The Italian school of criminology was an early school of criminology founded at the end of the 19th century by Cesare Lombroso, Enrico Ferri, and Raffaele Garofalo, and the first school that tried to identify a definitive explanation for crime causation via the scientific method. Through the use of anthropometry and phrenology, Cesare Lombroso established himself the first founding thinker of the Italian school by attempting to establish a viable connection between the physical constitution of the human individual and criminal activity. Despite the fact that physical characteristics do not affect criminality in any way due to being the result of genetics, Lombroso was one of the greatest contributors to biological positivism, interlinking empirical practices and scientific evaluation with the field of criminology and criminal anthropology.
One of Lombroso’s students, Enrico Ferri, was instrumental in formulating the concept of social defense as a justification for criminal punishment. This theory states that punishment should not be implemented to deter criminal activity or in hopes of rehabilitation, because criminals could not be held accountable for their actions on account of their factors of criminality existing in a place beyond their control. Instead, operating within the restrictions of biological positivism as established by Lombroso, the only rational punishment for offenders is indefinite incapacitation, or their removal from society in order to ensure continued peace and security.
Raffaele Garofalo attempted to devise a natural definition of crime, in the sense that definitions of crime and their associate legalities should be anchored in and determined by human nature. This avenue of thought proposed crimes to be those acts which were universally condemned within a sound ethical society and which violated altruistic or empathetic sensibilities. According to this perspective, such crimes were considered to be evil in themselves, whereas others were considered illegal if only due to the legal definition of that act as a crime as established by the law.
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