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The word criminology is made up of ancient Greek words krino meaning “accusation” and logos meaning “reason”, or “study”. So, it is the “study of accusation”. Criminology deals with the scientific study of the nature, extent, prevention and every other aspect of criminal behavior. It is an interdisciplinary field and draws subject matters from sociology, psychology, psychiatry.

Criminology is the technical study of crime, comprising its causes, reactions by law enforcement, and processes and techniques of prevention. During the initial days of its commencement , it highlighted on the reorganization of criminal law and not on the cause of crime. The first textbook which precisely dealt with criminology was written in 1920 by an American sociologist.

Experimental criminology is a branch of Criminology which contracts with the scientific knowledge about the crime thus providing assistance to the justice delivery system. In other words, it uses different scientific experiments to answer questions about the crime which took place : its prevention, punishment and injury. These experiments are primarily conducted in real-life setting rather than in laboratories. It has a wide scope as it tends to find actual cause and prevention of the crime. There is a long procedure in conducting experiments in the field of experimental criminology which consist of the stages which are theoretical, social and methodological .

Experimental criminology forms a larger portion of rapidly increasing scientific research and evidence based movement in social policy. This movement broadly focuses on enhancement and development of society through the application of the highest-quality scientific evidence which will assist us to get knowledge of what will give the best outcome.

The field of experimental criminology is a direct response to the grounds of crime in the modern-day. It practices the advanced experimental methods to find out and explain the causes and responses to crime. Experimental criminology relies on the work of criminologist , statisticians, and other social scientists in order to completely understand crime and the social justice system. The procedures used in experimental criminology comprises randomized controlled trials, case-control design, and natural experiments . Experiments determined under it are intended at dealing with the crime and conciliate its effect on society.

At present, the condition of experimental criminology is not well settled, it is to be ranked as the most effective way to evaluate the cause-effect connection of crime and helps in designing preventive actions to aid the justice delivery scheme.

The advantages of using experimental methods that it explain why this branch of criminology is increasing rapidly with its first journal (Journal of Experimental Criminology) and a separate Division of Experiment Criminology of the American Society of Criminology established since 2005. One of the advantage includes that it lower the high incarceration rates. It may help to prevent crime without penalizing offenders to prison. One of the methods to reduce crime rate is socialization, which deals with inculcation of norms, values and habits that shape compliant conduct and it can reduce crime rate in the society. It is the greatest advantage and promise of experimental criminology that people can be encouraged to make the society free from crime.

Experimental criminology is a part of a larger and increasingly expanding scientific research evidence-based movement in social policy. In general terms, this movement is dedicated to the improvement of society through the utilization of the highest-quality scientific evidence on what works best ( Sherman et al.,1997). The evidence-based movement first began in medicine and has , more recently, been embraced by the social sciences.

In an evidence-based model, the source of scientific evidence is empirical research in the form of evaluations of programs, practices, and policies. Not all evaluation designs, such as randomized controlled experiments, are considered more scientifically valid than others. The findings of stronger evaluation designs are privileged over the findings of weaker research designs in determining “what works” in criminology intervention. For instance, in their report to the U.S. Congress on what works in preventing crime, University of Maryland researchers developed the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale to indicate to scholars, practitioners, and policymakers that studies evaluating criminological interventions may differ in terms of methodological quality of evaluation techniques (Sherman et al.,1997). Randomized experiments are considered the gold standard in evaluating the effects of criminological interventions on outcomes of interest such as crime rates and recidivism.

Randomized experiments present many challenges. For instance, there are often problems of getting permission and cooperation from policymakers and practitioners that lead to case flow problems and difficulties in successfully achieving randomization. Although there is a large literature examining the barriers to experimentation (e.g., Baunach, 1980; Heckman & Smith, 1995; Petersilia, 1989), Clarke and Cornich (1972) raised several concerns with experimentation in crime and justice that had a major chilling effect on the development of experimental criminologist have responded to these concerns (e.g., Farrington, 2003; Weisburd, 2003), and the number of crime and justice experiments have increased in England and the United States over the last 25 years ( Farrington & Welsh, 2006), the issues raised by Clarke and Cornish (1972) continue to be influential in resisting experimental methods in crime and justice today (Pawson % Tilley, 1997).

