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Cesare Beccaria was one of the greatest minds of the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century. His writings on criminology and economics were well ahead of their time.
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While retaining his career in economics, in 1790 Beccaria served on a committee that promoted civil and criminal law reform in Lombardy, Italy.
Near the end of his life, Beccaria was depressed by the excesses of the French Revolution and withdrew from his family and friends. He died on November 28, 1794, in his birthplace of Milan, Italy.
Following his death, talk of Beccaria spread to France and England. People speculated as to whether Beccaria’s lack of recent writing on criminal justice was evidence that he had been silenced by the British government. In fact, Beccaria, prone to periodic bouts of depression and misanthropy, had grown silent on his own.
A forerunner in criminology, Beccaria’s influence during his lifetime extended to shaping the rights listed in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. "On Crimes and Punishments" served as a guide to the founding fathers.
Beccaria’s theories, as expressed in his treatise "On Crimes and Punishments," have continued to play a role in recent times. Recent policies impacted by his theories include, but are not limited to, truth in sentencing, swift punishment and the abolishment of the death penalty in some U.S. states. While many of Beccaria’s theories are popular, some are still a source of heated controversy, even more than two centuries after the famed criminologist’s death.
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