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Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman (2004) - Cesare Lombroso [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Italian fumetti neri, Kriminal covers
image sourced here.


A crime in a broad sense is an act that violates a political or moral law. In the narrow sense, a crime is a violation of the criminal law. For example, most traffic violations or breach of contracts are not crimes in a legal sense. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime [Jul 2005]


Criminology is a sub-field of sociology dealing with matters related to crime and criminal behavior. It includes fields such as crime statistics, criminal psychology, forensic science, law enforcement, and detective methods.

Naturally, criminology must take into account that the definition of crime varies according to the cultural mores and, especially, laws of a given area. This is an area where caution is warranted; if one is comparing, e.g., violent crimes between nations, one must be careful that the actions counted in that category are similar for each nation; otherwise the comparison is meaningless.

Criminology has, over time, been developed by several schools of thought, including:

The number of undergraduates studying Criminology in some capacity is currently increasing, especially in the UK. This may be in part due to criminal and police television dramas that capture students imaginations, but could just as likely be due to an increase in universities offering such courses to a more socially aware body of students. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminology [Apr 2005]

Crime and subcultures

In criminology, subcultures theories emerged as a way to account for delinquency rates among lower-class males, of these the infamous teenage gang. Subculture theories believe that the delinquent subcultures emerged in response to the special problems that the members of mainstream society do not face.

The strain theorists explained crime as a result of frustrations suffered by lower-class individuals deprived of legitimate means to reach their goals. Cultural deviance theories assumed that people became deviant by learning the criminal values of the group to which they belonged to. This laid down the foundation for subculture theories during the 1950s.

A subculture is defined as a subdivision within the dominant culture that has its own norms, values and belief system. These subcultures emerge when individuals in similar circumstances find themselves virtually isolated or neglected by mainstream society. Thus they group together for mutual support. Subcultures exist within the larger society, not apart from it. The members of the subculture are different from the dominant culture.

The subculture theories we will look at are extensions of strain, social disorganization and differential association theories. Subculture theories help to explain why subcultures emerge (extension of strain), why they take a particular shape (extension of social disorganization), and why they continue from one generation to another (extension of differential association).

For instance, Marvin Wolfgang and Franco Ferracuti's Subculture of Violence thesis argues that the value system of some subcultures not only demands but also expects violence in certain social situations. It is this norm which affects daily behavior that is in conflict with the conventional society. Here we will explain the subculture theories proposed by Albert Cohen, (Subculture of Delinquency), Richard Cloward & Lloyd Ohlin (Differential Opportunity), Walter Miller (Lower-Class Focal Concerns) and Marvin Wolfgang & Franco Ferracuti (Subculture of Violence).

To better understand and appreciate subculture theories one must first probe into the historical time period of the 1950s. The values of the middle class were dominant and anything else was not considered normal.

Peaking urbanization produced more and more deteriorated cities in America. The suburbs of the middle class were emerging. Delinquency was mainly perceived as a problem of the lower class. The middle class "we-they" separation led to seeing itself as the far superior class. --http://home.comcast.net/~ddemelo/crime/subculture.html [Apr 2005]

see also: subculture

Organized crime

Organized crime is crime carried out systematically by formal criminal organizations. The Organized Crime Control Act (U.S. - 1970) defines organized crime as: "The unlawful activities of...a highly organized, disciplined association...". Some Criminal Organizations, such as terrorist organizations, are politically motivated. Mafias are criminal organizations whose primary motivation is profit. Gangs sometimes become "disciplined" enough to be considered "organized". The act of engaging in criminal activity as a structured group is referred to in the U.S. as racketeering.

Criminal organizations keep their illicit actions secret, and members communicate by word of mouth. Many organized crime operations have substantial legitimate businesses, such as licensed gambling, building construction, trash hauling or dockloading which operate in parallel with and provide "cover" for drug trafficking, money laundering, prostitution, extortion and insider trading.

In order for a criminal organization to prosper, some degree of support is required from the society in which it lives. Thus, it is often necessary to corrupt some of its respected members, which is most commonly achieved through bribery, blackmail, and the establishment of symbiotic relationships with legitimate businesses. People in the judiciary, police forces, and legislature are especially targeted for control by organized crime via bribes, threats, or a combination. Financing is made easier by the development of a customer base inside or outside the local population, as occurs for instance in the case of drug trafficking.

In addition, criminal organizations also benefit if there is social distrust of the government or the police. As a consequence, criminal organizations sometimes arise in closely-knit immigrant groups who do not trust the local police. Conversely, as an immigrant group begins to integrate into the wider society, this generally causes the organized crime group to weaken.

