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SOC101Y1 Lecture Notes - Karla Homolka, Paul Bernardo, Marital Rape

Course Code
Robert Brym

of 4
Feb. 9th, 2011
Crime & Deviance
Karla Homolka & Paul Bernardo case v. Westray mine disaster -> despite
negligence on the part of the mine owners, they were not held criminally responsible in
the disaster that led to deaths of 26 miners {N.B. considered not to be all that serious,
which is why we havent heard about it}
2/3rds more industrial accidents leading to deaths than there are homicides
What constitutes murder varies {e.g. Inuit infanticide when the community
unable to feed another individual, not murder?}
People we consider heroes today were not considered to be deviants & criminals
{Martin Luther, Jesus, Socrates, & Louis Riel}
Definition of who is a criminal varies over time & place
Some groups have more power to define what is crime, to punish deviance &
Definitions I
Deviance: involves breaking a norm & eliciting a negative reaction from others.
Informal punishment: is mild & may involve raised eyebrows, gossip, ostracism
Stigmatization: when people are stigmatized, they are negatively evaluated
because of a perceptible sign that distinguishes them from others.
Formal punishment results from people breaking laws, which are norms
stipulated and enforced by government bodies.
Definitions II
Social diversions: are minor acts of deviance such as participating in fads.
Social deviations: are more serious acts. A larger proportion of people agree
they are deviant & somewhat harmful, & they are usually subject to institutional
The state defines conflict crimes as illegal but the definition is controversial in
the wider society.
Consensus crimes: are widely agreed to be bad in themselves.
Definitions II I
Power: is the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a
position to carry out his or her own will despite resistance.
White-collar crime: refers to illegal acts committed by a person of respectability
& high social status in the course of his or her occupation. {Price fixing, embezzlement}
Street crimes: include arson, burglary, robbery, assault, & other illegal acts.
They are committed disproportionately by people from lower classes.
{Crimes against women; for example rape --> simple rape was considered to be
rape committed by someone that the victim knew, marital rape: committed by a spouse}
Women more powerful than they were in the 1970s --> earn more, more political
influence, position in family, level of education. As power increased = prosecution
Criminologists & sociologists believe that white-collar crime costs society more
than street crimes, white-collar crime rarely convicted
WHY? 1) Takes place in private & difficult to detect; 2) corporations can afford
legal experts & lobbyists who can advise their clients to bend the law, & 3) influence
lawmakers to pass laws without teeth
Under-detected, under-prosecuted because they are committed by the well to do
Crime Statistics:
Not objective, also depend heavily upon policy upon which governments say there
should be focus
A lot of crime is not reported to the police
Crime decreases --> from western to eastern Canada
Crime rate has decreased since the 1990s (rose in the 60s-1991, then decreased)
Greater availability of guns = increases homicide rate
Young women more prone to crime now than they were in the 90s --> girls in
families have more freedom now, as patterns of socialization have changed, they engage
in more deviant activity
Crime has a distinct racial distribution -> 2 categories of Canadians have a
disproportionately high rate of crime: Aboriginals & Blacks
Why the crime rate for Aboriginals & Blacks is higher than the crime rate for
whites in North America:
Racism exists in the criminal justice system (e.g., age, class, & lack of criminal
activity act as prophylactics against stops & searches for whites & Asians, but not
Aboriginal & black men experience relatively high discrimination, high
unemployment, & low per capita income as a result of their race
*After tripling between 1961-1991, crime dropped. WHY?
1)Some believe that there is less crime because there are more police = less crime,
however there is no correlation between the density of policing & the rate of criminal
activity OR
2)We are charging more criminals = less crime, however Canada is roughly average
in its incarceration rate, since the 90s # of Canadians involved in criminal activity
crime decreased -> less people incarcerated
3)**Crime rate related to the state of the economy -> (I) usually crime rates
fluctuate with employment rates, people engage in more crime when they cannot find
work; (II) young men responsible for hugely disproportionate amount of criminal
activity = proportion of young males (prime criminal category) has declined, (II) decline
in crime started 19 years after abortion was legalized -> fewer unwanted children who
wouldnt have the supervision & guidance of their parents led to a decrease in crime
(unwanted children often to be more prone to crime)
Definitions IV
Victimless crimes: such as prostitution & illegal drug use, involve violations of the law
in which no victim steps forward & is identified.
Self-report surveys: are especially useful. In such surveys, respondents are asked to
report their involvement in criminal activities, either as perpetrators or as victims.
The Two Big Trends in Social Control:
1)The medicalization of deviance. Medical definitions of deviant behaviour are
becoming more prevalent
2)Getting tough on crime
Why deviance is becoming medicalized:
Many North Americans are experiencing more stress, due mainly to the increased
demands of work & a growing time crunch
Traditional institutions for dealing with mental health problems are less able to
cope with them
North American culture predisposes people to define social problems
Various professional organizations have an interest in inflating the # & scope of
mental disorders