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SOC101Y1 (470)
Chapter 14

New Societies chapter 14 notes.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Robert Brym

Chapter 14: Crime and Deviance Life depends on people following, however unconsciously, agreed-upon rules Conceptions of Crime and Deviance Crime and Deviance as Norm-Violating Behaviour One way of conceptualizing crime or deviance is to emphasize its rule-breaking qualities, focusing in particular on its behavioural dimensions o Refer to the rules in question as norms Generally accepted ways of doing things Most important norms are written laws (norms the state enforce) o Deviance involves breaking a norm o Crime involves breaking a law All human societies have norms about appropriate behaviour o Some norms have wide scope, applying to more or less everybody in the community Murder, robbery o Other norms may only apply to particular subgroups Drinking age o Can be gendered too Male escort Norms enforced in many ways o Most important of them are laws which are regulated by a criminal justice system o Responds to law violators in legally prescribed ways o Other norms do not require legal intervention o More likely to be enforced informally Communal pressure How do we distinguish between diverse kinds rule-breaking behaviour? o John Hagan (1991) Suggests that norm violations can be differentiated by how serious they are, as gauged by three different measures of seriousness (1) How harmful the act in question is deemed to be (2) How much agreement there is that the behaviour in question is wrong (3) The severity of the sanction, or punishment, imposed on that behaviour Employs his conception of seriousness to identify different kinds of deviance Designates a small group of offences as consensus crime (acts felt to be very harmful and wrong, and which the harshest criminal sanctions are refereed to in legal philosophy as crimes mala in se) crimes that are evil in themselves Selected group are called conflict crime (means that members of the community disagree over whether the behaviours in question are harmful, wrong or deserving of severe criminal sanction, in law these are considered mala prohibita) crimes wrong by definition Not all norm-violating behaviour is illegal o Subject to varying degrees of social stigma May be condemned, ostracised, and medicalized because of a marker that sets them off from others o Hagan categorizes these as social deviations o Hagan reserves the term social diversion for minority heterosexual and homosexual activities as well as forms of symbolic or expressive deviance involving adolescents For the latter, adolescents often judged on appearance Generally the more serious the form of deviance, the less likely it is to occur Hagans typology is subject to change Crime and Deviance as Labels and Social Constructs Labelling Theory Crime and deviance not just about how members of society react to some behaviours This understanding is the starting point for a second approach to the study of deviance and crime, one that sees deviance and crime as a matter of definitions or labels that have been applied to some behaviours but not others o Labelling theorists believe that publicly recognizing somebody as criminal or deviant is an important cause of criminal or deviant behaviour Crime and deviance are not distinctive types of human behaviour o Cannot divide human activity into its criminal and noncriminal variants based on behaviour alone o Few acts are viewed as wrong under all circumstances o No universal form of crime and deviance What counts as criminal or deviant behaviour varies by time and place The legality of a drug is determined as much by the status of its users as by the amount of harm done by the drug Social Constructionism Similar to the labelling approach o Broadly concerned with all kinds of social problems, whereas labelling theory applies specifically to crime and deviance o Stand in contrast to the norm-violation approach that we began with Objectivist approach to crime and deviance Objectivist accounts of crime and deviance focus on the behaviour itself o Assumed that we know what crime and deviance is, how much harm is done by it, and what needs to be done about it Labelling and social-constructionist theorists argue that crime and deviance become problematic because some people (most powerful) define them as such Focus on activities and claims that result in new crimes being defined More generally, social constructionism advises that so-called objective facts are not always responsible for the criminal or deviance status of a particular condition Argue that while objective conditions and agree-upon facts play a role in the designation of deviance, they are rarely the decisive determinants of whether a particular behaviour is defined as such Crime in the News If it bleeds, it leads Public has a big appetite for crime stories that the news media are happy to accommodate Media do not report all criminal incidents o Violent crime is reported more regularly than property or white-collar crime o Crimes of violence appear in the news reports in numbers disproportionate to their incidence in official crime statistics Shape how readers, viewers and listeners feel and think about crime and deviance o Canadians overestimate the rates and underestimate the severity of criminal sanctions for crimes Counting Crime and Deviance: Numbers and Meaning Official Statistics People naturally want to know about the amount of criminal and deviant activity in Canada and whether or not its increasing One answer to these questions is provided by official statistics compiled by the government How is the data collected? o The more serious the norm violation, the more comprehensive the data collection o Considerably more information about crime and delinquency and alcohol and drug use than we do about the expressive or symbolic deviancy of adolescents o Since 1962 a system of uniform crime reports have provided the basic count of criminal infractions in Canada o Designed to produce consistent, comparable, nationwide crime statistics Official count of crime underestimates the actual amount of crime occurring in any jurisdiction at any given time o Public report most of the crime the police know about o Unknown crimes=dark figure of crime Authoritative statements about trends in crime require comparison over long periods of time Regional Variations in Crime Rates Provinces and cities in the western part of the country have higher crime rates than those in the east Why? o Encourages a frontier mentality favouring individualism, independence and risk-taking o Most migrants o Populations younger o Aboriginal Canadians Homicide Rates Most valid and reliable crime indicator o Hard to hide bodies Less susceptible to the reporting and detection problems described earlier
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