The classical and neoclassical schools of thought came into rise in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century following the enlightenment move that acted as a liberating force in the western world. The enlightenment thinkers came up with principles that acted as foundations for the American and French revolutions (Schmalleger, 2002).
The classical theory of criminology has its origin in the 18th century, a time in history when punishment for crime was severe and very intense. The philosophers of the classical school believed that people should be free to choose on how to act, secondly, avoidance is based upon the idea that human being is a hedonist who seeks delight and tries by all means to avoid pain and keeps weighing the consequences of his actions. The third assumption is that punishment can prevent people from committing crimes since the costs of crimes are more than its benefits. The fourth believe is that the more rapid is the punishment, the more effective it is in preventing people from committing the crimes that are associated with that particular punishment (Curran, & Renzetti, 2001).
The neo-classical view on crime was that since crime and recidivism (tendency to repeat the crime after the punishment) are thought to be a problem, the initial political reaction should be to increase policing, stiffen the penalties and increase the monitoring and supervision of those who have been from the punishment centers such as the prison. This is because the main reason was to prevent the commitment of crimes and that failed, what can be done to keep the society safe for a long time is to lock the criminals in prisons (Schmalleger, 2002).
How the concepts are applied in contemporary criminology
With their main idea being the use of punishment to deter people from committing crimes, this concept is also being applied in contemporary criminology. Different countries have adopted different methods of dealing with criminals. These methods include use of prisons and rehabilitation centers in order to help in correcting the behavior of these criminals (Berger, Free, & Searles, 2001).
For example, once one is caught committing a crime, he is charged in the courts of law and imprisoned. When one is in prison, he is denied of all the freedom that is required under normal circumstances. In some prisons, the criminals are beaten and subjected to harsh conditions as a means of punishing them for the crimes that have committed. This therefore prevents them from committing such a crime once one is set free. Another example is where punishment is given depending on the severity of the crime. Most of the justice systems have punishments ranging from small fines to death sentence depending on the severity of the crime (Reid, 1997). The contemporary justice system has adopted these theories to enable them understand human behavior and know how to deal with it.
The central point of view of classical criminology
The main point of view in the classical criminology was that since human beings are rational, they commit crimes knowing sin their efforts to search for pleasure or to avoid pain. Therefore the most effective method of preventing human beings from committing crimes is by punishing them.
This theory supports a social responsibility where the neoclassical say that to keep the society safe, the criminals must be locked in the prisons. It is therefore the social responsibility of the justice system to act on behalf of those who have been wronged and to protect the society by locking up the criminals in the prisons. However the main limitation of the classical thought of criminology is that it assumes that all criminals are rational. It dies not put into consideration the insane people who commit crimes and that may also not be aware when being subjected to punishment. Such people may repeat the crimes even after undergoing the punishment (Vito, Maahs, & Holmes, 2006).
Another limitation is on the idea of giving a punishment depending on the severity of the crimes committed. This may not help in ending the behavior completely since human beings, considering the fact that they area rational and seeking pleasure, will make choice between acts with heavy punishment and those with the light ones.