Crime has been a constant problem ever since the beginning of existence of human civilization and efforts to tackle with this problem have not yet succeeded. There is no society which is not having the problem of crime and criminality. According to Emile Durkheim, crime is a natural phenomenon which is constantly changing with the social change and even society which has angelic characters will face crime. Criminologists have always differed in their view regarding crime causation. Continental criminologists have support the endogenous theory of criminality which is rounded on bio-physical consideration of criminals. The American criminologists on the other hand, are more inclined to explain criminality in terms of social constantly changing with the social change. Psychologists too have conducted in-depth studies on the concept of crime and criminality and associated crime in terms of personality deviations.
Psychology is the study of mind, actions and attitudes of humans. It is the study of distinct attributes of an individual such as personality, thought, discernments, intellect, imagination, creativity etc. Psychologists view crime as a behaviour that is learnt by an individual during the course of his contacts with various persons. They try to elucidate and study crime in terms of environmental settings.
Criminal psychology has often held the view that some individuals are more prone to committing crime. They are of the belief that psychologically disturbed criminals who commit more crime because of their mental depravity or emotional stability. Further, they also hold the view that apart from psychological factors, sociological factors such as less education, unskilled labours, and poor sanitation facilities can create inferiority complex and the ultimate result is that they try to overcome their shortcomings by unrealistic self-assertions and lend into criminality.
Cesero Lombroso attributed criminality to atavism which meant that criminals have savagery ancestral history and criminality in them is hereditary. Atavism implies that some individuals have some innate tendencies in them which may them commit crime. Similar assertions were made by Goring who pointed out that criminalistic traits in criminals are imbibed by heredity and through instinctive patterns and, therefore, environmental conditions are of little to no importance in determining criminal traits in an individual. A person due to his innate compulsion which is derived from his heredity would force him to commit the crime. This thought process is often termed as the classical school of thought due to the primitive way in which crime is perceived. Subsequent researches by psychologists and sociologists have, however, demonstrated beyond doubt that it is not the heredity but the psychological influences operating in delinquent families that make one criminal.
Thus, psychologists have now started to move on to the psychological influences which an individual has which drive him to commit a crime. For example, a child who has only seen crime as a way of living will turn to crime only for his survival. He will unconsciously imbibe criminal traits from the family background of the delinquent parents and subsequently turns into a confirmed criminal. Further, a child who has been taken away from their parents by the state at very tender age often follow criminality to seek a suitable parental care and have an escape mechanism and outlet for the lack of love and affection. This results in emotional scarring, inferiority complex, frustration and embarrassment in them.
Recidivism and Psychology
Recidivism is undoubtedly a crucial problem for penologists in the control of crime and rehabilitation of offenders. The term recidivism connotes persistent indulgence in crime. According to John W. Mannering recidivists or crime-repeaters are anti-social and egocentric. They are such offenders who has a long criminal record and have been a frequent inmate of penal or correctional institution and who shows scant regard for institutional adjustment. The term recidivism may be defined as the habit of relapsing into crimes by the criminals and recidivist is a person who relapses into crime again and again.
Many psychologists believe that recidivism depends on a major chunk on the response that the society and environment around the offender. In particular it depends on whether the offender is caught and his activities are treated. The chance of him leaving his criminal tendencies or becoming a recidivist will largely be dependent on administrative and communal responses. These will have a positive influence on him and motivate him to change his defiance. According to Sir Robert Mark, permanent and determined criminals do not regard the present criminal justice system as sufficiently deterrent. They are well aware of the restrictions and limitations of the police and the criminal justice system and find crime as an easy avenue which is highly lucrative and rewarding. In India, professional criminals often get the protection of resourceful patrons and get the advantage of slow moving criminal justice system. The need of the hour is therefore, is to realise that malady of crime lies not only in speedy and fair justice but also in certainty of punishment.
Psychologists have expressed different views about the co-relationship between intellect and recidivism. Goring, a noted penologist in his study on recidivist concluded that with increasing degree of recidivism there is a small but regular regression in the mean intelligence of convicts.
According to Sutherland, he has attributed two major causes for recidivism, one being the social psychology of the offender and second being inadequacy of reformative techniques. The social psychology acts as a cause of recidivism in urbanised regions. The congested dwellings, slums, high cost of living and highly mechanised life in cities and urban places offer sufficient opportunities for offender to carry on their criminal activities undetected and unnoticed for years. Therefore criminal behaviour becomes a practice and a habit with them and it finally results in them becoming recidivists. The cost of living in rural areas, on the other hand are relatively cheaper and simple and offers lesser chances for criminality. Further there are almost no chances of escape from detection in rural places due to their geographical limitations.
