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Chapter 9

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University of Toronto St. George
Candace Kruttschnitt

CHAPTER 9 – CONTROL THEORIES INTRODUCTION: (224-6)  While Control Theories can be traced back as far as the musings of Aristotle, Hobbes, and Durkheim, Bentham first theorized “felicific calculus” – all human action is a cost-benefit analysis (benefit must outweigh the cost for the action to be plausible)  Control theory can also be considered “situational criminology” – focusing on the situational causes of crime rather than internal causes within offenders; o target hardening, enhanced visibility, etc. are considered to be subjects for security consultants, not criminologists (Haggerty)  Gluecks – predicting delinquency based on three factors: i) maternal affection towards the child, ii) maternal supervision of the child, and iii) family cohesion o Resurfaced in the work of Hirschi and Wilson  Shaw & McKay – social disorganization theory is a version of control theory; i.e when informal controls break down in a neighbourhood, crime and delinquency is likely to increase; however, focus is on deviant motivation more than control variables  Sykes and Matza – delinquents adhere to the same value set as everyone else, but differ in their techniques of neutralization; these techniques neutralize the social bond, thus freeing them to participate in deviant/delinquent behaviour  Jackson Toby – delinquents versus non-delinquents only differ in their “stake in conformity”  Combination of variations in commitment to conform and external opportunities to deviate became an alternative to the motivational strain theories  Homans and Blau – “social exchange” holds that behaviour is explained by gratifications provided through exchange and moral values emerge from ongoing exchanges; o ex. Employees setting lower standards than management and informally sanctioning those who do not conform o Similar to symbolic interactionism, but doesn’t consider meanings or interpretations; Homans’ perspective is more akin to behaviourism than interactionism DISCUSSION BOX: (226-7)  Concept of lunacy and a connection between human behaviour and lunar cycles was discounted by NASA, claiming that any increase in crime rate during the full moon is only due to people noticing the full moon more during major events such as crimes or strange occurrences o Arnold Lieber – study of 15 years of data in Miami demonstrated that while the moon waxed, murder rates rose and decreased when it waned; argued that because of the biological composition of the human body (i.e. 80% water), it can be explained as a sort of “biological tide” o Moon had no effect on hospital admissions; there are, however, more reported animal bites during full moons o Suicide peaks in spring and fall; murder peaks in July and December; suicides are more common on Mondays; homicides are more common on weekends; homicide is more common than suicide during national holidays – no lunar variation was found SOCIOLOGICAL CONTROL THEORIES OF DEVIANCE: (228-33)  Travis Hirschi – Causes of Delinquency – deviance occurs when an individual’s bonds to society are weak or broken; four interacting variables that determine whether or not someone CHAPTER 9 – CONTROL THEORIES is likely to offend; purport that deviance is not an automatic response to stimuli, but it is no longer ruled out as a possibility o Attachment: caring about the opinions/wishes of others (reduce likelihood of delinquency) o Commitment: investing one’s time and energy in something that could be damaged by deviant behaviour (ex. School, business, etc.) o Involvement: behavioural counterpart to commitment; being involved in conventional activities reduces the time available for nonconventional activities; through this, individuals are also more likely to become connected to other conventional (law abiding) people o Belief: even if delinquents and non-delinquents share the same values, it is the extent to which the individual believes they should obey the rules of society that increases likelihood of delinquency o When faced with the question of why individuals offend, Hirschi’s response is simply that control theories are not designed to answer that question- these theories answer the question “Why don’t we” o Portions of his work are derived from subcultural theory  Steven Box – attempted to combine control theory with labelling theory; argued that labels combine with control variables to increase likelihood of moving from primary deviation to secondary deviation (p. 229-30) o The bonds that may have originally existed among deviants is eroded by the label placed upon them; those of higher socioeconomic status are less likely to be labelled and, therefore, have lower rates of moving beyond primary deviation ? o Attempted to address why an individual would choose to deviate when the opportunity arises – secrecy (chances of concealment), skills (knowledge and ability to commit the act), supply (necessary tools), and social/symbolic support (support from the wider culture) o Comments on the experience of failing school (Cohen and Matza) – delinquent is both frustrated and