Under these conditions, Bentham believed that punishment should achieve four things:: 1) it should prevent crime; 2) if it could not prevent crime, it should convince a criminal to commit a lesser crime; 3) it should reduce the harm inflicted during a crime; and 4) it should prevent crime as cheaply as possible (Hollin, 1004, 2-3). Both Bentham and Beccaria went against the mood of the day with their utilitarian theories of criminology by arguing that extreme punishment was unnecessary in preventing crime, and may even be counterproductive. They both argued for making the level of punishment fit the crime, reasoning that if all crimes carry the same harsh penalties, then there is no differential effect of punishment, and if a criminal has committed a lesser crime, he may as well go on and commit a greater one because the penalty will be the same if he is caught.
If the punishment is increasingly harsher as the level of the crime increases, so that the cost of the crime always outweighs the benefits, then punishment can act as a deterrent (Hollin, 2004, 2; Juvenile, 2005, 71-72).
The two basic tenets of classical theory are that individuals exhibit free will when they choose to engage in criminal behavior, and that they act in a rational manner when making these choices (Hollin, 2004, 3). The principle of mens rea, guilty intent, is the modern equivalent of free will which forms the basis of the legal systems of both the United States and Europe today. The courts dispense punishments dependent on the severity of the crime committed, which is utilitarian theory, and is intended to deter crime.
The principles on which classical theory is based are:
Humans are fundamentally rational and enjoy free will. Crime is an outcome of rationality and free will. People
choose to engage in criminal rather than conformist behavior
Criminality is morally wrong and is an effort against social order and the collective...
Criminological Theory. (2000, January 01). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 13:48, October 31, 2014, from http://www.collegetermpapers.com/viewpaper/1303578615.html