Lacking much of the paperwork that is common to legitimate organizations, criminal organizations can usually evolve and reorganize much more quickly when the need arises. They are quick to capitalize on newly-opened markets, and quick to rebuild themselves under another guise when caught by authorities.

Globalization occurs in crime as much as it does in business. Criminal organizations easily cross boundaries between countries. This is especially true of organized crime groups that engage in human trafficking.

The newest growth sectors for organized crime are identity theft and online extortion. These activities are troubling because they discourage consumers from using the Internet for e-commerce. Furthermore, e-commerce was supposed to level the playing ground between small and large businesses, but the growth of online organized crime is leading to the opposite effect; large businesses are able to afford more bandwidth (in order to resist denial-of-service attacks) and superior security. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organized_crime [Feb 2005]

Sex Crime [...]

Sex crimes are forms of human sexual behavior that are crimes. Someone who commits one is said to be a sex offender.

Crime fiction

Crime fiction is a genre of fiction that deals with crimes, their detection, criminals, and their motives. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as science fiction or historical fiction, but boundaries can be, and indeed are, blurred. It has several sub-genres, including detective fiction (including the whodunnit), legal thriller, courtroom drama, and hard-boiled fiction. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_fiction [Feb 2005]


  1. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Like many writers of his era, Dostoyevsky uses a lot of prose and little dialogue, which makes reading the book a bit of a plodding chore.

    However, the story is anything but boring: Raskilnov, a poor student, comes up with the philosophy that killing an old female pawnbroker will actually be good for the world because she cheats people and is otherwise useless. It's premeditated --- he even counts exactly how many steps it takes from his place to her door.

    The book also recounts the following few days when Raskilnov's mother and sister come to visit and he has to play his 'family role' i.e. "I'm a good son and brother when I'm not killing old women." In addition, he is involved with a family consisting of a dying mother, a father, 3 young sons and an 18-year-old daughter who must go into prostitution to support them.

    So what happens to all of these characters in pre-Revolutionary Russia? What will be Raskilnov's punishment? Does he actually think he was right to kill? The answers unfold as you read this gem from the world of Russian literature -- so renown you feel like you really achieved something when you read it! --Saima Huq for amazon.com

  2. Deviant: The Shocking True Story of the Original "Psycho" - Harold Schechter [Amazon.com]
    Harold Schechter is a historian: he takes old files and yellowed newspaper clippings, and brings their stories to life. Deviant is about everyone's favorite ghoul, Ed Gein--whose crimes inspired the writers of Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Silence of the Lambs. Schechter deftly evokes the small-town 1950s Wisconsin setting--not pretty farms and cheese factories, but infertile soil and a bleak, hardscrabble existence. The details of Gein's "death house" are perhaps well known by now, but the murderer's quietly crazy, almost gentle personality comes forth in this book as never before. As Gary Kadet wrote, in The Boston Book Review, "Schechter is a dogged researcher [who backs up] every bizarre detail and curious twist in this and his other books ... More importantly, he nimbly avoids miring his writing and our reading with minutiae or researched overstatement, which means that although he can occasionally be dry, he is never boring." Also recommended: Schechter's books about Albert Fish (Deranged) and Herman Mudgett a.k.a. Dr. H. H. Holmes (Depraved). --Amazon.com

  3. Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool (2002) - Ronald M. Holmes [Amazon.com]
    A guide for students and professionals in criminology and criminal justice to constructing a psychological profile of someone who perpetrated a crime. The method incorporates such social factors as age, race, sex, occupation, and education. The second edition includes new chapters on geography, the use of computers, arson, and pedophilia; it also drops the chapter on Satanic murders, which was little used by professionals and much used by zealots to justify witch hunts --From Book News, Inc.

