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Crime And Punishment Topics For Essays In Spanish

On Crimes and Punishments (Italian: Dei delitti e delle pene[dei deˈlitti e ddelle ˈpeːne]), is a treatise written by Cesare Beccaria in 1764.

The treatise condemned torture and the death penalty and was a founding work in the field of penology.


Beccaria and the two brothers Pietro and Alessandro Verri started an important cultural reformist movement centered around their journalIl Caffè ("The Coffee House"), which ran from the summer of 1764 for about two years, and was inspired by Addison and Steele's literary magazine The Spectator and other such journals. Il Caffè represented an entirely new cultural moment in northern Italy. With their Enlightenment rhetoric and their balance between topics of socio-political and literary interest, the anonymous contributors held the interest of the educated classes in Italy, introducing recent thought such as that of Voltaire and Denis Diderot.

On Crimes and Punishments marked the high point of the Milan Enlightenment. In it, Beccaria put forth some of the first modern arguments against the death penalty. It was also the first full work of penology, advocating reform of the criminal law system. The book was the first full-scale work to tackle criminal reform and to suggest that criminal justice should conform to rational principles. It is a less theoretical work than the writings of Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf and other comparable thinkers, and as much a work of advocacy as of theory. In this essay, Beccaria reflected the convictions of the Il Caffè group, who sought to cause reform through Enlightenment discourse. In 1765, André Morellet produced a French translation of On Crimes and Punishments. His translation was widely criticized for the liberties he took with the text.[1] Morellet had the opinion that the Italian text of Beccaria did require some clarification. He therefore left parts away, and sometimes added to it. But he mainly changed the structure of the essay by moving, merging or splitting chapters. These interventions were known to experts, but because Beccaria himself had indicated in a letter to Morellet that he fully agreed with him, it was assumed that these adaptations also had Beccaria's consent in substance. The differences are so great, however, that the book from the hands of Morellet became quite another book than the book that Beccaria wrote.[2]


On Crimes and Punishments was the first critical analysis of capital punishment that demanded its abolition. Beccaria described the death penalty as:

the war of a nation against a citizen ... It appears absurd to me that the laws, which are the expression of the public will and which detest and punish homicide, commit murder themselves, and in order to dissuade citizens from assassination, commit public assassination.[3]

Beccaria cited Montesquieu, who stated that "every punishment which does not arise from absolute necessity is tyrannical".[4]

Regarding the "Proportion between Crimes and Punishment", Beccaria stated that:

Crimes of every kind should be less frequent, in proportion to the evil they produce to society ... If an equal punishment be ordained for two crimes that injure society in different degrees, there is nothing to deter men from committing the greater as often as it is attended with greater advantage.[5]

Beccaria also argued against torture, believing it was cruel and unnecessary.[6]


The book's serious message is put across in a clear and animated style, based in particular upon a deep sense of humanity and of urgency at unjust suffering. This humane sentiment is what makes Beccaria appeal for rationality in the laws.

Suicide is a crime which seems not to admit of punishment, properly speaking; for it cannot be inflicted but on the innocent, or upon an insensible dead body. In the first case, it is unjust and tyrannical, for political liberty supposes all punishments entirely personal; in the second, it has the same effect, by way of example, as the scourging a statue. Mankind love life too well; the objects that surround them, the seducing phantom of pleasure, and hope, that sweetest error of mortals, which makes men swallow such large draughts of evil, mingled with a very few drops of good, allure them too strongly, to apprehend that this crime will ever be common from its unavoidable impunity. The laws are obeyed through fear of punishment, but death destroys all sensibility. What motive then can restrain the desperate hand of suicide?...But, to return: – If it be demonstrated that the laws which imprison men in their own country are vain and unjust, it will be equally true of those which punish suicide; for that can only be punished after death, which is in the power of God alone; but it is no crime with regard to man, because the punishment falls on an innocent family. If it be objected, that the consideration of such a punishment may prevent the crime, I answer, that he who can calmly renounce the pleasure of existence, who is so weary of life as to brave the idea of eternal misery, will never be influenced by the more distant and less powerful considerations of family and children.

