Complete CRIM1000 Notes

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University of Queensland
Dr Robin Fitzgerald

CRIM1000 Defining and measuring crime Crime refers to violations of social norms Deviance: the behaviour that violates the normative rules, understandings or expectations of social systems Disorder: triggers feelings of crime; gives impression that nobody cares Physical: littering, graffiti Social: loitering, loud arguments, public drinking William Sumner (1906) Folkways: simple everyday norms i.e. personal space Mores: broad societal norms i.e. adultery Laws: strongest norms i.e. murder Ways of defining crime Formal legal definition: defined by state, proscribed by criminal law Social harm: criminal and civil offences Cross-cultural universal norms: crime which does not vary e.g. murder Labelling: only exists where there is a social response to an activity i.e. cannabis Human rights: any violation of a human right, regardless of whether state-recognised i.e. racism, sexism Human diversity: oppressive or unequal circumstances i.e. power relations The act & the intent Both must be present to constitute a crime - Actus reus: conduct that caused the crime - Mens rea: prescribed state of mind Legal personhood: all adults have the necessary mental capacity to make judgements and take responsibility for actions (children under 10 Measuring crime Fundamental to development of criminological knowledge Allows us to: • Understand nature and extent of crime in society • Track crime trends and emerging problems • Assess limitations of crime statistics • Evaluate theories of criminal behaviour Administrative data sources: Data recorded by police, courts, corrections and other criminal justice agencies Self report studies: self-reported crime and delinquency surveys or victimization surveys Issues in measuring crime • Non-reported crime (dark figure of crime) e.g. domestic violence, sexual assault o People do not report due to fear, distrust of police or do not view as a crime • Reliability and validity can be problematic o Crime funnel: Very small minority serve custodial sentence from original number of offenders • Low funding • Misses high rate groups • Rely on respondent truthfulness, memory and understanding • Reporting issues e.g. falsification and undercounting • Does not reveal victimless crimes i.e. forgery, drug dealing Trends in crime Age-crime curve • Peak from 15-25 years consistently over all races, genders and cultures Drop in crime rates (2001-2008) • Drop in unemployment • Type of crime – less detectable due to technology • Baby boomer generation – older, not at offending age Increase in prison custody rate (incarceration) • Indigenous and women groups increasing • Males continue to dominate crime figures Moral Panics An episode, condition, person or group of persons that has been defined as a threat of societal values and interests Act can be (and often is) real but is exaggerated - Compared with other reliable, valid, objective sources - Compared with other serious problems Characterised by ‘stylised and stereotypical’ representation by the mass media E.g. Salem witch hunts, drug use, 1960s sexual revolution Requirements for a moral panic • A suitable enemy – a soft target, easily denounced • A suitable victim – anybody could be next • A consensus that the act was not an isolated event • An event which is deceptively ordinary and routine • Warn of a deeper, more prevalent social condition Deviancy amplification spiral Initial outbreak of abnormal behavior generates enormous media reaction  Forces people to intervene more strongly in subsequent disturbances, increasing the numbers arrested  Fosters public concern  Rising number of arrests seems to justify initial concerns and policing strategies Actors in drama of moral panic • Mass media • Public • Agents of social control • Lawmakers and politicians • Action groups Cohen (1937): - Investigated the rise of ‘moral entrepreneurs’ to media personalities and how the press played up the ‘danger’ represented by working class young people - ‘Folk devils’ are a person/group portrayed by the media as outsiders and deviant, who are blamed for crimes and social problems - Process of deviance amplification culminates into a moral panic Cohen’s 7 clusters of social identity: • Young working-class, violent males • School violence, school bullying, school shootings • Psychoactive drug users • Paedophilia/satanic rituals • Sex/violence and the role of the media • Welfare cheats/single mothers • Refugees/asylum seekers Impact of Moral Panics • Shape definitions of crime and crime control • Producing legal charges e.g. ethnic youth gangs • Symbiotic relationship between police and media – sensational view of crime • Produces fear of crime • Shift toward neo-liberal forms of governing – creating ‘responsibilised citizens’ Influence of media messages • Passive recipients of media messages o Traditional emphasis on power e.g. propaganda in WWII o Through new communications technologies audiences are passive receptors of messages • Exercise our own decision-making power o Audiences choose to consume what they will consume o Interact actively with media material • Perceptions of crime are ‘mediated’ or influenced by our own conditions and characteristics Gender & crime Correlate of crime: a factor related to crime but not necessarily a cause i.e. social class, sex, race or age Approaches to gender and crime Criminology has historically neglected gender and focused on generalized explanations e.g. women’s inferiority or assuming biological or psychological differences between gender Freda Adler (1975): women would become more violent as they moved out of traditional social roles Rita James Simon (1975): shift out of