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) - Woody Allen

  1. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) - Woody Allen [Amazon.com]
    Some critics and filmgoers have hailed this 1989 comedy-drama as Woody Allen's best film, and while that's certainly open for debate, a good case can be made that it's the most ambitious and morally complex of Allen's films. It's the kind of movie that provokes heated philosophical debate about the role of God in our lives, the nature of guilt, and the circumstances that would allow a seemingly good, law-abiding family man and successful professional (Martin Landau) to commit a murder with no risk of being caught. Could you live with yourself under those conditions? Allen explores this complicated issue in the context of an extramarital affair that Landau's mistress (Anjelica Huston) threatens to expose, while developing a second story about a documentary filmmaker (Allen) who reluctantly makes a film about his brother-in-law (Alan Alda), a TV sitcom producer whose vanity is seemingly unlimited. From serious crimes to misdemeanors of personal behavior, Allen ties these stories together to create a provocative and unsettling study of divergent moralities and the price we're willing to pay to preserve our personal comfort and happiness. It's a sobering film, but a fascinating and funny one as well, unfolding like a thriller in which the question is not whodunit but rather, would you do it if you knew you could get away with it? --Jeff Shannon for amazon.com

    Pickpocket (1959) - Robert Bresson

  2. Pickpocket (1959) - Robert Bresson [Amazon.com]
    Robert Bresson drew inspiration from Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment for this examination of an arrogant young pickpocket who deems himself above the laws and conditions of ordinary men. Michel (Martin LaSalle), a rather bland-looking young man with a perpetually blank face, haunts the subways, city streets, and racetracks to ply his trade. He plays a game of wits with a fatherly police inspector and walls his heart off from the affections of a quiet young woman, Jeanne (Marika Green), who looks after his dying mother. Bresson's direction of his "models" (as he calls his nonprofessional performers) strips them of affectation and motivation, making them blank slates defined by the accumulation of precisely drilled actions and words. Pickpocket is no thriller, though Bresson offers impressive, meticulously detailed scenes of daring and intimate robberies (one sequence on a subway feels like an homage to Sam Fuller's Pickup on South Street). Rather, it is a powerful, profound search for meaning and spiritual enlightenment by a man who believes in nothing but himself, and many critics consider it Bresson's masterpiece. Paul Schrader, whose book Transcendental Cinema offers a detailed analysis of Bresson's work, has quoted the famous, emotionally restrained yet spiritually moving conclusion in two of his own films: American Gigolo and Light Sleeper. --Sean Axmaker, amazon.com

Crime and Criminals: Examining Pop Culture - Andy Koopmans

  1. Crime and Criminals: Examining Pop Culture - Andy Koopmans (Editor) [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Does the film Natural Born Killers encourage serial slayings or is it simply an excuse for those already predisposed to violence? Did the FBI find the notorious escaped hijacker D. B. Cooper right before his death in Florida, 24 years after his crime? Drawing from a wide variety of sources, this slim volume attempts to look at crime through the lens of popular culture and includes discussion of Western outlaws, Robin Hood, gangsters and the Mafia, the public's fascination with serial killers, and reality crime shows such as Cops. The varied content makes interesting leisure reading, and will be useful for debates. There are some useful facts and statistics on these pages, but students would do well to double-check the information because one article states that the shootings at Columbine High School occurred in 1996, not 2000. The "further research" section lists a few books, periodicals, and Web sites, which may also interest true-crime aficionados. --From School Library Journal, amazon.com

    Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman (2004) - Cesare Lombroso, Guglielmo Ferrero

    Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman (2004) - Cesare Lombroso, Guglielmo Ferrero [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    About the Author
    Cesare Lombroso (1835–1909), an internationally famous physician and criminologist, wrote extensively about jurisprudence, psychiatry, human sexuality, and the causes of crime. As a young law student, Guglielmo Ferrero (1871–1942) assisted Lombroso with research.

    Nicole Hahn Rafter is Senior Research Fellow at Northeastern University. Among her many books are Partial Justice: Women, Prisons, and Social Control and Creating Born Criminals. Mary Gibson is Professor of History at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is the author of Prostitution and the State in Italy, 1860-1915 and Born to Crime: Cesare Lombroso and the Origins of Biological Criminology.

    Book Description
    Cesare Lombroso is widely considered the founder of the field of criminology. His theory of the "born" criminal dominated discussions of criminology in Europe and the Americas from the 1880s into the early twentieth century. His book, La donna delinquente, originally published in Italian in 1893, was the first and most influential book ever written on women and crime. This comprehensive new translation gives readers a full view of his landmark work.

    Lombroso’s research took him to police stations, prisons, and madhouses where he studied the tattoos, cranial capacities, and sexual behavior of criminals and prostitutes to establish a female criminal type. Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman anticipated today’s theories of genetic criminal behavior. Lombroso used Darwinian evolutionary science to argue that criminal women are far more cunning and dangerous than criminal men. Designed to make his original text accessible to students and scholars alike, this volume includes extensive notes, appendices, a glossary, and more than thirty of Lombroso’s own illustrations. Nicole Hahn Rafter and Mary Gibson’s introduction, locating his theory in social context, offers a significant new interpretation of Lombroso’s place in criminology.

    A new translation of Cesar Lombroso's La Donna Delinquente, with a new scholarly introduction Cesare Lombroso is widely considered the founder of the field of criminology. His theory of the "born" criminal dominated discussions of criminology in Europe and the Americas from the 1880s into the early twentieth century. His book, La donna delinquente, originally published in Italian in 1893, was the first and most influential book ever written on women and crime. This comprehensive new translation gives readers a full view of his landmark work. Lombroso's research took him to police stations, prisons, and madhouses where he studied the tattoos, cranial capacities, and sexual behavior of criminals and prostitutes to establish a female criminal type. Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman anticipated today's theories of genetic criminal behaviour. Lombroso used Darwinian evolutionary science to argue that criminal women are far more cunning and dangerous than criminal men. Nicole Hahn Rafter and Mary Gibson's introduction, locating his theory in social context, offers a significant new interpretation of Lombroso's place in criminology.

    Delinquent Boys (1955) - Albert K. Cohen

    Delinquent Boys (1955) - Albert K. Cohen [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    In 1955 Albert K. Cohen wrote Delinquent Boys. He attempted to look at how such a subculture began. Cohen found that delinquency among youths was more prevalent among lower class males and the most common form of this was the juvenile gang. Cohen, a student of Sutherland and Merton, learned from Sutherland that differential association and cultural transmission of criminal norms led to criminal behavior, while Merton taught him about structurally induced strain.

    Delinquent subcultures, according to Cohen, have values that are in opposition to those of the dominant culture. These subcultures emerge in the slums of some of the nation's largest cities. Often, they are rooted in class differentials, parental aspirations and school standards. Cohen notes that the position of one's family in the social structure determines the problems the child will later face in life. Thus, they will experience status frustration and strain and adapt into either a corner boy, college boy, or a delinquent boy.

    Corner boys lead a conventional lifestyle, making the best of a bad situation. They spend most of their time with peers and receive peer support in group activities. These boys are far and few between. Their chances for success are limited. Cohen argues that their academic and social handicaps prevent them from living up to middle-class standards.

    Delinquent boys, on the other hand, band together to define status. Their delinquent acts serve no real purpose. They often discard or destroy what they have stolen. Their acts are random and are directed at people and property. They are a short-run hedonistic subculture with no planning. They often act on impulse, often without consideration for the future. Members are loyal to one another and allow no one to restrain their behavior.

    Stealing, in the delinquent gang, serves as a form of achieving peer status within the group, with no other motive. Cohen declared that all children seek social status, but not everyone can compete for it in the same way. Reaction-formation, a Freudian defense mechanism, serves to overcome anxiety, as a hostile overreaction to middle class values can occur. A delinquent subculture is created to resolve problems of lower-class status.

    Much of Cohen's work has been both praised and criticized. It helps to answer questions that remain unresolved by strain and cultural deviance theories. His notion of status deprivation and the middle-class measuring rod has been very useful to researchers. His theory, however, fails to explain why some delinquent subcultures eventually become law-abiding, even when this social class position is fixed. Later, he expanded his theory to include not only lower-class delinquents but also variants of middle-class delinquents and female delinquent subcultures. Cohen's theory stimulated later formations of new theories. --http://home.comcast.net/~ddemelo/crime/cohen.html [May 2005]

    see also: subculture

    The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer (1992) - Park Dietz

    The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer (1992) - Park Dietz [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    An abused young man. A hair-trigger temper. A trail of dead bodies. What makes a cold-blooded killer tick? THE ICEMAN AND THE PSYCHIATRIST is now available for the first time on DVD. Renowned forensic psychologist Dr. Park Dietz gets up close, personal and even confrontational with psyche of one of the most dangerous men alive. Bringing together the earlier THE ICEMAN TAPES: CONVERSATIONS WITH A KILLER and THE ICEMAN: SECRETS OF A MAFIA HITMAN with the newly released Dietz interview, this new special edition, THE ICEMAN INTERVIEWS is the ultimate compendium of the mind of a murderer. Includes Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski's riveting on-camera confession, exclusively for HBO, of the murder of police officer Peter Calabro. Making news in February 2003, Kuklinski accepted a plea bargain for a concurrent 30-year term to his 60-year prison sentence and implicated Sammy "The Bull" Gravano in the crime. THE ICEMAN INTERVIEWS - this new special edition is guaranteed to run chills up and down your spine all over again. --via Amazon.com

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