SOC310H5 Chapter Notes -Moral Panic, Labeling Theory
March 21, 2012
What to do about Youth Crime and Future Directions
Debates in literature
- Common response is lock them up
- Alternatives to custody have entered debate.
- Labeling theory argues that a young person’s self concept changes to be
consistent with a label, making delinquent behavior more likely.
- Punitive measures do not reduce recidivism.
- Another solution is to make harsher and longer punishment. The fact that
short sentences aren’t effective enough.
- Incarceration is popular because of moral panic in part.
- We have been socialized to think that crime is breaking the law and that if
you cause harm, you should expect the same (retributive).
- This is underlying paradigm of justice.
- Focus on custody
- There is also:
o Boot camps
o Non rehabilitative sentences
o Longer terms
Restorative justice and community
- Non adversarial approach to justice that places emphasis on helping victims
heal, offender accountability and community involvement.
- Some elements of restorative justice are currently being incorporated in the
YCJS in Canada in the form of youth justice committees, circle sentencing and
victim-offender reconciliation programs.
- Victim-offender mediation
- Family group conferencing
- Sentencing circles
- Victim-offender reconciliation programs
- Youth justice committee
- System based responses to youth crime are limited because they look at
youth crime as the problem rather than systemic issues underlying youthful
- Restorative justice potentially removes the stigmatizing effects of
- Definitions of justice are political.
- Justice, ethically, is about restoring harm, raising questions of empowerment,
responsibility and respect.
- Social relationships are one key link between youth, crime and society.
- Relationships are a starting point for social justice.
- Youthful experience, perceived immaturity and age have provided a rationale
for youth’s continued exclusion from social policies that dramatically affect
- While much emphasis is paid to responding to the problem of youth crime,
less is paid to relation to youth involved in crime. In other words, voices of
youth are largely silenced in societal discourses. Youth are objects, not
- Innovative youthful initiatives are challenging the historical silence of
youthful voices. The extent to which adult society (and those with the power
to make change) will take their claims seriously is another issue.
- Youth-centered innovations begin from the premise that youth people, and
criminalize youth in particular, have experiences that position them well to
play a central role in responding to the problems they face (individually and
collectively) in their lives.
- Many youth are disconnected from their communities and caring adults. As
such, building meaningful social relationships and engaging youths in their
communities are important strategies in responding to youth crime.
- Respect means to approach the other as a valued member of society,
deserving of recognition, dignity and compassion. Respect for the other is
where social justice begins.
- Just Listen to Me and YRAP are two exemplary youth-inspired innovations
because they represent real, meaningful, youth engagement aimed at dealing
with systemic issues related to youth, crime, and society.