Thesis: Criminology and Criminal Justice as Sciences

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Criminology and Criminal Justice as Sciences

As sciences, the study of criminology and criminal justice are at an exciting place in time and technology. Today, there is more science than ever to back up the investigation and the prosecution of crime. The use of technology must be accompanied by a strict code of ethics supporting the investigation, collection, storage, and even the testimony as it all pertains to the criminologist in the places and processes of the criminal justice system. That system is supported by technology that helps to match perpetrators to crimes that have been committed, and can even put a face to the remains of a lost child so that the victim can be identified and bring closure to loved ones. All these things are possible not just in theory, but in reality, because it is the place in time and technology where criminology and criminal justice converge with science today.

Criminology and criminal justice may seem similar in the minds of many people, even perhaps in the minds of law enforcement and other professionals in the system; but there are major differences between the two disciplines (Siegel, Larry J., 2009, p. 4). Criminology explains the etiology (origin), extent, and nature of crime in society, whereas criminal justice refers to the study of the agencies of social control - police, courts, and corrections (Siegel, p. 4)."

This brief essay paper will explore the concepts of criminology and criminal justice as sciences. An effort will be made to identify the strengths, and the weaknesses, if any, of the sciences behind both disciplines. An effort will be made to identify and define the relevant science that supports both disciplines in contemporary law enforcement and crime solving. It will explore, too, how the theories that support those areas that science does not yet support, and to fore front several of the most relevant theories as they pertain to contemporary society today.

The Science of Criminology

Criminology is the science that approach to studying the criminal mind, intent, behavior, and, most importantly, the act itself in a way that is consistent with deterring crime, or solving it (Siegel, p. 4). The classical perspective on criminology is that each person in society has free will, and free will is the exercise of choice between good and evil (p. 4). Classical theory of the applied science of criminology holds that solutions can be very attractive because they pay off for the criminologist in profitable ways (p. 4). Today, society is very focused on preventing crimes before they happen. The criminologist who has new and innovative, but legal and ethical, ways to contribute to the problems of crime prevention and reduction is going to have a rewarding career.

Another aspect of twentieth century classical thought holds that if the deterrent to the crime is strong enough, if the penalty in place for committing the crime will so alter the criminal's world as to cause him to suffer, he (she) will weigh personal capacity for suffering against the promise of the reward achieved by way of the crime (Siegel, 4). This must be weighed carefully by the perpetrator, because the final concept of criminology is that the punishment, in order to deter crime, must be severe enough in nature, and swift enough to cause pause for the criminal contemplating the act (Siegel, 4).

These concepts have proven to work to reduce and deter crime. It is more difficult to commit, and to escape detection and prosecution for the commission of a crime than ever before. The science behind criminology considers all of the relevant social factors that contribute to the criminal's state of mind and even the kinds of criminal acts that criminal might commit. The theories in support of the science are: classical choice perspective; biological/psychological perspective; structural perspective; process perspective; conflict perspective; and developmental perspective (11). These theories in combination with the science of evidence, can accurately profile the criminal behind the crime.

The criminologist, because he or she is a professional of high regard in the criminal justice and law enforcement communities; must adhere to a strict code of personal and professional ethics in the performance of their work. In the age of "three strikes you're out," punishment, and even before those strict sentencing guidelines, the authority vested in the work of the criminologist is one that causes the criminologist to hold in their very hands a person's life, and death.

The Science of Criminal Justice

As noted earlier, criminal justice is the science of the courts, law enforcement, and prison system that come into play with the commission of a crime. Using the term "science," in the criminal justice system puts up red flags for law officers, judges, lawyers, and even prison officials, because there was a time when "eugenics," a science that now stands discredited because of its applied propensity for racial bias (Marsh, Ian, 2004, p. 79). However, there are some aspects of science, though many law enforcement officials cringe at the use of the word, that the criminal justice system has embraced. For instance, it embraces the theories of criminologists that help to lead law enforcement officials to the place where a perpetrator might be seeking refuge from prosecution. Or it embraces the profile that is based on the elements of the crime, especially violent crimes, which help to identify the person as they were prior to the commission of the crime in the fabric of society. Of special importance to the criminal justice system today is its reliance on new, and constantly improving forensic techniques that help to identify the perpetrator by way of genetic materials such as DNA (Caudill, David, 2008, p. 687).

Once having apprehended the perpetrator, crime at any level, then the science of criminal justice helps the professionals in the system to find ways to deal with the criminals in ways that will both punish the perpetrator, but also cause the perpetrator to reform and rethink their approach to criminal behavior that when compared with the punishment, is just not worth the risk of committing crimes in the future. Criminal justice focuses a lot of attention on statistics that reflect the system and law enforcement's success in resolving and preventing crimes (Roberts, Julian, and Stalans, Loretta, J., 1997). Statistics are the numbers that the public interpret as a reflection of their safety, or lack thereof, and to which they hold the system accountable for.

Sentencing and parole attract more attention (and criticism) than any other topic in criminal justice. Notions of punishment are central to our conceptions of justice, and this issue has generated more surveys and research than any other. In Chapter 10, we review research on questions such as the following: Which sentencing aims are favored by the public? Are the public harsher than the judiciary towards offenders? Is there a gap between public opinion and the perceptions of public views held by politicians (Roberts and Stalans, p. 11)?"

Summary: The Court of Public Opinion

The court of public opinion is becoming increasingly more prominent in the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system is one that is complex, and is often subject to public opinion. For instance, the death penalty in America is the most severe form of punishment, and one which was used extensively in the early American history, but then, in the twentieth century, largely because of public opinion, was legislated away, out of the system. When it was brought back into play as a punishment, a deterrent to crime, there was widespread support for it. Now, we are beginning to see signs that Americans are beginning to feel that it is less a deterrent, and perhaps, because of an imperfect system, that other forms of punishment should be considered over the death penalty.

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