traditional roles opens more opportunities Generalisibility: based on men; can they be modified to include women? Gender-ratio problem: why are men violent? Or why aren’t women violent? Significance of gender and crime Strongest predictor of offending and involvement - Men are far more likely to commit an offence than women across almost all categories - Homicide and violent assault perpetrated by young men (responsible for 9 in 10 homicides) - Serious crime arrests highest under males under 20 years Gender and victimization - Men account for majority of victims of violent crime - Women outnumber men in rates of some forms of victimization i.e. sexual assault - Women more likely to know their assailant (81% of female victims of assault) Explanations of gender-crime relationship • Lombroso: typical female traits ‘piety, maternity, underdeveloped intelligence and weakness’ • Otto Pollak: actual crime rates are equal but men are socialized to treat women • Heidensohn: women’s lower crime rate explained in terms of patriarchy and social control • Messerschmidt: socialized to be ‘female’ so committing crime a strategy to construct themselves as men Race & crime Race-crime relationship Race: socially and historically constructed categories and identities – differs from ethnicity which highlights the shared historical, linguistic and cultural values of a particular group Some racial minority groups are over-represented in crime statistics and institutionalized settings - Indigenous population much more likely to be arrested and incarcerated Most violent crime is intra-racial Explanations for disproportionate minority contact (DMC) Differential involvement: over-representation results from racial differences in the incidence and the seriousness of offending (they offend more) - No strong evidence for this theory Differential treatment: results from decision-making processes that operate different for members of different racial groups (they are stopped, detained and arrested more) - Disproportionately reside in impoverished communities - Experience social and economic exclusion - Less likely to complete compulsory education - Have the highest rate of unemployment - However, taking into account risk factors and offending behaviour does not reduce the chances of minority contact with the criminal justice system Theories of the race-crime relationship • Conflict theorists: DMC result of race and class-motivated disparities • Social control theory (Hirschi): crime most commonly perpetrated by individuals who lack strong bonds • Subculture of violence theory (Wolfgang): certain groups view violence as an appropriate response to what are perceived as threatening situations • Social disorganization theory (Sampson): high rates of crime are largely the result of a heterogeneous and impoverished social ecology • Critical race theory: concerned with the role that law plays in constructing ‘race’ and reproducing majority racial power Social class & crime Class system: social ranking based primarily on economic position in which achieved characteristics influence mobility Indicators of social class: • Income and wealth • Occupation • Education • Power Elements of poverty: low income, empowerment and resources, preventing full participation in society - Material deprivation: lack of basic needs, housing, employment, physical and mental health issues - Social deprivation: lack of access to labour market, education, social support or recreation Class system in Australia • Upper class – high income, occupation prestige, education • Middle class – middle income, two incomes needed • Working class – low income, service sector employment Subjective definition and boundary between classes Theories of social class Karl Marx: class defined by relationship to production - Whether one owns and/or controls the wealth and production (bourgeoisie) or survives from the sale of their own labor power (proletariat) - Law and criminal used by the state to support the interests of the bourgeoisie Max Weber: class location determined by people’s market situation, skills or education - Sought a solution in equal opportunity within a competitive class sytem Early explanations of the class-crime relationship Guerry (1829): measure of wealth by taxation, literacy - Wealthiest regions of France had the highest rates of property crime - Most educated areas had highest violent crime rates Quetelet (1828): some individuals committed more crime than others - Young male, unemployed and under-educated - Tended to commit crimes in wealthier areas Conclusions about class-crime relationship Studies of aggregate crime rate and economy are mixed i.e. some find negative relationship (unemployment rises, crime does not rise); others find positive relationship (unemployment rises, crime rises) Some evidence to suggest economic inequality matters in relation to crime; most likely conditional on other community factors e.g. low social support, collective efficacy and social capital Age & crime • Universal agreement on the shape of the age-crime curve • Young people generate a disproportionate amount of crime • Crime rates rise rapidly throughout the adolescent years, peak in late teens then steadily decline Criminal career: the length of one’s offending over life course Career criminal: chronic offender Participation: whether person has ‘ever’ committed a crime Frequency: rate of criminal offending of individuals Onset: beginning of a criminal career Desistence: end of a criminal career Age-Crime views Traditional view: age-crime curve is ‘invariant’ - Changes of crime rate due to changes in frequency - Number of offenders stays the same but each offender commits fewer offences - All offenders and offences have the same age-crime