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Criminology Theories and Sentencing Models

Criminology Theories and Sentencing Models

Criminal perspectives play a critical role in explaining the various aspects of criminals and significantly contribute to the shaping of the criminal justice system. The different theories associated with criminological perspectives are fundamental with regard to the sentencing and punishing offenders and the models adopted in accomplishing the task. Justice systems have incorporated criminology without any exception on sentencing. In the process, the six primary theories have been categorized into trait perspectives namely choice or classical perspectives, trait perspective, and social perspectives.  Every theory encompassed in these three perspectives endeavor to respond to the essential question on why criminals commit crime. Based on the assessment of the reason criminals commit wrongful acts, the theories have divergent views on how offenders ought to be punished for the offenses committed. This essay purposes to evaluate trait, social, and classical perspectives before assessing the effectiveness of the two sentencing models in addressing crime from each of the above-mentioned perspectives. According to the indeterminate model, sentencing ought to be tailored to the offense with rehabilitation support which allows the offender to influence their incarceration period by exhibiting positive behaviors. On the other hand, determinate sentencing holds that similar crime should attract similar and equal punishment for all individuals.

Trait perspective views criminality as a product of abnormal psychological or biological traits (Siegel, 2016). Trait theorists argue that biological and genetic factors play a primary role in criminal behaviors. These theorists believe that individuals with “the trait” experience increased propensity to get involved in criminal activities (Spohn, 2015). Although they predispose to commit crime based on trait, they can be trained on how to refrain from illegal activities, there exists a general feeling that they are uncontrollable criminals in essence and will remain as such (Siegel, 2016). Assuming that this theory is entirely correct, the determinate sentencing model would be ideal and most effective in dealing with such kind of offenders. Despite the fact of not an effective deterrent, this model of punishment roves to be useful for two primary reasons. First, the definitive imprisonment sentence creates ample time for the offender to learn how to control “the trait” in an attempt to avoid similar future harm because of criminal behavior (Nagin, 2014). Secondly, the effectiveness of the method is assessed on its ability to protect the society from such people rather than its inability to fix the behavior (Siegel, 2016). Also, definitive incarceration provides the community with information on the expected release date of individuals considered to present threats to the society well being.

Social perspective combines the structure and process theory. Economic position is a primary contributor towards crime under the social structure theory, where the economically disadvantaged members of the society are viewed to be more predisposed to crime (Nagin, 2014). This is fundamental because criminality is considered to be a function of individual interaction with institutions, organization, and other processes in a community (Siegel, 2016). Fundamentally, people are viewed as a product of their immediate environment and the processes that characterize that habitat. In the opinion of the theorists who propagate this theory, criminals do not commit crime because they have a defect but do this to meet economic needs and necessities (Spohn, 2015). Alternatively, crime may be an acceptable prevalent behavior within such social groups. If that be the case, such offenders would be better served by the indeterminate model of sentencing which provides the offender with the potential to cope in any environment they find themselves in without resulting to criminal activities (Siegel, 2016). The moment cope mechanism skills are inculcated in an individual; they should be released to the society without further incarceration which would be counterproductive to reform the incentive.

Classical or choice theories form the last group in the three perspectives. Based on the concept of rational choice theory, crime can be considered to be a function of a decision-making process involving conscious evaluation of the pros and cons of an illegal act (Siegel, 2016). Therefore, theorists inclined to this perspective believe that offenders consider all alternatives before choosingg to commit a wrongful act (Siegel, 2016). Consequently, such offender requires an extra care in sentencing considering that the crime path they take has no fundamental difference with the decision on what to have for supper. Besides, educating the offenders on how to objectively weigh available options before making a decision helps deter repeat offenses from the same individual (Siegel, 2016). Unfortunately, the two sentencing models do not work effectively with all offenders under this perspective. Nevertheless, criminals are more likely to improve through the indeterminate sentencing model because it can be easily tailored to serve the individual and the crime, and provide a pathway back to the society after mastery of the necessary skills. However, others would benefit more from the determinate sentencing model, especially where choices have preset known consequences (Siegel, 2016). Also, harsh preset punishment deters potential offenders from committing similar crimes.


Evidentially, the two sentencing models are fundamentally in both theory and approach. Each model has its weaknesses and strength especially in relation to the three criminology school of thoughts. It’s hard to single out one of the models as the one with the greatest potential to reduce crime. Maybe this is because of the reasons that criminals who commit a given crime cannot be limited to one criminological theory and in most instances touch across the various approaches. This makes it insufficient to say conclusively that a crime was committed under the behavior theory hence deserves a definitive model of punishment. The fact that various variables are at play in the majority of the criminal activities brings some complications in determining the most efficient sentencing model. Therefore, indeterminate and determinate models have a role to play in either decimating or exonerating offenders. Besides, the lawbreakers have a responsibility to take advantage of the criminal justice system and use it for their benefits regardless of the model of sentencing implemented. Unless criminals develop that desire to improve and become better members of the society, criminology theories and above-mentioned models will always be less than one hundred percent effective.

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