Four important Schools of criminology
4 important schools of criminology.

To understand the generality of criminology as a subject, we must understand and analyse the schools of criminology. Therefore, in this law note, we will discuss different schools of criminology, but before that, let us first discuss the basics.

What Is Criminology?

The term criminology is derived from the combination of two words – crimen, which means crime and logia, which means study. Thus, it refers to the scientific study of the nature, extent, causes, and control of criminal behaviour. It is the scientific study of the causes of crime and suggests appropriate remedies.

What Are the Schools of Criminology?

In the different stages of time, various criminologists gave their perspectives on the meaning of crime, criminals, and causes of crime, and there is a variation in the opinions of every criminologist. This variation further led to formulations of different criminal behaviour. As a result, the scientific explanation of criminal behaviour is stated in the form of different theories, known as schools of criminology.

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4 Different Schools of Criminology

Four different schools of criminology are:

Let us learn about them one by one.

1. Pre-classical School

Jeremy Bentham is considered the founder of the pre-classical school. This school, also known as the Demonological school, existed during the 17th and 18th centuries. During this time, religion was at its peak level. Worshipping and sacrifices were usually the prescribed method in pre-classical school.

There was no existence of scientific explanations.

There was a belief that there existed another part of the world that is full of evil powers, and every individual is controlled by the supreme power of that world. Therefore, the people are influenced by those evil powers, due to which the person loses their sense of morality and then commits crimes.

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This school believed that an individual is not in a position to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong because when the person commits a crime, the sense of understanding is influenced by evil powers.

The treatment suggested in this school was of giving extreme torture to the person who committed the crime.

Later this school was criticised on the basis of punishment provided under this school.

2. Classical School

This school was propounded in the 18th century. The supporter of classical school was Cesare Beccaria. It rejected the theory of pre-classical school.

Classical school was based upon the free will concept and determinism, that the person commits the crime out of pleasure and pain.

It is believed that punishment should be directly proportional to the intensity of crime.

This school completely focused on crime.

Classical school ignored the difference between the first offender and habitual offender, which later became the reason for its criticism.

3. Neo-classical School

Neo-classical school is developed from the classical school of criminology. It is also known as the upgraded version of the classical school. Neo-classical school is supported by Prof. Gillin.

It focused on understanding the facts and circumstances of the case and the mental state of the offender. It divided criminals into different categories such as first offender, habitual offender, minor, insane, idiot, etc.

According to neo-classical school, punishment should be given as per the category of the offender, which means the mental capacity of an individual.

Neo-classical school was later criticised because it specifically focused on providing punishment to the offender and did not focus on the reformation of an offender.

4. Positivist School

Positivist school was founded in the 19th century. This school is also known as Italian school. It rejected the free will theory of the classical school. The three main exponents of this school were:

  • Cesare Lombroso
  • Enrico Ferri
  • Raffaele Garofalo

Lombroso’s Theory

A person who commits a crime is a born criminal. The theory focused on the biological characteristics of the commission of a crime. It is also believed that criminals are less sensitive. According to this school, the criminals were divided into three categories:

  • Born criminal: The criminals in whom the criminal behaviour is genetically transferred.
  • Insane criminal: The criminal who is of unsound mind and mind is not in a position to understand the circumstances of the act; that what is wrong or right.
  • Criminoids: The criminals that have more of an inferiority complex of biological structure.

Enrico Ferri’s Theory

This theory challenged Lomboroso’s theory. According to Enrico Ferri’s theory, emotional, social and geographical factors are also responsible. Enrico Ferri divided the criminals into five categories:

  • Born criminal
  • Occasional criminal: The criminals who occasionally commit the crime due to circumstances.
  • Passionate criminal: The criminals who commit crimes out of their passion.
  • Insane criminal
  • Habitual criminal: The criminals who are habitual of committing crimes.

Garofalo’s Theory

This theory rejected the above two theories. Garofalo’s theory divided the criminals into four categories:

  • Endemic criminals: The criminals who commit murder.
  • Violent criminals: They are those criminals who immediately get influenced by others and commit the crime. They are of violent nature (short-tempered).
  • Criminals lacking in sentiment of probity: The criminals who lack emotional feelings.
  • Lustful criminals: The criminals who commit rape.


It can be said that all these four schools were developed from the circumstances or situations that were prevailing in that era and thus developed such sentencing procedures which suited their time.

The main aim of all the above schools was to protect society by preventing crime. For this, few schools opted lighter forms of punishment, whereas few opted for a severe form of punishment.

Read Next:
1. 8 Kinds and Theories of Punishment
2. What Are the Two Main Schools and Four Sub-Schools Under Hindu Law?

Ankita Soni
WritingLaw » Law Notes » What Is Criminology and Four Important Schools of Criminology Law Study Material
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