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SOCI 210 (61)
Chapter 7

Chapter 7 Notes (Deviance and Crime)

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Sociology (Arts)
SOCI 210
Yasmin Bayer

CHAPTER 7: CRIME AND DEVIANCE  Because norms are difference around the world, deviance is relative. It occurs not only when you break a norm, but when others have a negative reaction.  Deviance occurs when someone departs from a norm and evokes a negative reaction from others, whereas crime is deviance that is against the law. A law is a norm stipulated and enforced by government bodies.  Like deviance, crime is also relative—Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. etc. were all doing something illegal whereas the Nazis in Germany were abiding by their laws.  Sanctions: acts of deviance are punished either formally or informally, if noticed. o Informal punishment involved a mild sanction that is imposed during face-to-face interaction, not by the judicial system (raised eyebrows, gossip, shaming, stigmatization). People who are stigmatized are negatively evaluated because of a marker that distinguishes them from others and that is labeled as socially unacceptable (ex. racial discrimination). o Formal punishment takes place when the judicial system penalizes someone for breaking a law (prison time, community service, etc.)  Types of deviance/crime vary by: o Severity of the social response (from mild disproval to capital punishment) o Perceived harmfulness (not just actual harmfulness—perceived harmfulness, which changes over time). o Degree of public agreement (when the public agrees if it is deviant/criminal—even the social definition of murder varies across different cultures).  There are four types of deviance and crime: o Social diversions are minor acts of deviance that are generally perceived as relatively harmless and that evoke, at most, a mild societal reaction, such as amusement or disdain. Dying your hair purple would be an example. People are apathetic or unclear if the act is deviant. o Social deviations are non-criminal departures from norms that are nonetheless subject to official control. Some members of the public regard them as somewhat harmful while other members of the public do not. They are usually subject to an institutional sanction. An example is a boy wearing long hair in a school that mandates buzz cuts—the institutional sanction is a humiliating public haircut. o Conflict crimes are illegal acts that many people consider harmful to society. However, other people think they are not very harmful. They are punishable by the state. An example would be growing a long beard in Russia under Peter the Great (the state punishment was a tax on beards). o Consensus crimes are illegal acts that nearly all people agree are bad in themselves and harm society greatly. The state inflicts severe punishment for consensus crimes.  Measuring crime: o Crime statistics are based on information collected by the police, but they are problematic because much crime is not reported to the police, particularly in victimless crimes (victimless crimes involve violations of the law in which no victim steps forward and is identified—examples are prostitution, illegal gambling, and illegal drug use). Official statistics are also problematic because the police and the wider public decide which criminal acts to report and which to ignore (ex. if the police decide to start cracking down on drugs, more drug crimes will be reported). o Self-reported surveys (surveys where respondents are asked to report their involvement in criminal activities, either as perpetrators or victims) are another method of measuring crime. They report approx. the same amount of crime as official statistics, but with less violent crime. They tell us that a majority of Canadians have engaged in some type of criminal activity and a quarter of Canadians believe themselves to have been a victim of crime. o Indirect measures of crime are sometimes used as well—the sales of syringes are a good index for the use of illegal intravenous drugs. o Victimization surveys are surveys in which people are asked whether they have been victims of crime. They examine householders’ experiences with crime, policing, prevention, and feelings of being unsafe. Only 55% of victimization incidents are reported to the police, and property crimes more than crimes against persons. These surveys provide more details about victims but less about offenders.  To be labeled a criminal, you need to do more than commit a crime. It needs to be observed, reported to the police, and felt to justify action (investigation, report, arrest, hearing, arraignment, trial).  Crime rates are declining for four reasons: o There is a substantially larger corps of better trained and equipped law enforcement and correctional officers, including new community policing initiatives, refinement of case management methods, improvements in forensics, etc. o Demographics: young men are most prone to crime, but the Canadian population is aging and the number of young people in the population has declined. The pool of people at high risk of criminal behaviour has shrunk. o The male unemployment rate has been lower, and traditionally poor economic conditions contribute to a higher crime rate (which occurred in the 1980s and the 1990-1991 recession, but the economy has grown since then and unemployment has been down). o Declining crime rates could be linked to the legalization of abortion (this is controversial). It could have occurred because there are fewer unwanted children in the population, who are more prone to criminal behaviour because they have less parental supervision/guidance.  Criminal profiles: o Males committed 82% of crime, 18% was committed by females. o 15 to 24 year old age cohort is most prone to criminal behaviour. o Race and incarceration:  Aboriginals are only 3 percent of people over the age of 17 in Canada, but they are 18% of admissions to provincial/territorial and federal prisons (especially in Prairie provinces). Aboriginals could be overrepresented in prisons because:  A disproportionately large number of them are poor (and poverty and its handicaps are associated with elevated crime rates).  Because Aboriginal tend to commit street crimes (includes arson, breaking and entering, assault, and other illegal acts disproportionately committed by people from lower classes), which are generally more detectable than white- collar crime (an illegal act committed by a respectable, high status person in the course of work).  The police and courts may discriminate against aboriginal people.  Contact with Western culture has disrupted cultural life which has led to a weakening of social control over community members.  Many people think the same factors are at play in the high incarceration rates of black Canadians.  Surveys (in Toronto) have shown that older and better-educated whites and Asians with no criminal record are significantly less likely be stopped for police searches than are younger less well- educated whites and Asians. But age/education/lack of criminal record doesn’t insulate blacks from searches—it made them more likely. This suggests the police are keeping a closer eye on blacks with education and money.  Explaining deviance and crime: o Symbolic interactionist approaches: they focus on identifying the social circumstances that promote the learning of deviant and criminal roles.  Learning: Howard S. Becker’s study of marijuana users established that becoming a deviant/criminal is learned in social context. He found a three stage learning process—learning to smoke the drug in a way that produces real effects, learning to recognize the effects and connect them with drug use, and then learning to enjoy the perceived sensations. You have to pass through all stages because failing to pass through a stage meant failure to learn the deviant role and become a regular user. He found that learning any deviant or criminal role requires a social context where experienced deviants teach novices tricks of the trade. Through more exposure to these deviants, you will come to value the lifestyle and consider it normal. The relative availability of different types of deviants and criminals influences the type of deviant or criminal role a delinquent youth learns.  Labelling: Labelling theory holds that deviance results not so much from the actions of the deviant as from the response of others, who label the rule breaker a deviant. People are not always labeled a deviant if they deviate from norms, and some people who have done nothing wrong could be labeled as deviants. Labelling plays an important part in who is caught and charged. Labelling can be a self fulfilling prophecy because police and judges tend to be harsher on adolescents who come from divorced families, and then sociologists and criminologists use this data, “proving” that children of divorce are more likely to become juvenile delinquents. o Functionalist explanations: they focus on the social dysfunc
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