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Historical Roots
Criminology was formed as an academic discipline in Israel as early as 1959 with the establishment of the Institute of Criminology at the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The founder of the institute was Dr. Israel Drapkin, who was appointed the United Nations technical assistance administration expert in Israel for criminological studies and services. Drapkin imported to Israel the prevailing approach of the time, which saw criminology as a technique aiming to assist authorities to treat, punish, and discipline offenders. This approach emphasized the use of knowledge in the designing and operating of the social control apparatus. Drapkin’s practical and academic career in Chile was the manifestation of this view, since he combined two enterprises established and institutionalized during the first half of the twentieth century: the “governmental project” (Garland, 1994:18) aimed to find ways to govern crime and criminals by strengthening the efficiency of crime control institutions and the “Lombrosian project” (ibid.). It endeavored to differentiate the deviant individual from the normal law-abiding citizen, developing an etiological-oriented approach, searching causes of crime within certain individuals.

Having been trained within the Italian model as a criminal anthropologist, Drapkin started his engagement with the study of physically and socially marginalized persons in the examination of lepers in Easter Island at the beginning of the 1930s. From this initial step he went on to investigate, categorize, and catalogue physical traits of the island’s natives. He then examined segregated criminals in a penitentiary in Chile, searching for physical and psychological traits of criminals (Drapkin, 1979:10).

In 1936, Drapkin was appointed the director of a newly created Institute of Criminology located within the penitentiary of Santiago in Chile. In this institute Drapkin’s criminal anthropology had a practical orientation: on the one hand, he was in charge of the physical anthropological exanimation of the inmates. On the other hand, he had to report to the ministry of justice “on every serious breach of discipline; cases of homosexual behavior that might be discovered by the guards; or instances in which there were doubts as to the mental equilibrium of a given inmate (Drapkin, 1979:11). The institute also offered courses to high-ranking officers of the Chilean police as part of their training.

Drapkin introduced this blend of practical and anthropological investigation to the Institute of Criminology at the Hebrew University. It shaped its academic and public activities during its early years. He saw the institute as a leading mechanism for public awareness to problems of crime and delinquency, searching in a scientific way for causes of crime and informing the authorities of efficient ways for crime control. Indeed this approach directed the institute’s framework of analysis, the focus of substantive areas, and other academic activities. During its first years, the institute offered such courses as theoretical and clinical criminology, clinical criminology, social pathology, and forensic psychiatry, taught by scholars specializing in legal studies, special education, and psychiatry. Students attending these courses, leading to a diploma in criminology, were judges, attorneys, probation officers, and social workers. The graduates of the institute were expected to utilize their training in order to “recognize the motivations of the offenders…to prevent recidivism…and to recognize potential deviant behavior” (Drapkin 1979: 27). For several years, the institute, with the cooperation of the Israeli police, operated a criminalistic laboratory in which staff members could make various examinations of evidentiary material in order to arrive at “valid scientific conclusions” (Drapkin, 1979: 23). In addition, a psychological laboratory was established where psychological tests evaluated the characteristics of criminals.

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