What Is Criminology?

A branch of sociology, criminology can be summarized as the study of crime. It seeks to understand the causes behind the commission of criminal behavior, the response of law enforcement and the methods that can be observed to prevent crime from taking place. Criminology, then, is the field that is concerned with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. The term criminology is derived from the Latin word crimen which is defined as “an accusation” and the Greek word logia which means “the study of.” Criminology draws many of its principles and concepts from a wide variety of different fields, including psychology, biology, psychiatry, anthropology and statistics.

There are different schools of thought in the field of criminology. The first is the classical school that basically believes that the certainty and swiftness of punishment levied towards a criminal act can prevent its commission. Another school of thought is the positivist school of criminology which espouse that psychological, biological and environmental factors are at work which are beyond the control of the individual when he or she commits a crime. In the early years of the positivist school, Italian psychiatrist and doctor Cesare Lombroso said that facial features like big jawbones indicate a person’s propensity towards criminal behavior. This kind of argumentation has now lost steam for obvious reasons. The third is the Chicago School which advances the belief that social structure is partly to blame for poverty. When the people of a place are poor, social structure disintegrates which make it conducive for them to commit crimes.

Professionals who are dedicated to the study of criminology are called criminologists. They look at different areas of the field, such as the kinds of crimes that are being committed, how often they are committed and the reasons for their commission. In addition to examining the crime itself, criminologists also look at how crime affects individuals, societies and institutions and the consequences of criminal acts at both the personal and social levels.

Criminologists who focus on penology are concerned with the study of prisons and prison systems while those who are interested in the detection of crime are able to delve into the field further in the area of criminalistics. Criminologists who are interested in knowing why women commit crime are able to understand the dynamics more in the field of feminist criminology.

Those who look at crime as they happen in different cultures focus on the area of comparative criminology to determine the differences and similarities in crimes that are being committed and identify the presence of patterns. These are just a few of the subfields of criminology.

Criminologists work at law enforcement agencies at the local and national levels. They can work as police officers, law enforcement agents, corrections officers and probation officers. If they want to share their knowledge to others, they can also teach criminology to colleges and universities for as long as they have postgraduate education that can qualify them for this position. With further studies, they can also pursue careers as lawyers and forensic psychologists.

Career Spotlight: Criminologist

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