— Of Crimes and Punishments[7]


Within eighteen months, the book passed through six editions.[8][9][10] It was translated into French in 1766 and published with an anonymous commentary by Voltaire.[11] An English translation appeared in 1767, and it was translated into several other languages.[12] The book was read by all the luminaries of the day, including, in the United States, by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

The book's principles influenced thinking on criminal justice and punishment of offenders, leading to reforms in Europe, especially in France and at the court of Catherine II of Russia. In England, Beccaria's ideas fed into the writings on punishment of Sir William Blackstone (selectively), and more wholeheartedly those of William Eden and Jeremy Bentham.[13] The reforms he had advocated led to the abolition of the death penalty in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the first state in the world to take this measure.

Thomas Jefferson in his "Commonplace Book" copied a passage from Beccaria related to the issue of gun control: "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." His only notation on this passage was, "False idee di utilità" ("false ideas of utility").[14][15][16]


External links[edit]

Frontpage of the original Italian edition Dei delitti e delle pene.
Illustration from the 6th edition.
Dei delitti e delle pene (1766), frontpage, 6th edition.
  1. ^Cesare Beccaria (1986). On Crimes And Punishments. Hackett. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-915145-97-3. Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  2. ^
  3. ^Franklin E. Zimring (24 September 2004). The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment. Oxford University Press. pp. 34–. ISBN 978-0-19-029237-9. 
  4. ^Beccaria, ch. 2 "Of the Right to Punish"
  5. ^Beccaria, ch. 6, "Of the Proportion between Crimes and Punishment"
  6. ^See An Essay on Crimes and Punishment translated from the Italian with a Commentary attributed to Mons. Voltaire, Translated from the French (4th ed.). London: E. Newbery. 1785 [1775]. pp. 57–69. Retrieved 29 May 2016 – via Internet Archive. 
  7. ^See An Essay on Crimes and Punishment translated from the Italian with a Commentary attributed to Mons. Voltaire, Translated from the French (4th ed.). London: E. Newbery. 1785 [1775]. pp. 132–139. Retrieved 29 May 2016 – via Internet Archive. 
  8. ^See Dei delitti e delle pene, terza edizione, Rivista, corretta, e notabilmente acccresciuta dall' autore colle risposte dello stesso alle note e osservazione publicate in Venezia contro quest' opera. Si aggiunge il guidizio di un celebre prefessore (3rd ed.). Lausanna [i.e. Livorno?]. 1765. Retrieved 29 May 2016 – via Biblioteca Europea di informazione e cultura (BEIC). 
  9. ^See Dei delitti e delle pene, Edizione sesta di nuovo corretta ed accresciuta (6th ed.). Harlem [i.e. Paris?]. 1766. Retrieved 29 May 2016 – via Biblioteca Europea di informazione e cultura (BEIC). 
  10. ^See Dei delitti e delle pene, nuova edizione, Corretta, e Acccresciuta. Harlem e si vende a Parigi. 1780. Retrieved 29 May 2016 – via Biblioteca Europea di informazione e cultura (BEIC). 
  11. ^See also Traité des délits et des peines. Traduit de l'italien, d'après la troisieme edition revue, corrigée & augmentée par l'auteur. Avec des additions de l'auteur qui n'ont pas encore paru en italien. Nouvelle édition plus correcte que les précédentes (3rd ed.). Philadelphia. 1766. Retrieved 29 May 2016 – via Gallica. 
  12. ^See, for example, Tratado de los delitos y de las penas, Traducido del Italiano por D. Juan Antonio de las Casas. Madrid: Por Joachin Ibarra, Impressor de Camera de S.M. 1774. Retrieved 30 May 2016 – via Google Books. 
  13. ^Draper, Anthony J. (2000). "Cesare Beccaria's influence on English discussions of punishment, 1764–1789". History of European Ideas. 26 (3–4): 177–99. 
  14. ^'
  15. ^Halbrook, S.P. (1989). A Right to Bear Arms: State and Federal Bills of Rights and Constitutional Guarantees. Contributions in political science. Greenwood Press. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-313-26539-6. Retrieved 3 July 2017. 
  16. ^Halbrook, S.P. (2008). The Founders' Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms. Independent studies in political economy. Ivan R. Dee. p. 132. ISBN 978-1-61578-014-3. Retrieved 3 July 2017. 

