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SOCI 1F90 – Crime and Deviance
March 14, 2012
What is Criminology?
“The body of knowledge regarding crime as a social phenomenon. It includes within its scope the process
of making laws, breaking laws, and reacting towards the breaking of laws.” (Sutherland & Cressey,
- Multi-disciplinary field that focuses on the explanation of crime that takes societal factors into
account such as poverty or discrimination
- The scientific study of crime
- Information on the causes of crime, the patterns and trends of crime
- Areas of interest – development of criminal law and its use to define crime, the causes of
breaking the law and the methods implemented to control those that break the law
Clock-work orange – if the state can deprive the individual of his freewill making him a clockwork
orange, what does this say about our behavior modification techniques
Crime and Deviance
Designates certain behaviours and actions that require social control and social
intervention, codified in law
Actions that violate social norms, and that may or may not be against the law
Different from a norm or accepted standards of society
Behaviour or appearance that ‘deviates’/goes against the norms
Picking nose and eating it is deviant but you won’t go to jail for it
Most crimes are understood as deviant however all deviant acts are not criminal
Changes over Time
Female body modification used to be seen as highly deviant
o Proliferation of plastic surgery
o Tattooing, piercing
Smoking was not deviant (you could smoke everywhere)
Things that are deviant now may not be seen as deviant in a few years
What is Deviant?
What are the accepted standards?
Where is the line? When does something go from not deviant to deviant?
Sexually explicit material vs. pornography?
When does art become pornography
Any acts that involve the violation of social norms
Includes our appearance, relationships, our sexuality, where we live (i.e. on streets vs. in
a home), our jobs, how we treat our bodies (alcohol, smoking, drugs) etc.
Amsterdam legalized marijuana and prostitution while its still seen as deviant
Howard Becker (1966)
Not that act itself, rather people’s reaction to the act that makes it deviant
Who defines deviance?
Politicians/governments, scientists, religious institutions, media
Informal and formal social controls
Informally through looking-glass selves, how we believe people react to us and
how the media portrays normalized behaviour
Ways of thinking, acting and behaving
The behaviour itself
Moral status associated with such thoughts
The way people think about that behaviour
Theories on Crime Causation
a framework for understanding criminal behaviour that can then be tested
Provide us with an indication of how we can prevent or correct crime
If we can create theories of crime we can prevent it or rehabilitate people so the never
commit a crime
Translated into policy.
More strands of criminal theories than any other
No theory has ever been deemed adequate to explain all types of crime
History of Explanation for Crime and Criminals
Demonology - Evil spirits, demons and magic thought to be responsible for criminal activities
-The devil made me do it – how people would justify their actions
- Witch hunts (magicians and witches were believed to have power to direct demons)
- Punishment was physical and aimed at the offender (aimed at the witches and magicians
- Easy explanation
Rational Choice Theory
Movement to balance crime fairly
What our current laws and theories are still based upon
Beccaria and Bentham
If crime results in some form of pleasure for the criminal, then pain must be used to
prevent crime (weighing risks against benefits – if there is more pain as a punishment,
you will rationally choose that it is better to not commit the crime)
Sentences must be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime
Four beliefs of classical criminology
a) free will to choose criminal or lawful solutions and thus crime is rational choice
b)Criminal solutions are seen as more attractive to lawful ones if they require less work
for a greater payoff.
c) The fear of punishment can control people’s choice making