SOC 2700 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: White-Collar Crime, Lawbreakers, Homicide

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January 19th, 2016
Chapter 5: Choice Theory – page #125-161:
Terms and Definitions:
Choice theory the view that delinquent behaviour is a rational choice made by a motivated
offender who perceives the chances of gain as outweighing any perceived punishment or
loss
Classical criminology the theory that people have free will, choose to commit crime for
reasons of greed or need, and can be controlled only by the fear of criminal sanctions
Utilitarianism a view that believes punishment or crime should be balanced and fair, and
that even criminal behaviour is purposeful and reasonable
Crime displacement an effect of crime prevention efforts, in which efforts to control crime
in one area shift illegal activities to another area
Offence-specific crime an illicit act committed by offenders reacting selectively to
characteristics of particular offences, assessing opportunity and guardianship; relevant to
routine activities theory
Offender-specific crime an illegal act committed by offenders who do not usually engage
in random acts of antisocial behaviour, but who evaluate their skill at accomplishing crime
Rational choice theory the view that crime is a function of a decision-making process, in
which the potential offender weighs the potential costs and benefits of an illegal act
Routine activities theory the view that crime is a normal function of routine activities of
modern living; offences occur when a suitable target is not protected by capable guardians
Macro perspective a large-scale view that takes into account social and economic reasons
to explain how and why things happen; relevant to Marxism and functionalism
Micro perspective a small-scale view of events, looking at interaction to explain how and
why things happen; relevant to interactionist studies of deviance and development
Capable guardians in routine activities theory, the presence of police, homeowners,
neighbours, and others, which can have a deterrent effect on crime
Motivated criminals the potential offenders in a population; according to rational choice
theory, crime rates vary according to the number of motivated offenders
Instrumental crime illegal activity, such as the sale of narcotics, committed for the purpose
of obtaining desired goods that are unable to be attained through conventional means
Seductions of crime according to Katz, the visceral and emotional appear that the
situation of crime has for those who engage in illegal acts
Situational crime prevention a method to eliminate or reduce particular crimes in narrow
settings, such as increasing lighting and installing security alarms
Defensible space the principle that crime prevention can be achieved through modifying
the physical environment to reduce the opportunity individuals have to commit crime
Target reduction strategies methods for reducing crime through the use of locks, bars,
alarms, and other devices; based on the routine activities theory and its analysis of potential
risk factors
Extinction the phenomenon in which a crime prevention effort has an immediate impact
that dissipates as criminals adjust to new conditions
Diffusion of benefits an effect that occurs when an effort to control one type of crime that
has the unexpected benefit of reducing the incidence of another type of crime
Discouragementthe effect when efforts made to eliminate on type of crime also control
other types of crime by limiting access to desirable targets and thereby reducing the value of
criminal activity
General deterrence a crime control policy that depends on the fear of criminal penalties,
such as long prison sentences for violent crime, aimed at convincing the potential law
violators that the pains associated with crime outweigh its benefits
Crackdown the concentration of police resources on a particular problem area, such as
street-level drug dealing, to eradicate or displace criminal activity
Brutalization effect the outcome of capital punishment having created an atmosphere of
brutality, which reinforces the view that violence is an appropriate response to provocation
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January 19th, 2016
Conflict-linked crime or violence an expressive crime or an act of expressive violence
involving people who know each other and who may be under the influence of drugs
Perceptual deterrence the view that the perceived risk of being caught or the threat of
severe punishments can deter active criminal offenders
Informal sanctions the disapproval of parents, peers, and neighbours directed toward an
offender, which may have a greater crime-reducing impact than the fear of formal legal
punishments
Specific deterrence a crime control policy suggesting that punishment be severe; that
individuals can be prevented from committing a crime if cost outweighs benefit
Reintegrative shaming a method of correction that encourages offenders to confront their
misdeeds, experience shame, and then be reincluded in society
Stigmatization an occurring label that taints a person’s identity and changes him or her in
the eyes of others
Degradation shaming occurs when the offender is branded as evil and cast out of society
through a ritual exclusion, such as a school disciplinary hearing or a criminal court trial
Selective incapacitation the policy of creating enhanced prison sentenced for the
relatively small group of dangerous chronic offenders
Just desert the philosophy of justice that asserts that those who violate the rights of others
