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CH 7 BRYM.pdf

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Sheldon Ungar

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Chapter 7: Deviance and Crime THE SOCIAL DEFINITION OF DEVIANCE AND CRIME The Difference Between Deviance and Crime - deviance - When someone departs from a norm and evokes a negative reaction from others. - crime - Deviance that is against the law. - law - A norm stipulated and enforced by government bodies. Sanctions - informal punishment may involve raised eyebrows, gossip, ostracism, shaming, or stigmatization - informal punishment - A mild sanction that is imposed during face-to-face interaction, not by the judicial system. - stigmatized - Negatively evaluated because of a marker that distinguishes them from others and that is labelled as socially unacceptable. - formal punishment - The judicial system penalizes someone for breaking a law. - types of deviance and crime vary in terms of the severity of the social response, which varies from mild disapproval to capital punishment - types of deviance and crime also vary in terms of perceived harmfulness - finally, deviance and crime vary in terms of the degree of public agreement about whether an act should be considered deviant or criminal - even the social definition of murder varies over time and across cultures and societies - four types of deviance and crime 1. social diversions - social diversions - 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. - many people are apathetic or unclear about whether social diversions are, in fact, deviant 2. social deviations - more serious acts - social deviations - 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. 3. conflict crimes - conflict crimes - Illegal acts that many people consider harmful to society. However, other people think they are not very harmful. They are punishable by the state. 4. consensus crime - consensus crime - 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 - information on crime collected by the police is the main source of crime statistics - these statistics have two main shortcomings - victimless crimes - Violations of the law in which no victim steps forward and is identified. - communicating for purposes of prostitution, illegal gambling, and the use of illegal drugs are all victimless crimes - in addition, many assaults go unreported because the assailant is a friend or relative of the victim, while many victims of sexual assault are reluctant to report the crime because they are afraid they will be humiliated, not believed, or stigmatized - the second main shortcoming of official statistics is that authorities and the wider public decide which criminal acts to report and which to ignore - changes in legislation, which either create new offences or amend existing offences, influence the number of recorded offences - recognizing these difficulties, students of crime often supplement official crime statistics with other sources of information - self-report surveys - Respondents are asked to report their involvement in criminal activities, either as perpetrators or as victims. - in general, self-report surveys report approximately the same rate of serious crime as official statistics do but find two or three times the rate of less serious crimes - consequently, indirect measures of crime are sometimes used as well - committing an act in violation of the law does not automatically result in being officially labelled a criminal - an individual’s law-violating behavior must be reported to the police who, in turn, must respond to the incident, decide that it warrants further investigation, file a report, and make an arrest - next, the accused person must appear at a preliminary hearing, an arraignment, and a trail - if the person does not plead guilty, the possibility always exists that he or she will not be convicted because guilt has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt - victimization surveys - Surveys in which people are asked whether they have been victims of crime. - although victimization surveys provide detailed information about crime victims, they provide less reliable data about offenders Explanations for Declining Crime Rates - first, the war “against crime” is increasingly being fought by a substantially enlarged corps of better trained and equipped law enforcement and correctional officers - second, young men are most prone to crime, but Canada is aging and the number of young people in the population has declined - birth rates plummeted between 1967 and 1979, so since the 1990s, the pool of people at high risk of criminal behavior has shrunk - third, the variable most strongly correlated with the crime rate is the male unemployment rate - significantly, poor economic conditions in the 1980s made it hard to find a job and contributed to the high crime rate in that decade - conversely, following a steep recession in 1990-91, the economy grew - economic conditions favoured a decrease in crime - finally, and more controversially, some researchers argue that declining crime rates may be linked to the legalization of abortion - they observe that the crime rate started to decline 19 years after the abortion was legalized in the United States - they suggest this drop occurred because, beginning in the early 1970s with the legalization of abortion, there were proportionally fewer unwanted children in the population - unwanted children, they argue, are more prone to criminal behavior than wanted children are because they tend to receive less parental supervision and guidance Criminal Profiles - people who have not reached middle age commit most crime Race and Incarceration - Aboriginal Canadians—particularly Aboriginal women—are overrepresented in the prison population - four explanations for the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in Canada’s prisons - first, a disproportionately large number of Aboriginal people are poor - although a great majority of poor people are law-abiding, poverty and its handicaps are associated with elevated crime rates - second, Aboriginal people tend to commit so-called street crimes - street crimes - Arson, break and enter, assault, and other illegal acts disproportionately committed by people from lower classes. - more detectable than white-collar crimes - white-collar crime - An illegal act committed by a respectable, high-status