How can you Classify Criminals?

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How can you Classify Criminals?

Criminals have been mainly classified as first offenders, casual's habitual, professionals and white-collars. However, different criminologists have classified criminals on the basis of different criteria.

Garofalo (Criminology, 1914: 111-32) has classified them into four groups: murderers, violent criminals, criminals deficient in probity and lascivious (with feeling of lust) criminals. Ferri (Criminal Sociology, 1917: 138-39) has classified them as follows: the insane, the born, the habitual, the occasional, and the passionate.

Alexander and Staub (The Criminal, the Judge and the Public, 1931: 145-52) have classified criminals as: the accidental and the chronic. The accidental criminal is one who commits a single crime or only a few crimes because of unusual circumstances.

While the chronic criminal is one who commits crime repeatedly either because of his association with criminals (normal criminal) or because of his anxieties, guilt feelings and personality conflicts (neurotic criminal) or who engages in criminal behaviour because of an organic condition (pathological criminal).

Thus, of the three subcategories of chronic criminals, the 'normal' criminal is a product of sociological factors, the 'neurotic' is a product of psychological factors, and the 'pathological' is a product of biological factors.

Lindesmith and Dunham ("Some Principles of Criminal Typology", Social Forces, March 1941: 307-14) have suggested two types of criminals: the social criminal and the individualized criminal.

The social criminal is one whose criminal behaviour is supported and prescribed by his cultural milieu. In this milieu, crime is customary, and by committing it skillfully, he achieves status and recognition within a certain minority group. In this group, he learns to be a criminal because of his association with criminals.

For committing crime, he uses means which are generally regarded as illegitimate. The best example of this type of criminal is the professional criminal. The individualized criminal is one who commits crime only for his personal ends. He may commit crime under the stress of economic needs or in a state of emotional disturbance, etc.

Ruth Cavan (Criminology, 1948: 30-3Z) has classified criminals in the following six categories:

(1) Criminals who live in non-criminal world. These include: the casual (who violates minor laws, including local laws, for his convenience), the occasional (who occasionally commits crime of a minor nature), the episodic (who commits crime, usually a serious one, under some great emotional strain), and the white-collar (who commits crime, usually financial in nature, while engaged in some legitimate business).

(2) Professional, who depends upon crime for his livelihood, moves in the world of criminals, and develops a philosophy in support of his activities.

(3) Organised (racketeer), who systematises his criminal activities much as some business is organised, with specialised personnel and permanent gradations of leadership.

(4) Habitual, who repeats his crime.

(5) Mentally abnormal, whose crime satisfies his psychological need.

(6) Non-malicious, who is law-abiding in terms of the norms of his own group and in general conforms to the laws of the larger society except in some few instances where his small group norms contradict these laws.

The categories, as given by Cavan, however, are not mutually exclusive. A professional criminal may also be engaged in organised crime and/or be a habitual criminal. Similarly, a criminal who lives in a non-criminal world may also be a habitual criminal and/or a non-malicious criminal, and so on in varying combinations of the categories.

In fact, Cavan's classification is based on three criteria: the number of crimes committed, the kind of crime committed, and the kind of person committing the crime. These criteria are loosely fitted together in various combinations. Nevertheless, the classification of criminals into more homogeneous subgroups (as above) does provide deeper insight into criminal behaviour.


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