Positive and Classical Approaches

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Positivism was a dramatic shift in criminological thought. Positivists look to external forces—such as biological, psychological, social, and economic forces—to explain the causes of criminal behavior.

Positivism differs from the classical school. In classical criminology, behavior is generated by free will, requires perpetrator responsibility and accountability, and emphasizes that punishments should be severe enough to deter the crime.

Criminological thought, like the positivism and classical approaches, swings like a pendulum. In the wake of these shifts, approaches to punishment and penal practices also swing. Understanding shifts and impacts is important for criminal justice practitioners, since a change in one system component has an impact on the overall system.

For your initial discussion post:

  • Contrast two key points from the positivist school with the two from the classical school.
  • Determine one historical correctional practice that aligned with the positivist school and one that aligned with the classical school.
  • Explore one impact of the positivist school and one impact from the classical school on modern corrections.

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