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Soc102 Lec 8

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University of Toronto St. George
Lorne Tepperman

Sociology Lecture 8: consequences of Inequality 2: Crime and Punishment How Does Inequality Influence Crime and Punishment? -higher inequality leads to higher crimes and victimization by crime -criminal behavior is not just a result of criminal opportunities or low self-control -result of social injustice -need to understand the society that gives rise to it. Crime and Punishment Are Important Indicators of How a Society is Working -crime rates fluctuate over time from one society to another -so do rates and kinds of punishment -there is no intelligent relation between amount of crime and punishment though -societies simply vary in how they handle crime -Punishment symbolizes society’s commitment to reinforce code of rules -identifies whose in power in society -shows a culture of both good and bad Many Factors, Other Than Inequality, Affect Likelihood of Crime -long recognized association between Alcohol consumption with violent/aggressive behavior. -drug abuse may lead to similar affects -violence occurs in order to buy drugs or maintain control over drug distribution Substance Abuse is Particularly a Big Problem in our Society -it elevates crime levels -powerful effect on mentally ill -these people already have a greater risk in tendency towards substance abuse Childhood and Youth Experiences Affect Likelihood of Criminal Behaviour -Other social factors that influence crime include 1) childhood maltreatment Ex: neglect, abuse 2) peer influences -can be at home, friends etc -group setting and peer influence can motivate crime commission Even Education Makes a Difference -poor education increases likelihood of crime -same for people with low IQ or learning disability -perhaps due to barriers to opportunities of success -perhaps due to stigmatization and exclusion Other Influences Include Policing, Firearms, and the Mass Media -Policing tends to decrease crime behavior -in turn, increase crime rates -Increase availability of firearms -increase rates of homicide, robbery, suicide and other criminality -serious debate of mass media role in criminality Inequality is Among the Most Important Influences on Crime -particularly social inequality -inequality interacts with previously mentioned causes -yields variable criminal outcomes -things seen in tumblers seen as factors in crime rate Sociologists Debate the Role of Inequality in Crime -for a decade, sociologists, criminologists and policy experts have debated this issue -no resolution so far -3 central questions about crime and inequality remain 1) What kind of crime are we examining -expect that you would have lots of poverty crime (robbery) in impoverished socieites -however harder to explain relation between violent crimes in such societies 2) What kind of person or potential criminal are we concerned with? -look at the social context of individual -only select members become criminals -others in similar positions don't 3) what social, economic and cultural factors contextualize (or moderate) the connection between inequality and crime -inequality operates at societal level -crime is at personal level Who does What to Whom and how is That Related to Inequality -problem is defining the crimes that result from inequality -especially whether we are discussing property or violence crimes -debate surrounds link between macro-level (societal) and micro-level variables related to crime and victimization -such as social inequality and things like age, sex, marital status or income The Link Between Inequality and Crime: Where, What, How, When and Who? - property crime shows the clearest connection between crime and inequality -most rational and practical response to economic inequality -easy to see why poor people commit theft and robberies -connection is least ambiguous Why Violent Crime? -property crime has the least ambiguous connection with inequality -research finds link between violent crime and inequality Ex: rates of murder, rape and suicide -stats tell us unequal and poor communities/societies have higher violent crime rate The Role of Government Policies -Government policies increases income inequality -contribute to high crime rate -could reduce crime by reducing inequality -do so by steeper taxation and more income distribution -crime however will not be eliminated -inequality will still exist under communism Subcultures of Inequality in Eastern Europe -subculture inequalities developed during and after WWII -this despite communist ideologies -Subcultures included -closed knit networks at top and bottom society -non-egalitarian and collectivist value patterns -this contributed to violence and high level corruption -continue today now that communism is gone -not wholly due to market capitalism Self-Interested Values as a Source of Crime and Victimization -self-interested values taught in high inequality, low trust level societies -increases rate of crime and victimization -values are found in both more developed and less developed societies Inequality and Crime -Data by Wilkinson -stats show us higher income inequality leads to higher homicide rates -slope indicates not an ideal strong correlation (low slope) -also a high dispersion -In US, this has been linked to high income and racial inequality -Note: US is an outlier because income alone cannot be used as an explanation Ex: racism, firearms -firearms will lead to more killings regardless of inequality -Singapore: below line by big amount -far less social pathology then predicted -due to it being a very managed society -from legislations, public services and institutions -enforces law strictly -this despite high inequality Racial Inequality is Also Evident in the Unequal Distribution of Punishment -mass incarceration of black males in US connected to “War On Drugs” -blacks are disproportionately poor, arrested and convicted in US -not as much in Canada, but still present -likely due to Canadian Police forces less crazy about drug laws (i.e. marijuana) -bigger deal in US -This has 3 main links to inequality 1) Organization of criminal justice comes down on poor black men hardest -racial profiling 2) Excess imprisonment of poor black men conceals actual rates of black disadvantage in US -used as a way to hide the disadvantage of black populations -problems with undereducation, under employment -convicts and ex-convicts usually ignored in gathering of official stats 3) Face a variety of disadvantage upon release from prison -include social stigma, interrupted education and shattered families -hinder ability to keep or find jobs -unable to maintain stable family lives Crime and Punishment in the US Signal the Failure of Market-Based Neoliberalism -John Hagan: an understanding of links between crime and inequality joins criminologist in opposition to a largely unspoken but still influential economic and political perspective on crime -perspective that inequality is necessary for liberty and productivity -i.e. individualism and efficiency The Disadvantaged Have Less to Lose From Punishment, so Deterrence Doesn’t Work -Legal sanctions more likely to work on those who lose more from crime (i.e. social-in groups -the poor are too busy dealing with everyday survival issues -little chance to develop resources and skills that will help them do well by society rules -low opportunity costs, little stake in conformity People Turn to Crime When it is the Most Available and Attractive Alternative -problems related to inequality are compounded when one is so deep into a network of crime, they have little opportunity to escape -at this point, people find it easier to work in a criminal system - it is not a personality or moral issue -it is a social problem because these people have it easier in crime then conforming The Anomie (of Strain) Theory of Robert Merton -studied how it was possible a highly unequal society could survive -i.e. capitalism is brutal to the poor -Theory is the most famous sociological explanation on crime -Proposes crime (in Canadian or American society) is an adaptation to social inequality -some people have less access to education and employment -these are culturally accepted ways to attain a good life -socialized to believe in what is considered success and failure by society -everyone is socialized to want to be winners -i.e.: hard work = rewards -desire materials and symbols of success -people are however born to different ability to access institutionalized socially acceptable means for success -i.e. private lessons -poor don't have these advantages -have to work more -disadvantages conspire against you Crime as an Innovative Adaptation to “Anomie” caused by Inequality -according to Merton, the gap between the cultural goals and available legitimate means creates anomie or “strain” -taken from Durkheim (though in a different context) -one adapts to gap by either giving
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