resentful, but the status frustration is more important than resentment  Harriet Wilson – “Parents and Children of the Inner City” measured the degree to which parents protected their children in the city (“chaperonage”) (p.230-32) o All families were of similar composition and characteristics o The chaperonage variable showed more predictive of delinquency than even happiness within the home o Builds on social disorganization theory – an intact 2 parent household that exercises discipline may buffer against the challenges of the loss of informal controls that exist in these areas  Sampson and Laub – “Crime in the Making” and “Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives” – examined the onset and desistance of delinquency among men across decades; focus on the bonds of family, friends, employment, and military service o Concept of turning points; milestones that create new sets of social relations, as well as dependencies and responsibilities, which create new disciplines o Experiences with the criminal justice system may have an adverse effect as it stigmatizes the offender and interrupts their ability to form these new relationships; CHAPTER 9 – CONTROL THEORIES  Morgan argued that delinquency is fostered by permissiveness of family life, education, and crime control; too much freedom to act out fantasies; James Q. Wilson argued that incarceration is a sure-fire way of combatting criminality – if they are in prison they cannot continue their delinquency o Control theory is not one theory with one thread of implications for the criminal justice system; they are not easily merged SITUATIONAL CONTROL THEORIES  Clarke – focuses on the cost-benefit aspect of crime; opportunities available and the risks attached to these activities (p.233-34) o For quick, short-term results, reducing the number of opportunities will be more effective than trying to influence psychological or social events and economic conditions o Presumes offenders are rational actors and, therefore, susceptible to control strategies; provided neat, demonstrable experiments in prevention that are common-sense based and, therefore, easy to swallow by the public  Gary Becker – “Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach” – analysed the balance between expenditure on control/punishment and the social losses of criminality; economist perspective – people offend if the utility of doing so exceeds the utility of not doing so (i.e. it is not a matter of motivation, but about cost-benefit analyses on the part of the offender (p.234-5) o Does not explain criminal behaviour of the mentally ill; o Eventually expanded to include more actors (ex. Crime reporting, enforcing the law, etc.) o Ethnographies suggested that individuals made conscious decisions to break the law; this approach is particularly powerful at explaining organized crime  Control theory is consistent with social learning and rational choice theories; accepts that the majority of crimes are committed by individuals who would not necessarily ordinarily be thought of as criminal  These theories demonstrated the importance of understanding how social and physical environments interact; individuals develop/change in response to experiences o Clarke referred to “standing decisions” which could become changed norms and values  Situational control theories argue that there should be two emphases in crime prevention: reducing opportunities for crime, and increasing the risk of being caught o Target hardening – making a potential target look harder and less desirable (element of deterrence); the presence of neighbours can be a greater deterrent than the police  Employees with a semi-official role in contact with the public (ex. Parking lot attendants, doormen, etc.) play a role in surveillance and reducing delinquency  Oscar Newman – “Defensible Space” – passive controls can be mobilized for improvements in housing, demonstrating link between high-rise public-sector housing and increased delinquency o Jane Jacobs – disappearing intimacy and diversity of city life o Under-protected underpasses, elevators, and stairwells; building entrances used by so many people that it isn’t certain who is supposed to enter and who is not; increase in anonymous areas that aren’t cared for by anyone CHAPTER 9 – CONTROL THEORIES o Reduced the ability of individuals to create their own symbolic boundaries and exercise their own informal social controls within them o CRITICISM: neglected the social effects of communal reputation – those who live in a crime-ridden neighbourhood are part of a morally stigmatized area and experience discrimination, impaired life chances and unhelpful neighbours; insensitive to the effects of different policing strategies;  community’s characteristics reflect renting decisions; Newman assumed that deviants were outsiders who didn’t belong to an area, which is not necessarily the case  Newman assumes a desire for territoriality among individuals; some people do not necessarily desire a symbolic stake in an area o Regardless of criticisms, Newman’s work combined both situational and sociological control variables o It has been a
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