Some psychologists suggest that continuous isolation of prisoner from normal society due to his long stay and punishment in prison renders him unfit for a normal life post his release. The stigma of prison makes him shun and avoid the normal society. He finds no appeal in freedom and favours a life of a prisoner to which he is well habituated and accustomed to. Another psychological reason for non-adjustability of released inmate to normal life is that he begins to feel that the law-abiding members of society look at him with suspicion, distrust and doubt. Thus, he suffers from inferiority complex and in an anxiety to overcome this weakness he repeats crime which he considers to be an adventurous task.
Another potential cause of recidivism is organised crimes. Criminals often organise themselves into groups and associations due to criminal tendency and have a strict code of devotion, loyalty and attitudes to help out one another and continue to exist in the criminal world. The offender who thinks or even talks about changing is ridiculed by others and at times even aggressive means are used to prevent him from splitting with the criminal group. All efforts are made to convince him that he can make riches only by continuing his criminal activities. That apart, continuous association of the offender with a particular criminal group inculcates a sense of faithfulness, devotion and loyalty in him for his fellow-criminals. He thus, feels obligated to help out to those who had helped him earlier in his criminal pursuits.
Persons who commence these activities espouse many of the criminal traits as a part of their business routine. For example, hoarding, smuggling, black-marketing, racketeering, tax evasion, bribery, fraud and infringement of trademarks, copyrights or patents, hacking the computer systems etc. are some of the crimes which are trailed by the members of business enterprises as a part of their day-to-day transactions. In India, political grafts, corruption and pressure tactics is so widespread that offenders do not lose any social standing even if they are apprehended and punished.
The compulsive personality traits such as emotional instability, egocentrism and mental depravity, societal conflicts also lead to an increase and persistent problem in recidivists. In such cases, treatment through correctional processes does not serve any useful purpose because the personality traits of these criminals remain unchanged and they continue their criminal behaviour undeterred of the consequences.
Another cause of recidivism is the inadequacy of correctional measures and institutes for the treatment of offenders. Parole failures also contribute to recidivism among the parolees. The offenders discharged from penitentiaries on parole if fail to re-socialise and rehabilitate themselves, they repeat crime out of desperation and become recidivists. Violation or non-violation of parole largely depends on behaviour of the people with whom the parolee interacts and if the social interaction is not favourable, he or she is bound to resort to recidivism.
A large number of failures in probation and reformatories certainly reflect upon the ineffectiveness of correctional services in cases of hardened and habitual offenders. These rehabilitative procedures are effective only in some cases wherein the offender is recommended for treatment after careful analysis which is conducted by experts. In the present context, when unemployment, poverty and economic depression, is rampant, many persons take these correctional institutions as convenient places of shelter where they can be sure of at least two square meals a day. Therefore, they purposely indulge into criminal behaviour to find a legitimate admission in the jails where they feel at home and more secure than in the free life in the normal society.
Differential Association Theory by Sutherland
A famous theorist called E.H. Sutherland has observed that the resemblance between father and son as regards criminality is not due to contagion but it is because of peculiar human psychology of learning things, but observation and association that incites him to indulge in criminal activities if he is placed in situations which are conductive to lawbreaking. The theory of differential association which Sutherland prefers to call as theory of learning, emphasises that crime is learnt in connotation with others. This closely resembles Tarde’s theory of imagination, that is, all men tend to imitate each other, the extent of imitation, however, depending upon how close are their contacts. He stated that individuals in the lower strata of the society often try to imitate the upper strata, i.e. the lower class copies the upper class. In this process, he can engage in criminal behaviours.
The central hypothesis is thus, that crime is not conceived by each criminal separately and in isolation but it is like any other form of behaviour, which is learnt from either direct contact or indirect contact with other criminals. The behavioural learning happens due to personal contacts and interactions with people. Psychological researches on teenagers have concluded that violent tendencies can develop in two main paths. Sometimes children start violence early before puberty. They often become chronic violent and vehement offenders. More commonly clearly children who turn to violence in adolescence mend themselves sooner or later. The reasons for this violence can be any of the following such as birth defects, poverty, anti-social parents, hostility, academic failure, psychosomatic problems, estrangement from home, school etc.
Psychopathy and Crime: Sigmund Freud’s Id, Ego and Super Ego
Certain criminals are labelled as psychopath. They are aggressive criminals who act impulsively with no apparent reason for indulging in criminal activities. They are generally person who have no definite life plan and therefore, indulge in uncalled for behaviour. Inability of an individual to identify with others in society makes him a psychopath criminal.
According to Thornbery (2002), criminals become psychopath if their development as a child is not graded and hierarchical in nature, i.e. a child is supposed to acquire a certain set of skills and if these skills are not adequately developed, his subsequent age-appropriate development may also not occur and this may persist into adulthood which may make him a psychopath criminal. Psychopaths content that offenders lead into criminality in account of functional deviations and mental conflicts.