The most common crime and punishment vocabulary with audios for pronunciation. This word list covers crimes, criminals, punishment, court proceedings and other useful words to write and talk about the topic of crime. Practice the words with the vocabulary exercise at the bottom of the page.

Types of Crime: Major & Minor Crime Vocabulary

These crimes are divided into crimes which are considered serious and those that are not.

Major Crimes

The list of crimes below are all nouns.

  • abduction = taking someone against their will (kidnapping)
  • arson = setting fire to a property
  • assault = a physical attack
  • burglary = illegal entry to a building with an intent to commit a crime
  • child abuse = maltreatment of a child
  • drug trafficking = importing illegal drugs
  • false imprisonment = imprisoning a person against their will
  • fraud = deception for personal or financial gain
  • hacking = unauthorised access to data in a computer system
  • hijacking = illegally getting control of an aircraft or vehicle
  • human trafficking = illegally transporting people, usually for slave labour or commercial sexual exploitation
  • murder (homicide USA)
    • premeditated murder = murder that is intentional (planned before hand)
    • unpremeditated murder – murder that is not intentional (not planned)
    • manslaughter – unintentional murder (synonym for unpremeditated murder)
    • attempted murder = planning to kill another person
    • patricide = killing one’s own father
    • genocide = systematic killing of a race or religious group
    • euthanasia = killing someone for their benefit
  • organised crime = crime by an organised gang or organisation
  • smuggling = illegal import or export
  • terrorism = unlawful violence or threat with political aims
  • white collar crime = financially motivated non-violent crime by a worker

Minor Crimes / Offences

  • pick pocketing = taking from another person’s pockets
  • shoplifting = taking products from a shop without paying for them
  • traffic offences =breaking the rules of the road and driving
    • drunk driving = driving whilst under the influence of alcohol
    • jay walking = crossing the road at an undesignated spot
    • running a red light = going through traffic lights when they are red
    • speeding = driving over the speed limit
  • vandalism = deliberate destruction or damage to a building

Vocabulary for Criminals

This list shows the person relating to the crime (the perpetrator of the crime).

  • crime = criminal
  • murder = murderer
  • theft = thief
  • trafficking = trafficker
  • hijacking = hijacker
  • terrorism = terrorist
  • smuggling = smuggler
  • shoplifting = shoplifter
  • vandalism = vandal
  • teenage criminal/ juvenile delinquent

Types of Punishment Vocabulary

  • the death penalty (capital punishment) = punishment of death
  • a prison sentence (imprisonment) = imprisonment
    • life in prison
    • 10 years
    • 6 months
  • a suspended sentence = delaying of a sentence
  • forfeiture = property is taken away (confiscated)
  • hospital order = to confine someone to hospital under arrest
  • a fine = to pay money as a punishment for an offence
  • house arrest = imprisoned in one’s own house rather than in prison
  • to suspend a license = with holding a person’s right to use their driving license for a period of time
  • to revoke a license = to take away someone’s driving license
  • non-custodial sentence = a sentence which is not done in prison
    • community service = punishment by doing community work

Other Types of Punishment

This refers to punishment commonly used by schools and parents.