curve Developmental perspective: change in crime rate caused by change in participation - Number of offenders declines but a few chronic offenders still commit a substantial amount of crime - Those who continue to offend are ‘career criminals’ Invariance thesis (Gottfredson & Hirschi) Criminal propensity position: some people are more prone and others less prone to commit crime - Each individual’s propensity to engage in criminal acts is relatively stable after age 8 - Crime declines over time for all offenders Hypothesize that self-control explains individual propensity to commit crime - Crime a by-product of those with low self-control who come into contact with illegal opportunities - After age 8 self-control is set, therefore criminality not affected by criminal justice interventions Dual Taxonomy (Moffitt) Offenders have different trajectories over their ‘criminal careers’ Life Course Persistent (LCPs) - About 5% - Problem behaviour stable over age periods - Etiology linked to pre/postnatal care plus environmental conditions - Neuropsychological deficits underlie temperament, developmental milestones and cognitive abilities – interaction with environment creates antisocial personality which is fixed Adolescent Limited Offenders - Begins in early adolescence - Large group and low versatility (only in some circumstances) - Etiology linked to maturity gap (dependent on parents but desire independence) and peer influences - Been responded to with consistent and reasonable discipline Age-graded theory (Sampson & Laub) Wanted to find out what happened to offending rates into middle and old age Research on Glueck and Glueck data found: - Enormous variability in the peak ages of offending and desistance - Crime declines with age for all offenders Causes of criminal offending change over the life course - Continuity explained by ‘cumulative continuity’ (continued failure from an early age) - Desisting from offending can be explained by the quality and strength of social ties Implications of this theory: - Long term incarceration is ineffective - Early intervention is good – family context and structure is significant - Focus on turning points e.g. employment prospects, education completion, marriage, parenthood Early aggression (Richard Tremblay) We all have a propensity for early aggression - Controlled by social learning by 2-4 years - Only small proportion continue Individual theories of crime Basic principles • Crime explained by examining individual differences between people • Individual differences linked to certain biological and/or psychological factors • Crime is something in the ‘nature’ of the individual • Criminals are different and defective and therefore biologically and psychologically ‘inferior’ Historical evolution of theories Popularity changes over time: - 19 century-1930s: Biological theories widely accepted - Popularity lapse due to rise of sociological explanations - 1950s-1970s: re-emergence of individualistic theories Early biological theories: - Crime is not a rational behaviour but a result of inborn abnormalities - Crime is the result of biological defects, thus criminals are biologically inferior Phrenology (Gall) Moral and intellectual faculties are innate - Specific mental functions and personality characteristics can be precisely localized in modular brain regions - External bumps in the skull correlate with personality characteristics The ‘born criminal’ (Lombroso) Studied anatomical features of the human body to identify a physical criminal type Theory of Atavism - Criminals are biologically inferior - Based on Darwin’s theory of Evolution Three types: - Born criminals: characterized by sloping forehead and asymmetry of the face - Insane criminals: developmentally disabled and mentally ill - Criminaloids: occasional criminals under certain situations (majority of offenders) Scientific Positivism (Lombroso) Interested in explaining the ‘cause’ of offending – saw causes as lying outside the individual’s control (deterministic approach) Cued a shift away from Classical School toward quest for scientific laws Body types and crime (Sheldon, 1940-50s) - Endomorphs: relaxed, sociable and fond of eating - Ectomorphs: artistic, introverted and sensitive - Mesomorphs: energetic, courageous and assertive Studied delinquent males and found higher rates of mesomorphs Body type and crime (Glueck and Glueck) - Found higher rates of mesomorphs amongst delinquent group - More likely to be characterized by traits associated with aggression and strength Critiques of Individual Theories • Methodological weaknesses: o Small samples, representatives, comparison groups o Overly deterministic – either biology or psychology completely determines o Equate correlation with causation o Inference problem – who does it apply to? o Spatial distribution problem • Criminal behaviour reduced to a single cause • Unclear what role personality characteristics play • How do we correct ‘biological defects’? Heredity of crime Early theories did not properly account for possible influence of the environment Later developments separated impact of genes from impact of environment e.g. twin and adoption studies Early twin studies (Christiansen) Studied twins born between 1881 and 1910 – determined if one or both twins had become criminal - Male identical twins: where one twin sentenced, other twin sentenced 36% of time - Male fraternal twins: where one twin sentenced, other twin sentenced 12% of time Adoption studies (Hutchings and Mednick, 1977) Examined all non-famil male adoptions between 1927-1941 - Adopted boys more likely to commit crimes when their biological fathers had also committed crimes - When both adoptive and biological
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