SOC 1500 Study Guide - Final Guide: Natural Surveillance, Dysfunctional Family, Gang

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Crime and Criminal Justice Textbook Chapter Notes
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Chapter 1: Crime, Fear, and Risk page #1-31:
Introduction:
While several different definitions of crime can be identified in the research literature, it would
be fair to say that the majority of these conceptualizations can be captured under one of the
two broadly based approaches: the objective-legalistic position or the social-reaction
perspective
Shows the way crime is represented by the mass media, and the impact that the media has
on public perceptions about crime is described
Concept of moral panic is introduced and research that uses this idea to highlight the role that
the media play in constructing, setting parameters, and representing crime in society
The Objective-Legalist Approach:
Objective-legalist perspective defines crime as “something that is against the law” factual
and precise understanding of crime
Views crime as a violation of legal statuses, where criminality is limited to its legal
construction
Study of crime should be restricted to what is contained in the Criminal Code of Canada
From this perspective, the proper focus of criminology / goal of criminologists is the analysis
of the “rule-breakers” in society
Primary question “what are the causes of criminal behaviour” goal is a quest to
understand why people break the law
Several theories are informed by this approach biological, psychological, and sociological
explanations of offending
Cesare Lombroso biological determinist
o Studied inmate populations and argued that these individuals are biologically
inferior to those from the non-criminological population
Psychological theories focused on searching for the causes of crime by examining individual
pathology and personality defects
o Cleckley’s work exemplifies the perspective where serious criminals (serial
killers) were thought to lack the ability to feel shame or guilt
o Gottfredson and Hirschi suggest that crime is based on a social consensus and
that those who break the law do so because they lack self-control
Law is regarded as the proper guideline in differentiating acceptable from illegal behaviour
Crime and crime control are considered to be objective phenomena
Canada’s criminal justice system is very much modeled on this objective-legalist approach
3 types of law:
1. Administrative law form of public law that governs the relationships between individuals
ad the state by regulating the activities of organizations dealing with matters such as
unemployment insurance, labour relations, and landlord and tenant relations
2. Civil law relates to arrangements between individuals, such as property disputes, wills
and contracts
3. Criminal law purpose is “to punish certain acts that have been declared to be threats to
the established social order” Boyd
Criminal Code violations generally fall into three different categories:
1. Crime against the person homicide and sexual assault
2. Property crime theft over $5000 and breaking and entering
3. Offences that are considered wrong even if there is no obvious victim pimping and
using illegal drugs
To be found guilty of most criminal offences in Canada, an individual must have committed
an “evil” act (actus reus) and have an “evil” mind (mens rea) doing the offence and meaning
to commit the offence
Crime is what is defined by legal statutes and the purpose of criminology is to find out what
causes crime so that policy-makers can implement the initiatives required to combat this
social problem
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Crime and Criminal Justice Textbook Chapter Notes
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Crime and Social Reaction:
Labeling theory considers that being identified as an outsider, or social deviant, can cause
a person to start thinking about him or herself as a “bad person,” which cal lead to the
formation of a deviant persona. Unlike most other criminological theories that assume the
crime leads to social control (labeling), the line of causal relationship is reversed: social
control (labeling) leads to crime
Labeling theorist Howard Becker argues that social groups create deviance by making the
rules whose infraction constitutes deviance and then by applying those rules to particular
people to label them as outsiders
The label is the social reaction to deviancy
If society does not create the criminal label, then there is no criminal act; crime and deviance
are considered to be social constructs
A methodological approach application involves looking at how social phenomena are
produced, institutionalized, and put into practice (also called social constructionism)
Crime is understood as a function of the claims made by individuals or groups who seek to
turn a set of conditions into a social problem
Social-Reaction the meaning of crime varies across social and cultural contexts.
