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EXERCISE 18. Write a summary of the text THE CAUSES OF CRIME.
The Causes of Crime
No one knows why crime occurs. The oldest theory, based on theology and ethics, is that criminals are perverse people who deliberately commit crimes at the instigation of the devil or other evil spirits. Although this idea has been discarded by modern criminologists, it persists in many parts of the world and provides the rationale for the harsh punishments still meted out to criminals.
Since the 18th century, various scientific theories have been advanced to explain crime. One of the first efforts to explain crime on scientific, rather than theological grounds, was made at the end of the 18th century by the German doctor and anatomist Franz Joseph Gall, who tried to establish relationships between skull structure and criminal proclivities. This theory, popular during the 19th century, is now discredited and has been abandoned. A more sophisticated, biological theory was developed late in the 19th century by the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso, who asserted that crimes were committed by those who are born with certain recognizable hereditary physical traits. Lombroso's theory was disproved early in the 20th century by the British criminologist Charles Goring. Goring's comparative study of jailed criminals and law-abiding citizens established that so-called criminal types, with innate dispositions to crime, do not exist. Recent scientific studies have tended to confirm Goring's findings. Some investigators still hold, however, that specific abnormalities of the brain and of the endocrine system contribute to a person's inclination towards criminal activity.
Another approach to an explanation of crime was initiated by the French political philosopher Montesquieu, who attempted to relate criminal behavior to the natural, or physical environment. His successors have gathered evidence tending to show that crimes against the person, such as homicide, are relatively more numerous in warm climates, whereas crimes against property, such as theft, are more frequent in colder regions. Other studies seem to indicate that the incidence of crime declines in direct ratio to drops in barometric pressure, to increased humidity, and to higher temperatures.
Many prominent criminologists of the 19th century, particularly those associated with the Socialist movement, attributed crime mainly to the influence of poverty. They pointed out that those who are unable to provide adequately for themselves and their families through normal legal channels are frequently driven to theft, burglary, prostitution, and other offences. The incidence of crime tends to rise especially in times of widespread unemployment. Present-day criminologists take a broader and deeper view; they place the blame for most crimes on the whole range of environmental conditions associated with poverty. The living conditions of the poor, particularly of those in slums, are characterized by overcrowding, lack of privacy, inadequate play space and recreational facilities, and poor sanitation. Such conditions engender feelings of deprivation and hopelessness and are conducive to crime as a means of escape. The feeling is encouraged by the example set by those who have managed to escape through criminal means to what appears to be a better way of life.
Some theorists relate the incidence of crime to the general state of a culture, especially the impact of economic crises, wars, and revolutions, and the general sense of insecurity and uprootedness to which these forces give rise. As a society becomes more unsettled and its people more restless and fearful of the future, the crime rate tends to rise. This is particularly true of juvenile crime, as the experience of the United States since World War II has made evident.
The final major group of theories are psychological and psychiatric. Studies by such 20th-century investigators as the American criminologist Bernard Glueck and the British psychiatrist William Healy have indicated that about a quarter of a typical convict population is psychotic, neurotic, or emotionally unstable and another quarter is mentally deficient. Such emotional and mental conditions, it is believed, may make people more prone to criminality. Recent studies of criminals have thrown further light on the kinds of emotional disturbances that could lead to criminal behavior.
Since the mid-20th century, the notion that crime can be explained by any single theory has fallen into disfavor among investigators. Instead, experts incline to so-called multiple factor, or multiple causation theories. They reason that crime usually springs from a multiplicity of conflicting and converging influences—biological, psychological, cultural, economic, and political. The multiple causation explanations seem more credible than the earlier, simpler theories. An understanding of the causes of crime is still elusive, however, because the interrelationship of precipitating factors is difficult to determine.
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