Beccaria C (1764/2003) 'On Crimes and Punishment' - Essay Example

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Beccaria C (1764/2003) ‘On Crimes and Punishment’ By [Name of Student] [Name of Institution] [Date] [Word Count] Introduction Cesare Beccaria was an Italian economist and criminologist who lived between March 15, 1738 and November 28, 1794 (Groenewegen, 2002)…
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Beccaria C (1764/2003) On Crimes and Punishment
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Beccaria C (1764/2003) ‘On Crimes and Punishment’ By of [Word Count] Introduction Cesare Beccaria was an Italian economist and criminologist who lived between March 15, 1738 and November 28, 1794 (Groenewegen, 2002). Beccaria played a rather important role as far as criminology is concerned. His first major contribution to criminology was about crimes and the punishment of criminals. In this regard, Beccaria outlined certain principles that he thought should govern the punishing of criminals. According to Beccaria, it is not the severity of a punishment that defines and determines its effectiveness; rather, the effectiveness of a punishment depends on its certainty (Beccaria, 1986). These principles of punishment as envisioned by Beccaria would later be quite useful and applicable in the criminal justice and law reforms in Western Europe. Besides his role as a criminologist, Beccaria was also a teacher and a public official in Milan. As a public official, Beccaria dealt with public education, monitory reforms and labour relations. However, this paper only explores Cesare Beccaria’s theory on crime and punishment. Beccaria’s Theory on Crime and Punishment Beccaria’s ideas on crime and punishment appeared in his work “Dei delitti e delle pene (On Crimes and Punishments)” of 1764 which has utilitarianism as its basic principle. This book, as stated earlier, did not only cause and influence enlightenment in Italy or Milan but also in other parts of Europe. There are certain principles upon which Beccaria’s theory was built. The first principle of Beccaria’s theory was that punishments that are not consequences of absolute necessity are tyrannical. Second, Beccaria’s theory postulated that crimes of a given type should be less frequent in proportionality to the evil they create in society. In other words, giving the same kind of punishment for different types of crimes that hurt the society in different ways and to different extents would imply that the more serious or greater crime would be committed more (Beccaria, 1986). The reason for this scenario would be that nothing would deter people from committing the greater crime. Central Arguments by Beccaria Central in Beccaria’s arguments were the deterrence and the protective theories of punishing criminals. The other core issues cover by Beccaria in his theory on crime were the lessening of the intensity/severity of punishment and the abolition of the death penalty. Beccaria did not however rely solely on utilitarianism in his work; he combined it with some aspects of social contract theory, thereby allowing his work to touch on many aspects law and justice. Because of his impassioned approach to crimes and punishment, Beccaria managed to achieve the complete and formal rejection formerly held beliefs about crimes and punishment. In other words, previous beliefs that people had about crimes and punishment, usually under pressure, were rejected and new less passionate approaches of punishing criminals were adopted. In addition to the rejection of these beliefs on crime and punishment, Beccaria’s theory also led to the rejection of certain legal technicalities, with his theory emphasizing the fact that criminal law and procedures should be made simple and clearly stated. According to Beccaria, clarity about forbidden acts and the penalties for breaching these laws is of great importance to the effectiveness of criminal justice systems (Beccaria, 1986). Also important in Beccaria’s theory is the need for punishments to be applied equally to citizens, provided the crimes committed are equal. Criminal justice systems should therefore not allow for an unrestricted and discriminatory interpretation of the law by criminal courts (Beccaria, 1986). Furthermore, there should not be any influences such as pardons from those in positions of authority for some criminals while others face the full force of the law. The other weighty issue that Beccaria’s theory emphasizes is the need for penalties to correspond with the said crimes. The correspondence in this sense refers to the requirement that penalties are calibrated so that the minimum punishment necessary is delivered. To achieve this minimum possible punishment, Beccaria stressed the need to eliminate all punishments characterised by violence and infliction of pain. He thus opined that torturing suspects and criminals to obtain information should not be permitted within criminal justice systems. Additionally, Beccaria asserted that the use of torture and the death penalty were not only the height of absurdity but also failed to deter criminals from engaging in crimes (Davies et al., 1995). The other characteristics of criminal justice systems that Beccaria’s theory is against are delays, secrecy, excessive violence and arbitrariness (Davies et al., 1995). All these, said Beccaria, were some of the cruel and unfair practices that criminal justice systems applied in the codification of the law and the application of penalties on criminals. Beccaria’s theory was therefore against violent and unfair judicial cultures and practices of past regimes. Consequently, his theory intended to give the necessary guidelines and principles upon which the much needed judicial and criminal justice systems reforms would be based. Basing his theory on utilitarianism, Beccaria believed that the envisioned reforms would finally result in the greatest happiness that would be shared by the greatest number of people; criminals, their families, the criminal justice system and the public (Davies et al., 1995). Beccaria’s theory and work on economics, public service, crimes and punishment influenced not only great philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham and Thomas Jefferson but also the general public (Groenewegen, 2002). In fact, a result of his work, judicial torture, unfair practices and the death penalty were either reduced or abolished in certain regions or states, more so in Europe. Conclusion Cesare Beccaria is among the renowned politicians, economists, public official and criminologists of the 18th century Europe who considerably contributed to enlightenment during that period. With his work on crimes and punishment, Beccaria contributed to reforms in the manner crimes, criminals and penalties were handled in the criminal justice system. By promoting equality, equity, non-violence while discouraging secrecy, delay, discrepancies and the death penalty among other evil aspects of the criminal justice system, Beccaria helped reform the hitherto cruel and unjust criminal justice system. References Beccaria, C. (1986) On crimes and punishments. Hackett Pub Company. Davies, R., Cox, V., and Bellamy, R. (1995) On crimes and punishments and other writings. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press. Groenewegen, P. D. (2002) Eighteenth-Century economics: Turgot, Beccaria and Smith and their contemporaries. London: Routledge. Read More
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