Encourage or Discourage Crime

M4 – Discussion: Encourage or Discourage Crime
Sex Offender Investigative Unit receives a Distinguished Group Award for 2010 for their 
efforts in assisting jurisdictions in locating and apprehending sex offenders who violate sex 
offender registration requirements, and aggressively pushing for Federal prosecutions.
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License by U.S. Marshals Service 
Post Readings Discussion…

In Pensacola, Florida, Judge William White requires people convicted of drunken driving to carry a sticker on their cars stating, “How is my driving? Call 1-866 I SAW….”
Many states now require convicted sex offenders to register when they move into a community, and the police are mandated to advise neighbors of some serious offenders where they live.
“The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not to tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers—stern and wild ones—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.” (Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlett Letter)
How are these related? To what criminological theory do they relate? Do these kinds of “remedies” encourage or discourage crime? Are they acceptable in today’s society? 

Discussion Tip:

Participate in this discussion by first posting a logical and thoughtful response to the questions posed by your instructor during the first week of this module. After posting your discussion to this topic during the first week of the module, you should return to this discussion area and post at least two responses to posts made by your fellow classmates during the remaining week(s) of the module.
A posting of at least 125-words is usually sufficient.
You should post fresh ideas that are thoughtful and well written while being sure to use correct spelling and grammar. Be sure to cite sources when putting forth opinions and facts of others.
Add a new discussion
M4 – Overview and Reading Assignment
Topic Overview
Levels of Individual Attachment: Control Theory

A great deal of this module involves the formation of behavioral patterns. You will be asked to consider what factors in the life of a person, including family and moral development structures may “keep” an individual, more specifically, a young individual, from behaving criminally.

The Power of Words: Labeling Theory

In this module the concept of labeling, or self fulfilling prophecy, is explored. You will be asked to consider if those that we hold responsible for “control” are also possibly responsible for defining our behavior by characterizing the exact same behavior they seek to control. In addition, we begin to think about another component of the justice scale; the victim.

Society as Perpetual Conflict and Change: Conflict Theory

In this theory, we take the examination from the individual level (mom, dad, pastor etc.) to the structural level….society. You are asked to question whether the “Man” is holding you down; are the haves (as opposed to the have-nots) in control of the game? The first discussion will focus upon restoring justice after two criminal events; armed robbery and white collar crime. You will also explore structural theory. In the next discussion, the reading becomes more important in that the discussion, asking you to incorporate both the structural theory and conflict theory. Using that discussion, the readings and outside research the student will be required to complete a written assignment about the critical feminist perspective.

Criminological Theory: Chapters 5, 7, 8
Commentary – Control Theory
Levels of Individual Attachment: Control
adult holding a child’s hand

Most criminological theories seek to explain why some people commit crimes and others do not. Control theories, sometimes referred to as social-bond theories, ask a different question. They seek to understand why more people are not offenders. To this end, they attempt to identify factors that inhibit or prevent delinquent and criminal behavior rather than factors contributing to such behavior.

Why do people conform? What makes it important to an individual to behave in certain ways? Control theory believes that the reason that people engage in deviant behavior is because their bond to society is broken—without the bond to society there is no way rules can regulate or command one’s behavior. Many individuals who do not have any meaningful attachments to others, or who have nothing to loose, can be described as having a low bond to society. If one is not bonded to any “primary groups” what or who can one conform to? What norms are there to accept if a group cannot socialize the individual? In these theories the structure and presence of the family are important to consider. How does the primary socializing group of the family regulate your behavior? If the parent(s) are successful, the child will accept and be concerned about conforming, but what happens when the family fails to socialize the child or does not even care? Control theories attempt to explain these interactions. Many issues can arise from these theories, such as what is the proper way to socialize a child.
Commentary – Labeling Theory
The Power of Words: Labeling
Everyday we use words to describe people and their experiences. However, what happens to your concept of self when people start categorizing or describing you consistently in the same ways? Is it possible that your behavior can be changed with the words that others use to describe you? Here is an example what words can do to a person:

Stigma example:
solitary woman walking along the beach at sunset

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts­,
I am sixteen years old now and I don’t know what to do and would appreciate it if you could tell me what to do. When I was a little girl it was not so bad because I got used to the kids on the block making fun of me, but now I would like to have boy friends like the other girls and go out on Saturday nites, but no boy will take me because I was born without a nose-although I am a good dancer and have a nice shape and my father buys me pretty clothes.

I sit and look at myself all day and cry. I have a big hole in the middle of my face that scares people even myself so I can’t blame the boys for not wanting to take me out. My mother loves me, but she cries terrible when she looks at me.

