An Interview with a Criminologist

What is crime?

Crime is any act that violates the basic values and beliefs of society that have been made into official laws that society agrees upon. Many criminologists claim that most relationships between state and citizen are non-consensual and are not representative of public beliefs but others do say there is a consensual social contract.

How do we distinguish between “bad behaviour” and “crime”?

Although violating the basic values and beliefs of society is considered a definition of crime it falls more under bad behaviour. Crime is when those values and beliefs of society that have been made into official laws are infringed.

Is it nature or nurture that shapes our criminal behaviour?

It is hard to say. There is the positive theory that says that criminals are born not made which is an example of nature not nurture. It focuses on biological and psychological factors to explain criminal behaviour. There is an Italian physician and psychiatrist, Cesare Lombroso, who studied cadavers of executed criminals in an effort to determine scientifically whether criminals were physically any different from non-criminals. He believed that people were born criminals and facial features of criminals included things like enormous jaws and strong canine teeth. However, the positivist theory of criminals being born rather than made died out. The other perspective is that environmental factors lead to violence. Criminal behavior may be fostered and encouraged in certain environments which are an example of nurture not nature. There are proponents to each side and evidence to support both views, this topic is very difficult and controversial. The answer to this is not soon approaching and quite possibly a combination of the two variables in question.

Why do people commit crimes?

Well it could be for a whole bunch of reasons. There are always those of economic, power, anger, greed, jealousy, passion, boredom, fear, peer pressure or the sense of thrill and rebellion. I suppose it is situational and different for every person. However, Sigmund Freud believed that all humans have criminal tendencies. It is through socialization that these tendencies are controlled during childhood. If a child has an identity problem with his/her parent, this problem may cause the child to direct its antisocial tendencies outward and thus become a criminal.

What drives the criminals to break social norms and engage in deviant behaviour?

Well to put it into perspective an example would be comparing the individual raised in a loving home, who is taught morals and respect for others will develop a pro-social interaction style, healthy boundaries and positive relationships and the other individual who is biologically predisposed to violence may be raised in a chaotic, violent, abusive home and is taught to be aggressive in order to fulfill his needs, will develop antisocial traits, lack morals, have abusive, exploitive relationships and is more likely to be involved in aggressive acts. Because the first individual was able to develop skills for healthy relationships, they will be less likely to be involved in aggressive acts or become a sexually violent offender. The second individual was predisposed to violence and raised in an environment that encouraged the expression of aggression he develops into the future offender of deviant crimes.

How do criminal behaviours affect social relationships between human beings?

Well generally put a lot of strain on relationships. Not many people want to intentionally associate with a criminal. They could be scared or not want it to make them appear to be a threat as well. The criminal may become a burden to those involved. As well, if the individual has been sent to prison not having communication for a period of time can be damaging.

Do criminal behaviours reflect culture?

They reflect environment which goes back to the nurture factor opposed to nature. Environment factors can include a variety of things including the presence of a capitalist society. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels argued that the capitalist society encouraged crime as people competed for resources and wealth. Our society protects those with power and property. As a result, people who are economically disadvantaged are more likely to be punished by our justice system.


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