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Theories of Crime and Deviance

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on 12 January 2015

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Transcript of Theories of Crime and Deviance

Theories of Crime and Deviance
Sociology of Crime and Deviance
The Origins of Theory
Perform the Hedonistic Calculus for the Following Behaviours
Consensus vs. Conflict
Branches of Criminology Theory
Classical/Choice Theory

Trait Theory - Psychological/Biological

Structural Theories

Process Theories

Conflict Theories
Marijuana Use


Speeding to a job interview

Cheating on your partner

Partying instead of studying
for your SOCI 1016 Test
The work of Cesare Beccaria
Early Responses to Crime
believed that criminal behavior can be understood in the context of free will and a hedonistic calculus - ie. human beings are pleasure seeking and attempt to gain pleasure and avoid pain.

Crime occurs when an individual perceives that the pleasure from a crime outweighs the potential/likely pains of punishment.

As such, to deter individuals from crime, punishment must be certain, severe and swift.
Positivism - The Scientific Method
Positivism - Studying Crime Scientifically
Biological Determinism
Durkheim -Social Factors as causes of crime
Opposing biological or psychological origins, Durkheim believed that crime was the result of societal or cultural forces.

He claimed that the rapid transition from rural (mechanical) society, to modern (organic) society disrupts its natural balance and creates norm/role confusion.

Resulting from rapid structural changes is anomie – unclear norms and standards emerge as a function of a breakdown in social solidarity. In a healthy society, citizens know what goals are appropriate and how they are supposed to attain them.

The opposite is true of an unhealthy society. During an economic recession, people do not reduce their "wants", during economic growth, people's desires continue to grow - both conditions produce stress. In an unhealthy society, there is a state of confusion about the legitimacy of various social goals and how to get them. Additionally, social institutions, which once provided consistent messages about appropriate standards are rendered unable to regulate and limit social needs = crime occurs.
During the middle ages, people who violated norms or religious practices were believed to be witches or possessed by demons.

Those convicted of crimes suffered harsh physical penalties including maiming or execution

By 1700's - social philosophers argued for more rational punishment that is balance and proportional to the offence.
Pirating Music

Cheating on an assignment

Smoking Cigarettes

Impaired Driving

Early Positivism
1. Human behaviour is a function of external forces beyond individual control - ie. wealth, class, personal attributes such as brain structure or biological make up

2. Positivism relies on scientific methods of study
The Earliest Studies....
Lavater - studied facial features of offenders

Phrenologists studied the shape of the skull, concluding that bumps and shape were linked to crime.

Early 1800's studies were done on the mind - Pinel - the psychopathic personality
Lombroso - studied the cadavers of executed offenders in order determine scientifically, how they differed from non-offenders.

He concluded that offenders were biologically different from non-offenders as a function of inherited criminal traits.

Such features included huge jaws, canine-like teeth etc.

Strict biological determinism is not taken seriously, but recent work has linked crime to biological traits, particularly when interacting with social factors
The Chicago School - Structural Explanations
Process Theories (Socialization.)
Biological, Psychological, Sociological Theories
Chicago sociologists during the 1920's, used a macro approach to study crime, used an ecological approach, more commonly used to study plant life, focused on how certain neighbourhood conditions - such as poverty levels, transience, urbanization, influenced crime rates.

Densely populated, transitional zones were racked with unemployment, poverty and transience - conditions unsuitable for prosocial human development - similar to tomatoes planted in snow.

They were 'natural' areas for crime because critical social institutions (which play a significant role in boundary setting and social control, such as family, schools, church, had become undone and could not perform these functions. Crime was not a function of personal traits, but rather, was a reaction to inadequate environments. Highlighted here was one's relationship to and the quality of the environment.
1940's - researched the linked between the individual and their relationship to important social processes - like family, peers, schools. - highlighting the role that inadequate socialization plays in crime.
Biological and Psychological theories differ from sociological theories because the former focus on the conduct of individuals - which is linked to individual traits (biological or psychological), the latter focuses on behaviour at the micro (individual), meso (group) and macro (societal) level

Unlike trait theories, sociological theories explain behaviour as a process involving one's relationship with their environment.

