Italian philosopher Cesare
Beccaria is considered to
be the founder of the
Classical school of
It was emerged
in response to
the cruel forms
at the time.
The classical school defined crime in legal terms
The classical school believed in the free-will theory i.e., a person was free
to choose between right and wrong conduct.
The classical school believed in the deterrent effect of punishment.
The classical school focused its attention on the crime.
The classical school mainly focuses on the crime itself and not necessarily
The classical school aims to prevent crimes and have punishments for
each offense committed by criminals established in advance.
Overall, the classical school focuses on preventing crimes than to punish
the people who commit them.
Classical school of criminology based on three
1. All the us have free will
to make a choice
between what we want
legally or illegally.
2. The fear of punishment
can deter a person from
committing a criminal
3. The society can control
the criminal or criminal
behavior by making pain
of punishment more
severe than the pleasure
for committing criminal
main contributor to this school of criminology
Cesare Beccaria is the most important enlightenment
thinker in the area of ‘classical' thinking and is
considered as founder of the classical school of
He sought to reduce the harshness of eighteenth
century judicial systems.
Cesare De Beccaria
He stated that; ‘It is better to prevent crimes than to punish them'.
He believed that laws needed to be put into place in order to make punishments
consistent and in line with the crime.
He believed that crime prevention in its effectiveness is down to three main ideas
Certainty of the crime and how likely it is to happened
Celerity of the crime and how quickly the punishment is inflicted
Severity of the crime, and how much pain is inflicted
In 1764, he published "On Crimes and Punishments“ arguing for the
need to reform the criminal justice system by referring not to the harm
caused to the victim, but to the harm caused to society.
He believed that :
Punishment should be deterrent than
The law should be codified (written) with
punishments prescribed in advance.
Punishment should be limited (less
harsher) to only that necessary to deter
people from ever committing it again (no
Punishment should be severe, certain, and
The criminal justice system should be
organized around crime prevention.
1. All individuals possess freewill
Beccaria, like all classical theorist, believe that all individuals
have freewill and make choices on that freewill.
2. Rational manner
The second leg, rational manner, means that all individuals
rationally look out for their own personal satisfaction. This ends
up with the individuals and the society rationally looking for
satisfaction, and at times these interests clash.
The third leg in which Beccaria’s theory rest is manipulability,
universally shared human motive of rational self-interest makes
human action predictable, general able and controllable.
Principles in relation to Classical School
Role of legislatures should be both
to define the crime and it also
define the specific punishment for
each specific crime.
The role of judges should be solely
to determine guilt i.e., whether a
person has committed crime or not
once such determination is made,
the judge should follow the strict
letter of law in determining the
punishment to the offender.
The seriousness of crime should be
determined by extent of harm that it
inflicts on society. That means the
actual offence whatever is
committed by the offender should
taken into account rather than the
intention with which it is
Excess in severity not only fails to
deter crime but actually increases
it. The offender are driven to
commission of additional crime to
avoid punishments of single
Punishment should be prompt.
The more promptly and more
closely punishment follows upon
the commission of crime. The
more just and useful it will be.
Punishment should also be
certain. The certainty of the
punishment always make a
stronger impression in the mind of
the person who commits the crime
or who can commit the crime.
Law should be structured as
to prevent crime from
happening in the first place.
According to Cesare
Beccaria it is better to
prevent the crime rather
than providing punishment
to them and this should be
ultimate end of good
Law should be published so
that public may know what
they are and support their
intent and purpose. The
torture should be abolished
there should be no secret
punishment should be
replaced by imprisonment .
The jails must be more
humane and law should not
distinguish between rich and
The major shortcoming of the classical school was that it
proceeded on an abstract presumption of free will and
relied solely on that act without paying attention to the
state of mind of the criminal.
It erred in prescribing
equal punishment for
same offence thus making
no distinction between first offenders and