deserve to be punished, with severity commensurate with the seriousness of the crime
Blameworthy the amount of culpability or guilt a person maintains for participating in a
particular criminal offence
The Development of Classical Theory:
Theories of crime based on the rational decision making of motivated criminals can trace their
roots to the classical school of criminology at its core are the following concepts:
o People choose all behaviour, including crime
o A violation of another person is a violation of the social contract
o Society must provide the greatest good for the greatest number
o The law shouldn’t try to legislate mortality
o People should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, with no torture
o Laws should be written out with punishments prescribed in advance
o Individuals give up some of their liberty in exchange for social protection
o People are motivated by pain and pleasure
o Punishments should be limited to what is necessary to deter people from crime
o Punishment should be severe, certain, and swift
o The law must be rational, transparent, and just, or is itself a crime
o People’s choices can be controlled by the fear of punishment
Punishment has 4 main objectives:
1. To prevent all criminal offences
2. To convince the offender to commit the least serious crime possible
3. To ensure that a criminal uses no more force than is necessary
4. To prevent crime as cheaply as possible
Choice Theory Emerges:
Reviving classical concepts of social control and punishment seemed to make more sense
than did futilely trying to improve entrenched social conditions or rehabilitate criminal using
ineffectual methods
The classical approach began to enjoy a resurgence of popularity in the mid-1970s several
criminologists produced books on the theme that criminals are rational actors who plan their
crimes, fear punishment, and deserve to be penalized for their misdeeds
According to Wilson, those people likely to commit crime lack inhibition against misconduct,
value the excitement of breaking the law, have a low stake in conformity, and are willing to
take greater chances than the average person
If they can be convinced that their actions will bring severe punishment, only the totally
irrational will commit crime
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Does Crime Pay?
Rational offenders are induced to commit crime if they perceive that crime pays more than
they could earn from a legitimate job crime pays if the benefits of employment are lower
than the expected benefits of theft
Wilson and Abrahamse divided the group into mid- and high-rate offenders in 1/6 crime
categories: burglary, theft, swindling, auto theft, robbery, and mixed offences predominantly
involving drug sales
Crime profits are reduced by the costs of a criminal career legal fees, bail bonds, the loss of
family income, and the physical cost of a prison sentence; given these costs, most criminals
actually earn little from crime
Criminals choose crime for numerous reasons, despite its relatively low payoff some
criminals believe they have no choice but to commit crime because legitimate work is
unavailable
Criminals are realistic, believing that eventually everyone is caught and punished however,
they are overly optimistic about getting away with each individual crime, and, being impulsive,
they take the short-term view that each particular crime is worth the risk
The Concepts of Rational Choice:
According to the rational choice approach, law-violating behaviour occurs when an offender
decides to commit crime after considering both personal factors and situational factors
Before choosing to commit a crime, the reasoning criminal evaluates the risk of
apprehension, the seriousness of expected punishment, the potential value of the criminal
enterprise, and the need for criminal gain
The decision to commit a crime, then, is a matter of personal decision making, which is based
on weighing the available information
Offence and Offender Specifications:
Offence-specific crime refers to looking at the characteristics of particular offences; for
example, burglary might involve evaluating the target’s likely cash yield, the availability of a
getaway car, and the probability of capture by police
Offender-specific crime refers to how criminals do not usually engage in random acts of
antisocial behaviour they analyze whether they have the appropriate skills, motives, needs,
and fears; criminal acts might be ruled out if offenders think they can reach a desired goal
through legitimate means or if they are too afraid of getting caught
Crime is an event; criminality is a personal trait
Structuring Criminality:
Offenders are more likely to desist from crime if they believe that:
1. Their future criminal earnings will be relatively low
2. Attractive and legal income-generating opportunities are available
Experienced criminals may desist when they believe the risks are greater than the profit; the
veteran criminal knows when to take a chance and when to be cautious
Structuring Crime:
The decision to commit crime is structured by the choice of:
1. Location
2. Target characteristics
3. The techniques available for its completion
Rational choice is also used in locating targets ex: burglars check to make sure that no one
is home before they enter a residence
Rational choice involves shaping criminality and structuring crime personality, age, status,
risk, and opportunity influence the decision to become a criminal; place, target, and
techniques help to structure crime
Rational Choice and Routine Activities:
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