Schools of Criminology

Unraveling Schools of Criminology: The Battle of Theories

This Article on ‘Schools of Criminology’ is written by Sanjana Rochlani an intern at Legal Upanishad.


This article talks about the schools of criminology, what is meant by the term “criminology,” its branches, aspects, and schools of criminology. Criminology is the study of crime, starting directly from the application of a social perspective while judging the crime, why it is being committed, the impact of such crimes on the general public, and how such social evils can be dismissed and eliminated from society.

It is a branch of sociology that traditionally examines human behaviour, interaction, and organization. So, a broad range of crimes does fall under the category of criminology.

Meaning of criminology

The term “criminology” can be used in both a specific sense as well as a general sense. It is a study that involves the use of science and is not a complete science; it involves all the subject matter necessary for understanding how and why the crime was committed and the numerous ways it can be prevented so that in the future the law and order are not disturbed. They do involve the study of criminals and criminal justice, along with the study of criminology. 

Schools of Criminology
Schools of Criminology

How does criminology work?

It is a branch of sociology wherein all the aspects of crime, from commitment to prevention, are included. At first, research is conducted, and then the data collected so far is being analyzed, and it is tried that the data synchronized is converted into action. This branch focuses on the location of the crime, the types of crime, the causes of crime, crime prevention, and so on.

Difference between criminal justice and criminology-

Criminology is the study that revolves around the topic of crime, and criminal justice focuses on systems and aspects that address crimes. Since all the data that is being researched has to be converted into action, it involves a greater scope of research and innovation than criminal justice. The function of criminology ends by giving prevention of crime to society after the theories are developed. But development is not sufficient. It is important that such theories are put into practice to achieve better results. The same task of making them practically implemented is done by Criminal Justice.

Origin of Criminology

The discovery of such a concept was initiated 200 years ago with the advent of the first collection and use of crime statistics, starting in the 18th century and continuing into the future. 

In the 20th century, new approaches to criminology were added, which focused on issues like conflicts between social and economic classes, leading to social upheaval.

Criminology deals with-

  1. How the crime is committed?
  2. Causes of crime?
  3. Criminals
  4. Victims of crime may be direct and maybe indirect or both
  5.  Prevention of crime
  6. Detection of right and wrong in the concerned act
  7. Effectiveness of the criminal justice system

Schools of criminology

The major schools of criminology are listed below-

  1. Pre-Classical School
  2. Classical School
  3. Positivist School
  4. Neo-Classical School

1- Pre-Classical School

This school basically developed in the eighteenth century in Europe under the Scholasticism system, which means following the writings of Christian fathers and following Aristotelian logic. At this particular time period, the concept of crime was vague. This school is also known as the Demonological School.

The concept of criminal justice at its fullest is based on the doctrine of the demonological school. This is the oldest branch of the school of criminology. And in its actual words, the theory says that man is simple by nature, but the crime committed by man is the handiwork of the devil. He also firmly believed that when a man does any wrongful or illegal act, he is not only responsible for the same; external powers are also responsible for the same. 

The system of punishment was also mandatory here, and the objective behind punishment was only to drive demons away from the soul and to become a person who would follow law and order. 

So, the essence of this school lies in the fact that a man commits a wrong only when some external power is acting upon him/her. Hence, here comes the picture and the importance of spirits, demons, and unknown power.

2- Classical School

This school was propounded by Cesare Beccaria, Jeremy Bentham, and Romilly. This school is totally the opposite of the pre-classical school. The belief on which this school worked was that whatever a man does, he does it of his own will. He is gifted with a sharp mind. Hence, the aspect that any external power is working or; that he is under some influence is something that leads to impracticability and the same was rejected by this school. The firm belief was that when a man performs his deeds, whether good or bad, he does it of his own will.

The premise of this school even said a really important point; the punishment should be decided according to the nature of the wrongful act. The more serious and heinous the wrongful act or crime, the more serious the punishment. 

3- Positivist School

The above two schools focus on criminals and not a crime. Every school has a different point of view, so they are different names. This school works on the belief that the person committing the crime must be punished and not the crime. While deciding the punishment for such a person, his/her understanding of the law so breached or the crime so committed shall be taken into due consideration. This was the first school that gave society a lot more aspects to judge legal behavior, which involved biological, psychological, and sociological theories of criminal behavior.

4- Neo-Classical School

This school works on a theory of pre-classical school which works in between free will and determinism. This school clearly says that people saying that a person has their own free will is wrong, as it’s not the case. This was a major transformation that made certain separations in society for criminals so that everyone was treated alike before the introduction of this school. Everyone, no matter religion, caste, state, age, or ability, by virtue of being a criminal, were treated alike. This school changed everything and every aspect.


Hence, criminology is that branch of sociology that analyses, collects, and interprets the data on crime as well as criminal behavior. It involves all the steps right from the start; what is a crime, the nature of the crime, people directly affected, victims, how all these crimes can be prevented, criminal behavior, and the behavior of society towards all these aspects are duly involved while the study of concerned discipline is carried on.

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