person in the course of work. - such as embezzlement, fraud, copyright infringement, false advertising, and so on - third, the police, the courts, and other institutions may discriminate against Aboriginal people - as a result, Aboriginal people may be more likely to be apprehended, prosecuted, and convicted - fourth, contact with Western culture has disrupted the social life of many Aboriginal communities - this disruption has led to a weakening of social control over community members - some people think that certain “races” are inherently more law abiding than others, but they are able to hold such an opinion only by ignoring the powerful social forces that cause so many Aboriginal people to be incarcerated in Canada - occupying a relatively low class position, engaging mainly in street crime as opposed to white-collar crime, and facing a discriminatory criminal justice system, black people are more likely than are whites to be motivated to commit criminal acts, to be detected and apprehended engaging in criminal acts, and to be prosecuted, convicted, and jailed - age, education, and lack of a criminal record do not insulate blacks from searches - better-educated and well-to-do blacks are more likely to be stopped and searched by police than are less-well educated and poorer blacks EXPLAINING DEVIANCE AND CRIME Symbolic Interactionist Approaches to Deviance and Crime - identifying the social circumstances that promote the learning of deviant and criminal roles is a traditional focus of symbolic interactionists Learning Deviance - the idea that becoming a habitual deviant or criminal is a learning process that occurs in a social context was firmly established by Howard S. Becker’s classic study of marijuana users - they had to pass through a three-stage learning process before becoming regular marijuana users - failure to pass a stage meant failure to learn the deviant role and become a regular user - learning any deviant or criminal role requires a social context in which experienced deviants or criminals teach novices the “tricks of the trade” - it follows that more exposure to experienced deviants and criminals increases the chance that an individual will come to value a deviant or criminal lifestyle and consider it normal - moreover, the type of deviant or criminal that predominates in one’s social environment has a bearing on the type of deviant or criminal that a novice will become 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. - that labelling plays an important part in who is caught and charged with crime was demonstrated by Aaron Cicourel - Cicourel examined the tendency to label rule-breaking adolescents as juvenile delinquents if they came from families in which the parents were divorced - he found that police officers tended to use their discretionary powers to arrest adolescents from divorced families more often than adolescents from intact families who committed similar delinquent acts - judges, in turn, tended to give more severe sentences to adolescents from divorced families than to adolescents from intact families who were charged with similar delinquent acts - sociologists and criminologists then collected data on the social characteristics of adolescents who were charged as juvenile delinquents, “proving: that children from divorced families were more likely to become juvenile delinquents” - their finding reinforced the beliefs of police officers and judges - thus, the labelling process acted as a self-fulfilling prophecy Functionalists Explanations - while symbolic interactionists focus on the learning and labelling of deviant and criminal roles, functionalists direct their attention to the social dysfunctions that lead to deviant and criminal behaviour Durkheim - functionalist thinking on deviance and crime originated with Durkheim, who made the controversial claim that deviance and crime are beneficial for society - for one thing, he wrote, when someone breaks a rule, it provides others with a chance to condemn and punish the transgression, remind them of their common values, clarify the moral boundaries of the group to which they belong, and thus reinforce social solidarity - for another, deviance and crime help societies adapt to social change - Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested in Alabama in February 1965 for taking part in a demonstration supporting the idea that blacks should be allowed to vote, but later that year the passage of the Voting Rights Acts made it a crime to prevent blacks from voting in the United States - King’s crime brought about positive social change, demonstrating the validity of Durkheim’s point about the positive functions of deviance and crime Merton - Robert Merton further developed Durkheim’s theory by emphasizing the dysfunction of deviance and crime - in Merton’s view, such a discrepancy between cultural ideals and structural realities is dysfunctional, producing what he called strain - strain theory - Holds that people may turn to deviance when they experience strain. Strain results when a culture teaches people the value of material success and society fails to provide enough legitimate opportunities for everyone to succeed. - most people who experience strain will force themselves to adhere to social norms despite the strain, Merton wrote - the rest adapt by engaging in one of four types of action: - (1) they may drop out of conventional society - (2) they may reject the goals of conventional society but continue to follow its rules - (3) they may protest against convention and support alternative values - (4) they may find alternative and illegitimate means of achieving their society’s goals—that is, they may become criminals - the value of material success starkly contradicts the lack of opportunity available to poor youth, Merton argued - as a result, poor youths sometimes engage in illegal means of attaining socially approved goals Criminal Subcultures - subculture - A set of distinctive values, norms, and practices within a larger culture. - an important part of any gang subculture consists of the justifications its members spin for their criminal activities - these justifications make illegal activities appear morally acceptable and normal, at least to the gang members - although deviants may depart from mainstream culture in many ways, they are strict conformists when it comes
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