What did I do to deserve such a terrible bad fate? Even if I did do some bad things I didn’t do any before I was a year old, and I was born this way. I asked Papa and he says he doesn’t know, but that maybe I did something in the other world before I was born or that maybe I was being punished for his sins. I don’t believe that because he is a very nice man. Ought I commit suicide?

Sincerely yours, Desperate

“Labeling” or “social reaction” theories propose that we focus our attention not on the offenders but on the behavior of those who label, react to, and otherwise seek to control offenders. Labeling theory contends that it is the efforts of social control that ultimately trigger the processes that trap individuals into a criminal career. Labeling has a very ironic effect and unanticipated effects—it creates everything it intended to stop and produces a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Last modified: Monday, December 2, 2013, 11:04 AM
Commentary – Conflict Theory
Society as Perpetual Conflict and Change: Conflict Theory
man looting a store
A man removes a couch from a store in South Central Los Angeles
April 30, 1992 as looting and rioting continued in the aftermath of
the verdicts handed down in the videotaped beating case of 
motorist Rodney King. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Conflict, power, and struggle theories attempt to answer such questions as:

Is capitalism the cause of lawlessness amongst the poor?
Is crime an unconscious expression of rebellion of the powerless?
Is life a constant struggle for power among different groups ranging from ethnicity to gender?
Agnew and Cullen Identify 5 Central Themes of Critical Criminology:
The concepts of inequality and power are integral to any understanding of crime and its control. Based on Marx’s writings, critical criminologists note that capitalism benefits some and impoverished others, thus creating an economic gap of inequality between social classes. The affluent pursue their own interests by using their money to ensure that government policies do not threaten their position of advantage. As a result, the state-including the criminal law and the criminal justice system-operates to legitimate and protect social arrangements that benefit those profiting from capitalism.

“Crime” is a political, not a value-free, concept. Traditional criminology ac­cepts that crime is behavior that violates the law. Critical criminology, however, recog­nizes that what is and is not outlawed reflects the power structure in society. In general, the injurious acts of the poor and powerless are defined as crime, but the injurious acts of the rich and powerful—such as corporations selling defective products or the affluent allowing disadvantaged children to go without health care—are not brought within the reach of the criminal law. Only by rejecting state definitions of crime and replacing them with a new standard—such as defining crime as the violation of human rights-can crimi­nologists oppose, rather than reinforce, exist­ing inequalities.

As a defender of the existing social order, the criminal justice system ultimately serves the interests of the capitalist class. The system is largely set up to process poor and minority offenders—most of whom could find no meaningful place in the labor market— while ignoring the illegalities of rich and corporate offenders. As Reiman (1984) puts it, the system is designed so that “the rich get richer and the poor get prison.” In enforcing order, moreover, criminal justice officials are not beyond breaking the law themselves, such as through police brutality and receiving pay-offs in vice operations (Henderson and Simon, 1994). On a broader level, to protect its interests, the capitalist state will use its power to commit, largely with impunity, crimes against its own dissident citizens (e.g., illegal wiretapping against protesters), not to mention sponsoring covert actions to undermine other governments (Barak, 1991).

Capitalism is the root cause of criminal behavior. Under capitalism, the human needs of the poor are ignored. Instead, they face demoralizing living conditions that foster crime by stunt­ing healthy development and/or by making crime a rational response. More noteworthy, capitalism creates a fertile environment for crimes by corporations (Pearce, 1976). Pressures for profits, combined with lax state regulation and the infrequent application of criminal penalties, induce business enterprises to pursue profits through illegal methods. The consequences are not only huge economic losses but also violence that may well surpass that exacted by street crimes. Thus, by selling dangerously defective products, polluting the environment, and exposing workers to job hazards and toxic agents, corporations exact an enormous total in illnesses, injuries, and deaths.

The solution to crime is the creation of a more equitable society. Equipped with this knowledge, critical criminologists should unmask the ways in which capitalist ­based exploitation creates crime and victimization. Equally important, they should not be armchair criminologists but should work to faster greater social justice. In particular, they should support humane policies aimed at preventing harm from occurring and, more broadly, they should engage in political activity advocating a fairer distribution of wealth and power in society. For many critical criminologists, the goal of this reform effort is a socialist economy combined with a democratic political system sensitive to the needs of all citizens.


Barak, G. (1991). Crimes by the Capitalist State: An Introduction to State Criminality. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Henderson, J., Simon, D. (1994). Crimes of the Criminal Justice System. Cincinnati: Anderson Publishing.

Pearce, F. (1976). Crimes of the Powerful. London: Pluto.

Reiman, Jeffrey. (1995). The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Crime and Criminal Justice. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.


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