Behaviour considered criminal in one society may be acceptable to people in a different
society
Attention on why certain behaviours are labeled as criminal or deviant investigated the
processes by which laws are created or reformed
Conflict criminologists or critical criminologists who operate under the assumption that society
is in a contract state of divergence, argue that laws come into being within the context of
social conflict
o Their focus is on the entire law-making process
Moral regulation the social regulation of behaviour is not based on consensus but is
mediated by a complex system of social institutions that reward and punish people, thus
defining what is right and what is wrong for society, encouraging certain forms of behaviour
while discouraging others Michael Foucault
o Maintains that people are self regulated; that people’s identities are shaped
through “self-appropriation of morals and beliefs about what is right and what is
wrong, possible and impossible, normal and pathological” Rousmaniere
Viewpoint of moral perspective is interested in how and why groups are controlled, as well as
in the ways groups resists that control
Social-reaction perspective questions will be addressed that include law-making processes
and how crime and deviance become socially constructed
Media Portrayals of Crime:
Studies of mass media, particularly television and the press, have shown how they plan an
integral role in how the general public understands the social reality of crime, and why it is
crucial to consider these media in understanding how crime is defined in society
In most media accounts of crime, crime tends to be defined primarily as events associated
with personal fear and in rick in which violence is not only commonplace, but its victims are
sympathetically portrayed and who are often let down by a judicial justice system perceived
as being too soft on criminals
Examined the treatment and presentation of crime in the mass media two well accepted
findings
1. Public knowledge about crime and justice is derived largely from the mass media
The media are primary sources of information about crime that the public relies on
2. The way crime is portrayed in the mass media differs considerably from how crime is
officially measured and defined
The way in which crime is presented in the media does not often correspond to the
picture of crime that is painted by official police statistics
News about crime that travels through interpersonal networks is more likely to induce fear
than news that travels over the airwaves of the mass media
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Factors such as gender, age, income, and perceived neighbourhood problems and police
effectiveness were much better predictors of fear of crime than was media consumption
Even though the idea that the media have a direct influence on public fears about crime is a
dubious one, there is reason to believe that the media are capable of distorting public
understandings about crime and control
Crime and Moral Panic:
Moral Panic when a condition, episode, person, or group of persons emerges to become
defined as a threat to the societal values and interests
Moral panic perspective has also informed research on the subjects of how crime is defined
and reacted to in Canada
Folk devil suggests that society creates a gallery of social types to show its members
which roles should be avoided and which should be emulated. The groups portrayed as
deviant, and of which society disapproves, occupy a constant position as folk devils: visible
reminders of what should not be
o Unemployed male youth
Incorporated the concept of risk society argues that deep changes to economies, cultures,
and social life are a conspicuous feature of global societies and because of these changes,
traditional institutions and social constructs have been transformed and the effect has been
an increase in feelings of insecurity
Certainties of life have been replaced by a state of risk, fear, self-consciousness, and
vulnerability
Larger moral panic around child abuse, pedophilia, and child pornography
Proliferation of news media and other new technologies provides more sources in society to
alert the public about crime, danger and risk fear of crime in society is enhanced and
promoted
Most attention to crime that has been analyzed according to the moral panic perspective had
focused on males
Nasty-girl phenomenon an idea perpetrated in the mass media that a new breed of
female criminal has emerged and is on the rise; a form of “folk devil”
o Not only were teenage girls thought to be increasingly violent, but the numbers of
teenage girls who were getting involved in violent crime was thought to be on the
rise
Harmful effects of modern popular culture gangsta rap, sexualized music videos, and teen
fashion magazines are depicted as the culprits for the rise of the nasty girl
The sharp rise in violent crime by young female offenders has more to do with a rise in minor
assaults, such as pushing and slapping, than a rise in the number of seriously damaging
crimes, such as murder
Criticisms:
Moral panic framework has been criticized on the basis that it often does not pay enough
attention to the fact that all social reaction is not the same, and that the audiences today are
more sophisticated and less likely to be manipulated by the media than in the past
Challenged on the basis that understanding social change is not advanced by simply pointing
out that “X or Y fear is not justified by crime statistics”
Conclusion:
Objective-legalist framework normally relies on legal definitions of crime and considers the
criminologist’s task to be an explanation of how and why rule-breaking occurs in society
Criminologists working with definitions of crime informed by the social-reaction perspective
are more interested in knowing about the ways in which society reacts to those who have
been targeted and labeled as rule-breakers emphasis on the structures and processes
associated with rule-making, not rule-breaking
The media generally defines crime according to a police-informed, legalist perspective, so
law-and-order responses dominate public and political discourses about the remedies
required to confront crime
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