior.

Neoclassical criminology also places greater emphasis on the role of deterrence in reducing crime. Neoclassical theorists argue that the severity and certainty of punishment are important factors in deterring criminal behavior, and that the justice system should focus on ensuring that punishments are proportionate to the severity of the crime and that they are consistently applied.

Overall, neoclassical criminology represents a refinement and extension of classical criminology, incorporating insights from psychology, sociology, and other disciplines to develop a more nuanced understanding of the causes and prevention of criminal behavior.

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Last Modified: 03/10/2023


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