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SOC102H1 (261)

Crime and punishment

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University of Toronto St. George
Lorne Tepperman

Crime and punishment Crime is: - The behaviour of normal people bending the rules - The behaviour of normal people in deviant roles - The behaviour of normal people in abnormal situations - The result of unequal opportunities to conform and the result of deviant learning (imitation).  Criminal law attaches moral responsibility (blame) to people’s behaviour Justice is about rules and the evaluation of rule-breaking  Some laws are about the $ amount stolen - Others are not  Some laws offer the police and judge’s discretion - Others do not  Law enforcement assumes knowledge of the laws- you can’t get out of being punished by the law if you were not aware of the law itself as the law assumes that you are aware of what you can or cannot do. Inequality= distrust= fear of crime Moral panic  A moral panic occurs when a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests.  Moral panics reveal and aggravate social tensions that are hard to resole  During a moral panic, the media act as agents of moral indignation. Crime narratives vary over time and place  What a society defines as crime is socially constructed and culturally relative, it varies over time and from one place to another  These social constructions are influenced by: - Ideas of morality and responsibility - Religious faith (sinful nature of crime) - Competing scientific and professions claims about the origin of crime The normality of crime (Durkheim)  No society is without crime of various types, however all crime is understandable only within the given socio-historical context  When crime rates vary, many different explanations are available. Too much lawlessness (right) vs. too much repression (left)  Higher rates may reflect more lawlessness (too little law and order) OR  Higher rates may reflect more repression ( too much law and order 3 important sociological questions in theorizing about crime  Why do people commit crimes?  Why are some behaviours outlawed and others not?  Why are some “kinds” of people more or less likely than others to be labelled and punished as “deviant”? Merton’s anomie theory (or strain theory)  Inequality creates a gap between culture goals (material success) and the means available to pursue these goals  This map creates strain or anomie  Poor people and minorities are most likely to experience this gap  Therefore they are most likely to undertake “adaptations to anomie”  According to Merton’s anomie theory, criminals accept society’s cultural goals but reject conventional means of pursuing them. Eg: - Rebels try to fight the system and choose to make new means and new goals - Innovators have the same goals as anyone else but choose to get to their goals through crime Inequality affects the likelihood of violent behaviour  Some societies are much more violent than others; - In the USA, a child is killed by a gun every three minutes  Violence is more common in more unequal societies because it i
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