The strongest criticism of randomized experiments raised by Clarke and Cornish (1972) was that experimental studies are too rigid to address the complexity of crime and justice contexts. The treatment at the training school involved many components that varied over the course of the experiment; thus, it was impossible to clearly define the treatment being tested. Whatever evaluation results were obtained would not have explainable. In essence, the experiment might have been able to say what happened, but not be able to answer how or why it happened (Weisburd, 2003, p. 349). Pawson and Tilley (1997) argued that experiments tend to be inflexible and use broad categorical treatments; as a result, experiment designs miss the important interaction between the nature of the treatment and the nature of the subjects being studied. Experimental criminologist acknowledge that the use of experiment approaches in complex social settings requires the development of experimental methods that are capable of addressing the complexity of crime and justice treatment settings, and subjects (Weisburd, 2003). Of course, this requires a commitment to institutionalize experimental methods in the crime and justice field.

On estimating the numerous features associated to Experimental Criminology as a device of crime prevention, it is clear that the field is in its budding phase and is therefore used primarily as a trial method. Hereunder are definite points based upon Indian settings that could be taken into account to correspond the effectiveness and non-effectiveness of Experimental Criminology?

Experimental criminology reports issues in crime and justice, offering empirical guidance to the judiciary thus assisting the judgments. It makes the whole judicial system come at balance with the present day rationalized view of the scientific group thereby making courts to resolve what is right and wrong more efficiently.

Experimental criminology is done accurately create lesser threats for society and reports a greater number of cases which cannot be responded under Analytical Criminology. In India, both the police and the judicial system is employing this method to simplify their investigations and judgements. Experimental Criminology is now receiving familiarity in India.

In the modern era , it has reduced the threat of causing damage by finding more humane and effective substitutes to long imprisonment. An observation made under this method makes a understandable point which makes the evidence viable and this in-turn serves the very purpose it was developed for.

Criminologist as of now focused mainly on basic science of crime patterns and theories of criminality and not on its prevention and its effect.

It is not easy to deliver compelling scientific facts and considering the Indian Judicial system many a time, relevant facts remains unanswered and therefore the balance between criminological findings and public policy cannot be maintained. The biggest cavity here is that criminology still remains methodical and non-experimental which becomes a hindrance for this budding phase.

There is often a gap between the criminologist and the legislators as they are regularly in pressure to produce scholarly work, which excludes them to establish an operative relationship with the legal society of a nation and the same is the situation in India as well.

In India, it is very difficult to implement improvement based on criminological observation because of politics, bureaucratic obstacles and ideological conflicts.

India being home to numerous communities cannot feasibly hold a law based upon such researches because in one way or the other there would be a conflict of interest between various communities which again becomes an impediment.

In Indian judicial system, empirical evidence is not in correspondence with the legislative provision and this is the greatest failure of India in the field of Criminology. Indian courts consider such evidences as the last option to know the truth and much is ruled by the legal jargon.

Experimental criminology is one of the emerging fields of criminology in which scientific experiments are mainly used to answer questions about the crime committed. It may safely be concluded that despite having major victories experimental criminology is in a pilot stage and therefore suffers from certain infractions but it can not be denied that experimental criminology is very important for building a soldi evidence based not only for the judiciary but also for the legislators to revitalize and renew major legislations so as to facilitate the basic judicial precinct of the nation. It is time when our legislators and criminologists understand the crime within societies empirically and it is only with such drastic steps it can become plausibly to prevent crime through observations made by Experimental Criminology.


  1. Experimental Criminology, Failures and Victories by Party’s Pandey- lawtimesjournal.in
  2. Experimental Criminology- Criminal Justiceiresearchnet.in
  3. Book – A handbook of Quantitative Criminology by Alex R. Piquero, David Weisburd
  4. Book- Experimental Criminology by Brandon C. Welsh, Anthony A. Braga, J.N. Bruinsma
  5. Journal of Experimental Criminology by L.W. Sherman- link.springer.in
  6. Journal- What is Experimental Criminology? -Institute of Criminology- www.crim.cam.ac.uk

Author :

Khushi Choudhary (Chanakya National Law University, Patna)