Example: Vincent Li - biological explanations would focus on physiological explanations for his behaviour such as chromosomal defects, biochemical imbalances, brain disorders etc. Psychological explanations would focus on personality deficits such as psychopathology, psychosis, Anti-social personality disorder etc.

Sociological theories examine micro - such as learning theroies, meso examine groups of individuals and how they can influence behaviour - delinquent gangs for example, and macro- age, gender, socio-economic status etc. and tries to explain large social patterns (ie. why males commit crime more often than females).
Conflict Theories, envision crime and deviance as social constructions
According to conflict theory - definitions of crime are social constructions - created and legislated by and for the powerful, benefiting them at the expense of powerless
Certain segments of society have more power than others to create and enforce laws - which transform other segments into "deviants" or "criminals".
Example: What type of punishment would be given to an offender who vandalizes downtown Belleville - smashing signs, lighting garbage cans on fire?
Example: a corporation knowingly dumping toxic waste into the Bay of Quinte
While the latter causes far more damage, environmental laws are ineffective, not nearly as rigorously enforced as street crime and punishments are lenient
Consensus, Conflict, Interactionist Views of Crime
Crimes are behaviours that all members of society consider to be reprehensible.

Criminal law, therefore, represents consensus and reflects the values, beliefs and opinions of society's majority.

ie. Murder, Sexual Assault, Robbery etc.
The law is politicized in that it is created by and for powerful groups and therefore, reflects there interests most, and often ad the expense of the powerless.

Powerful groups use the law to advance their own interests and protect themselves from the have-nots.

ie. why street theft is punished harshly, but white collar crime rarely results in a jail sentence.

What gets defined as criminal, is a matter and process controlled and decided by those with power. It does not reflect a consensus.
Interactionist Definitions of Crime
The definition of crime reflects the interests of people or groups who hold social power - and use it to influence the definition of crime.

Behaviour is outlawed when it offends those with enough social, economic or political power to make the law conform to their interests.

Law reflects the interests of 'moral crusaders", who use their influence to shape law to fit their needs.

Eg. laws against drugs, prostitution, gambling? What are some others?
What are the potential functions of robbery?

How does the prosecution of robbery promote social cohesion and solidarity?
What pro-crime forces might operate in a neighbourhood racked with poverty, unemployment, broken social institutions?
What pro-crime forces might a child who has negative peers and attends an inadequate school be exposed to?

Opportunities for crime are everywhere - what role does early childhood socialization play in stopping preventing theft?
Learning Activity: Using the offence - Theft Over $5000, explain why any one of the perspectives
alone are insufficient to explain all types of Theft.
Gomme, I. (2007) The Shadow Line. 4th ed. Nelson

Siegel, L, Brown. and Hoffman (2013) CRIM. Nelson
Learning Outcomes
LO 1: Discuss the basic premise of popular branches of criminological theory

LO 2: Differentiate between sociological and psychological, biological theories of crime.

LO 3: Discuss the Conflict, Consensus and Interactionist View of crime
•Traced to the work of Quetelet and Durkheim and used social statistics to investigate the influence of social factors on crime.

•This method found a strong link between age and crime and gender and crime = young males.

•Season, climate, population composition, alcohol consumption and poverty were also related to crime.

•Durkheim believed the criminality was the result of cultural or societal factors as opposed to being rooted in the individual.
Sociological Criminology
Durkheim considered crime to be inevitable and even necessary because it served the function of reinforcing social limits

Crime is functional because it: integrates society - punishing wrong doers promotes cohesion and solidarity. Reaffirms boundaries between what is 'good' and 'bad' behaviour. Rewards and therefore motivates "good" behaviour. It also has the potential to create social change - via disobeying laws for a worthy cause
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