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Criminalization


Criminalization or criminalisation, in criminology, is "the process by which behaviors and individuals are transformed into crime and criminals". Previously legal acts may be transformed into crimes by legislation or judicial decision. However, there is usually a formal presumption in the rules of statutory interpretation against the retrospective application of laws and only the use of express words by the legislature may rebut this presumption. The power of judges to make new law and retrospectively criminalise behaviour is also discouraged. In a less overt way, where laws have not been strictly enforced, the acts prohibited by those laws may also undergo de facto criminalisation through more effective or committed legal enforcement.

There has been some uncertainty as to the nature and extent of the contribution to be made by the victims of crime. But, as Garkawe (2001) indicates, the relationship between victimology and criminology has become problematic. The concern is that, within the dialectic of Right Realism and Left Realism, a focus on the victim promotes rights selectively for certain victims, and advocates the assumption that some victim rights are more important than competing rights or values in society. For example, an Islamic feminist might seek consistency of treatment for women as victims and, therefore, demand the decriminalization of abortion, adultery, and seduction (Zina is a Hudud offense in sharia law), and the criminalization of domestic violence and sexual harassment.

In formal academically published theory, the real ruling class of a society reaches a temporary view on whether certain acts or behavior are harmful or criminal. Historically this one theory will be modified by scientific, medical evidence, by political change, and the criminal justice system may or may not treat those matters as crimes.



  • Amster, Randall (2008). Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness. New York: LFB Scholarly. ISBN . 
  • Baker, Dennis J. (2009) "The Moral Limits of Consent as a Defense in the Criminal Law", 12 New Criminal Law Review (2009); Dennis J. Baker (2008) "The Harm Principle vs Kantian Criteria for Ensuring Fair, Principled and Just Criminalisation", 33 Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy 66 http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1300351; Dennis J. Baker (2008) "Constitutionalizing the Harm Principle", 27(2) Criminal Justice Ethics 3 http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1300356; Dennis J. Baker, ‘The Sense and Nonsense of Criminalizing Transfers of Obscene Materials: Criminalizing Privacy Violations,’ 26 Singapore Law Review 126 (2008)http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1369123; Dennis J. Baker, 'The Moral Limits of Criminalizing Remote Harms 10(3) New Criminal Law Review 370 http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1130052
  • Dennis J. Baker, The Right Not to be Criminalized: Demarcating Criminal Law’s Authority, (London: Ashgate, 2011 (.)
  • Currie, E. (1991) "The Politics of Crime: the American Experience" in The Politics of Crime Control. Stenson, Kevin. & Cowell, David. (eds.) London: Sage.
  • Elias, Robert. (1993). Victims Still: The Political Manipulation of Crime Victims. London: Sage.
  • Elias, Robert. (1994). "Crime Wars Forgotten" in Rethinking Peace. Elias, Robert & Turpin, Jennifer. (eds.). Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, pp. 123–31.
  • Feinberg, Joel, Harm to Others: The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law, OUP, New York: 1984.
  • Fattah, Ezzat, A. (1989). "Victims of Abuse of Power" in The Plight of Crime Victims in Modern Society. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 29–73.
  • Fattah, Ezzat, A. (1992). "The Need for a Critical Victimology" in Towards A Critical Victimology. Ezzat A. Fattah (ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 14–23.
  • Garkawe, Sam. (2001). "Modern Victimology: Its Importance, Scope and Relationship with Criminology". Acta Criminologica. Vol 14(2), pp. 90–99
  • Harding, R. (1994). Victimisation, Moral Panics, and the Distortion of Criminal Justice Policy". Current Issues in Criminal Justice, Vol. 6, 27-42
  • Michalowski, R. J. (1985). Order, Law and Crime: An Introduction to Criminology. New York: Random House.
  • Jackson, J. & Naureckas, J. (1994). "Crime Contradictions: US News Illustrates Flaws in Crime Coverage". EXTRA! May/June, pp. 10–14.
  • Leiper, S. (1994). "Crime and Propaganda". Propaganda Review, Vol. 11, pp. 44–6.
  • Walklate, Sandra. (1989). Victimology: The Victim and the Criminal Justice Process. London: Routledge.
  • Walklate, Sandra. (2003). Understanding Criminology: Current Theoretical Debates (Crime & Justice S.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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