  • detention = to stay in school after hours for punishment
  • to give lines = punishment where a child must write the same sentence again and again
  • isolation = to be kept apart from others as a punishment
  • grounding = to be unable to go outside home as a punishment
  • scolding = an angry reprimand
  • corporal punishment = physical punishment from a teacher or headteacher at school

Court Language

  • judge = the person who controls the court proceedings
  • jury = a group of independent people who decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty
  • justice = fairness or court law
  • trial = legal proceedings to judge whether someone is guilty of a crime
  • court = the place where the trial is held
  • defendant = the accused person: the individual or group being accused in court of a crime
  • prosecutor = the lawyer against the accused person
  • defense = the lawyer protecting the accused person
  • witness = a person who sees an event happen
  • evidence = facts or information supporting the truth
  • proof = evidence supporting a claim
  • hearsay = rumour / unsubstantiated information
  • guilty = not innocent as judged by a court of law
  • innocent = found not guilty of a crime
  • to be found guilty = the court decided that the person did commit the crime
  • conviction / verdict = formal sentence of a court
  • circumstances of the crime = a condition or situation relating to a crime
  • extenuating circumstances = a condition that makes the crime or mistake less serious and more understandable
  • take into consideration = should be thought about carefully
  • circumstantial evidence = something that connects a person indirectly to the crime (for example, a finger print at a crime scene but no actual hard evidence or witness)
  • maximum / minimum sentence = highest penalty / lowest penalty
  • a harsh punishment = hard, strict penalty
  • penalty / punishment are synonyms but penalty is often used for both minor offences and major crimes.

Other Useful Crime & Punishment Vocabulary

  • crime is prevalent = there is a lot of crime
  • armed police = police who carry guns
  • to deter (n = deterrent) = to put someone off from doing something
  • discrimination = unjust treatment
  • to be soft on crime = not to have harsh or strict punishments
  • repeat offender = a person who has committed a crime or offence more than once
  • serial criminals = criminals who repeatedly commit the same crime
  • diminished responsibility = when someone is not in a state to be considered responsible for their own actions
  • rehabilitation = to restore someone through education or therapy
  • reintegrate back into society = help someone return into society
  • peer pressure = pressure from friends or colleagues
  • role models = people whose behaviour should be copied and respected
  • mimicking violent behaviour = to copy aggressive actions

Practice Exercises with Crime Vocabulary

Complete the sentences using one or more words either from the above lists or from other vocabulary relating to this topic. The sentence must be grammatically correct once you have added the right word(s).

  1. The ………………. is the strongest deterrent against crime.
  2. The number of ……………….. is on the rise due to the impact of peer pressure at school and violent movies shown on TV. Teenagers are prone to ……………. aggressive behaviour.
  3. All people accused of a crime should be given a fair ……………. in a ………… of law.
  4. People who are convicted a murder from only ………………………. evidence should not receive the death penalty.
  5. The motives of a crime should always be taken into consideration. For example. there is a significant difference in the character of a person who commits ……………… murder and one who commits accidental murder.
  6. A ………….. sentence is more humane than capital punishment.
  7. Punishment should be the last resort. Instead criminals should be  …………………….
  8. People who commit ……….. crimes, such as traffic offences, should have their ……………….. revoked.
  9. Famous people, such as movie stars, should set a good ………… and ensure that they are good …………….. for young people to follow.
  10. …………… and the right to a fair ……………. should be the right of all citizens.
  11. Parents who inflict ……………… punishment on their children are showing children that …………….. is an acceptable way to deal with problems.
  12. Prison does not rehabilitate criminals, it only …………. them from society.   …………….. service and rehabilitation is a better way to avoid criminals becoming ………………….
  1. death penalty (the answer can’t be “capital punishment” because it doesn’t use the article “the”)
  2. juvenile delinquents / mimic
  3. trial / court
  4. circumstantial
  5. premeditated
  6. life
  7. rehabilitated
  8. minor / licenses
  9. example / role models
  10. Justice / trial
  11. corporal / violence
  12. removes / Community / repeat offenders



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