Criminology: Assignment 1
1. According to the textbook, the legal, and most common, definition of crime is that it is a legalistic one in that it violates the criminal law and is punishable with jail terms, fines, and other sanctions. The Human Rights definition of crime defines crime as an action that violates the basic rights of humans to obtain the necessities of life and to be treated with respect and dignity. Unlike the legal definition of crime, the Human Rights definition of crime has a broader concept than its counterpart. With the Human Rights definition of crime, criminologists are allowed to the entire range of acts and omissions that cause social injury and social harm, while the legal definition of crime would only allow a criminologists to study acts and omission that cause individual injury and individual harm.
Also, the legal definition of crime can vary depending on what society makes up those laws. Which acts or omission qualify as crimes depends on the values that the specific society preserves.
I feel that these definitions contradict one another rather than complement one another. As I mentioned before, the legal definition of crime can vary depending on that society’s cultural values. Where one act or omission qualifies as a crime in one society, in another society it might be wildly accepted. On the other hand, the Human Rights definition of crime advocates a definition of crime that is based on human rights rather than on legal statues.
These human rights are universal and are recognized throughout the world. If an act that would violate an individual’s basic human rights has been committed it has more of a chance to be recognized as a crime by societies throughout the world than it would be with just a legal definition of crime.
The legal definition of crime is a useful starting point for the study of crime if a criminologist wanted to study something more specific relating to crime. The module points out that each part of the legal definition of crime is important to look at in order to understand the nature of criminal law and the difficult task involved in attempting to determine what it takes for a specific act or omission to be defined as “criminal”. With different countries having different laws it would be hard for a criminologist to study something as broad as Racism The legal definition of crime would be more useful if a criminologist wanted to study something more specific such as sentencing of drunk driving offenders in Canada. The human rights definition of crime is more useful if a criminologist wanted to study a broader subject of crime.
Acts such as racism and sexism could be studied more effortlessly with this definition than it would be with a legal definition of crime because these acts are violations of basic human rights, which are accepted universally and do not vary of society to society.
In my view, the better definition is the human rights definition of crime because the human rights definition of crime does not vary to society to society. If an act violates these human rights, a person can be prosecuted no matter what country that individual is in.
2. According to the module, the problem of the relativity of crime refers to the fact that criminologists recognize that crime is an inherently relative concept. The problem of the relativity of crime is often shown in the fact that the specific kinds of behaviours that are defined as criminal often vary over time and across different cultures.
I refer to the historical example in the module where Gwynn Nettler provides an example of the way in which definitions of crime changes over time. Nettler refers to the mid 1930’s where the prohibition law in the United States was repealed by the twenty-first amendment in 1933, while at the same time the possession of gold in the United States had been made illegal by law. She mentions that in March of 1993 two men could walk down the street, one of them having a pint of whiskey in his pocket and the other having a hundred dollars in gold coins in his pocket, the one with .