My personal worldview on criminology, as shaped by my personal experience and biblical instruction, is that understanding criminal behavior requires a balance between two philosophies: that justice via our legal system best services society, as well as the notion that criminal behavior can be influenced by socioeconomic conditions that create disadvantages for certain populations. Thus, criminology should ultimately reflect a balance between ensuring the public safety through incarceration of criminals as well as a path toward rehabilitation, if possible.
My initial views on criminology were shaped by the ethics I learned from my upbringing: essentially, that certain values should be upheld no matter what. For instance, initiating violence is never an appropriate response to resolving an argument; however, defending oneself is also necessary at times. There were also other lessons I remember that were reiterated through my biblical instruction, such as learning how lying or stealing is also unethical. However, what makes ethics complex is that no two situations are completely alike; there are always extenuating circumstances, and it is up to the justice system to determine whether these circumstances either validate or excuse certain behaviors. For instance, if it is determined that violence was used for self-defense, then no crime has been committed.
The reason criminology is complex is due to determining what conditions influence certain behaviors. There are certainly some crimes that would not be justifiable for any reason; my biblical instruction has taught me that God’s judgment is the only one that matters, but that we also have a responsibility to ensure the public is safe. For a person that commits a crime that would be considered unforgivable, incarcerating this person should not be designed to punish, even if there is no further possibility for rehabilitation due to the severity of the crime; however, incarceration would be justifiable because this person represents a danger to the public safety. The less severe the crime, however, the more complex these issues become; for instance, a person who steals a car also represents a danger to society, but it should be determined how and why the person committed this act, in order to seek an appropriate sentence. Although certain crimes will often have designated ranges of punishments, the range is often determined by any extenuating circumstances. Often, the motive should be a determining factor; for instance, the person who steals out of greed or to cause harm should be judged more harshly than the person who steals out of desperation. Therefore, the motive of a crime should be a consideration in the sentencing process.
The Bible essentially presents an Old Testament and a New Testament version of justice; these do not inherently conflict with one another, but they reveal the complexity of issues surrounding criminology. What they teach us, however, and what I have also learned in my own experience, is that understanding criminal behavior requires understanding the influences that caused the behavior. I do believe that evil exists, and that some crimes are committed by those who are truly evil. However, I also believe that only God can decide what is appropriate for those persons in the long run. It is the role of society to preserve and protect itself, which is why the justice system exists. Thus, understanding criminology is not always limited to understanding the psychological motive as to why a crime was committed, but also understanding the socioeconomic framework that contributed to the crime. The justice system should not seek to reduce the crime rate simply by punishing offenders, nor should it be focused entirely toward providing rehabilitative services; rather, it should expand to include addressing the societal issues, such as poverty and lack of education, that make crime more likely to occur in the long run.