Sigmund Fried has clarified mental conflicts in terms of the different personality of criminals. They can be in terms of ‘id’, ‘ego’ and ‘super ego’. He asserted that ‘Id’ generates basic biological and physiological urges and impulses in a person such as sexual desire, hunger, affection for kith and kin, lust for power etc. while ego refers to the conscious and aware personality of the individual. Thus, although the desire for sex pleasure and hunger are basic urges of a person yet he is all the time conscious that only the righteous means to fulfil these is by protecting his personality and any deviance from the normal course shall cast condemnations on his personality. Super ego is the reason why one faces self-criticism. Thus, there is a constant conflict between ‘Id’ i.e. basic urges of men, ego and super-ego. Freud, therefore, contends that crime is auxiliary of representative behaviour of a person. For example, the desire for committing suicide, which is a form of self-murder is out of the feeling of inferiority, frustration, depression or anxiety. Again, felony is committed out of the sense of monetary inferiority and to induce eliminate the emotions of spite and dependence etc.
According to Freud, the ego doesn’t exist at birth however it’s one mechanism the individual learns later. For example, a baby learns he will get food only after he cries and children are taught to say ‘please’ to get obtain thing which they want. In the meantime, ego starts taking take and is charge of controlling anger i.e. id. The super-ego is mostly part of the unconscious personality. It is a form of conscience which forms and develops in the unconscious parts of mind. The super-ego can thus be characterised by a fully socialised and developed member of society which conforms to its mores. It is the moral and ethical brashness of parents of the child with whom he interacts most in his early childhood that helps in the creation of the super-ego. The id demands pleasure, while the super-ego demands control and repression and both push ego towards its own. Due to this, there is an inherent conflict which cannot be easily resolved. Where the super-ego in a child is not fully developed, he gravitates towards delinquency.
Freud postulated that the failure to develop super-ego is generally the result of parents being unloving, harsh or absent during the child’s upbringing. It is for this reason that socialising processes had failed to work on those children whose latent delinquency had become dominant; the children were therefore, non-social, if not anti-social. Psychologists have also identified other factors such as relationships with people outside the family circle and general socio-economic setting have a role in the formation of super-ego. If super-ego is over-developed, it may lead to neurosis, guilt and embarrassment. Adler, a famous theorist has attributed criminal behaviour to inferiority complexes which a child develops and that crime is an overt way of releasing the feeling of inferiority. This feeling may emanate from distrust or neglect of child by the parents.
Criminal psychology has often attributed that some individuals are more prone to commit crime. The psychologists have categorised them in three different categories. The first category of individuals is those who are that psychologically disturbed criminals who commit more crime because of their mental depravity or emotional stability. Secondly, there are individuals who due to their sociological conditions have an adverse impact on their mental conditions which causes them to enter the criminal world. Lastly, there are some hardened criminals who have embraced criminality as a regular way of life. However, through the above analysis, most of the psychologists believe in view that there are certain criminals who are far more prone to committing crime in the society.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the classical school of crime causation?
The classical school of crime causation has been established by Cerero Lombroso. He has attributed criminality to atavism which meant that criminals have savagery ancestral history and criminality in them is hereditary. Atavism implies that some individuals have some innate tendencies in them which may them commit crime. Similar assertions were made by Goring who pointed out that criminalistic traits in criminals are imbibed by heredity and through instinctive patterns and, therefore, environmental conditions are of little to no importance in determining criminal traits in an individual.
What is do mean by recidivism?
The term recidivism connotes persistent indulgence in crime and recidivist is a person who relapses into crime again and again. It also implies the former prisoners relapse into prior criminal behaviour which can often result in re-imprisonment for a new offence. Thus, it can be described as a reversion of an individual to criminal behaviour after he or she has been convicted of a prior offence, sentenced and convicted.
What is theory of differential association?
The theory of differential association was laid down by E.H. Sutherland. The theory asserts that crime is learnt through association with another. The behavioural learning takes place through personal contacts with others. In the context of crime, it involves both the techniques and attitudes for rationalising the act.
What is the Freud Theory of Id, Ego and Super Ego?
Sigmund Fried explained mental conflicts in the personality of criminals in terms of ‘id’, ‘ego’ and ‘super ego’. He asserted that ‘Id’ generates basic biological and physiological urges and impulses in a person such as sexual desire, hunger, affection for kith and kin, lust for power etc. while ego refers to the conscious personality of which the individual is aware. Though they are basic urges of a person yet he is conscious that only the righteous means to fulfil these desires protect his personality and any deviation from the normal course shall cast aspersions on his personality. Super ego is the reason why one faces self-criticism. Thus, there is a constant conflict between ‘Id’ i.e. basic urges of men, ego and super-ego which results in commission of crime.
Edited by Shikhar Shrivastava
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje