The Crime Control & Due Process Models of Criminology

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  • 0:01 Criminology
  • 0:50 Crime Control Theory
  • 2:25 Due Process Theory
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Is one person as important as society as a whole? In the study of crime, that is a major debate. In this lesson, we'll examine the different sides of the debate, the crime control and due process models, and how they fit into the justice system.


Hector isn't sure what to think. He is in law school, and people seem to view the law in very different ways. His friend, Josie, believes that criminals should be punished severely in order to prevent future crime. But his friend, Lauren, believes that even criminals have certain rights that should be protected, even if that means that sometimes criminals aren't punished very severely.

Criminology is the study of crime and punishment. As Hector is learning, there are very different ways to approach criminology. One such dichotomy is the balance between protection of society and the rights of individuals.

Let's look closer at those two approaches to criminology, often called the crime control theory and the due process theory of criminology.

Crime Control Theory

When Hector talks to Josie, she seems to make a lot of sense. She says that crime is bad for all of society, and that it's important to punish criminals in order to prevent future crime. Josie even goes so far as to say that criminals shouldn't have rights; they should be punished at all costs, even if that means they lose the normal protections that most people have.

The crime control theory of criminology says that stopping crime is the most important function of criminal justice and that it is sometimes necessary to violate criminals' human rights in order to provide safety and order to society.

To someone like Josie, for example, the idea that a murderer is entitled to a lawyer or a speedy trial is less important than getting that person off the streets and into jail. As such, crime control theorists believe that police power should be expanded. Technicalities like search warrants should be kept to a minimum so that guilty people can be found and brought to justice.

Another key aspect of the crime control theory is the idea that the police and prosecutors are good at their jobs, so that if the police make an arrest and the prosecutor files criminal charges, the accused should be presumed guilty and the burden of proof should be on the defense.

The crime control theory is often associated with social conservatism. Josie is a conservative, and she definitely believes in the crime control theory. To her, nothing is as important as keeping order by punishing crime.

Due Process Theory

But Lauren thinks differently, and when Hector talks to her, she seems to make sense, too. Lauren points out that the Bill of Rights of the United States offers protections and certain rights to accused criminals. She points out that sometimes the government can abuse its power, and that this should be kept in check through specific protections.

The due process theory of criminology says that the main function of criminal justice should be to provide fundamental fairness under the law. The phrase 'due process' means fairness under the law, and so that's what the due process theory focuses on.

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