Answer the following questions:
1. Identify three major theories of crime causation.
Instrumental Theory- views the criminal justice system as a tool for the upper echelons of society. The rich control the laws in order to control the lower class members of society. The emphasis of this view is that, while the rich may commit crimes and possibly even worse than their poor contemporaries, they are able to avoid harsh penalties due to their privileged lifestyle. The poor, on the other hand, are punished more severely and more often due to their under-privileged lifestyle.
Latent Trait Theory- views that many people have an ingrained latent trait that predisposes them to commit crime. This latent trait is usually present at birth or can show up later in their youth. It also states while they may have this latent trait and inclination to commit crime, it is usually due to opportunity that they end up committing a crime. The theorists believe that, as people age, they will out-grow crime due to a lack of opportunity and a growing list of adult responsibilities.
Life Course Theory- views that individuals follow a transitional period during their course of life, from toddler, to youth, to adult and so on. Any disruptions to their life’s course can promote criminality. Criminality can begin early in age, the individual possibly out-growing the behavior if they manage to find decent work and have families of their own.
2. Describe how the theories you chose in question 1 explain criminal behavior.
The instrumental theory can help to explain crime in the lower class parts of society due to a lack of decent jobs and wages, resentment at their lot in life compared to the upper echelons of society, racial disparity, need and environment. The lower, working class members of society seem to be charged and convicted of crimes far more than their upper class counterparts, which could lead to resentment at the criminal justice system.
The latent trait theory can help explain some crimes in individuals who show an inclination to commit crime at a young age. The fact that youthful offenders commit crimes while young and seemingly stop committing crimes when they reach adulthood could lend credence to this theory: As the offender ages and has more responsibilities, they would find themselves with less opportunity, or maybe desire, to commit crime.
The life course theory can help explain crime in those individuals who have their lives disrupted by a catastrophic, or major, event. This theory views that the individual can be influenced by their family life, peer group and environmental factors. The individual, as they grow up and find positive influences and decent work, may grow out of the criminal behavior and go on to lead a positive life.
3. Define and illustrate the “Code of the Streets” from Elijah Anderson.
The Code of the Streets is a set of unwritten rules between the poorer sect of people in cities. Respect seems to be at the heart of the code, for both the hard working, moral individuals and for the more street oriented individuals. An individual who is more street oriented has a larger propensity for violence to attain and maintain respect, and any sign of disrespect will usually see a retaliation from the individual. The morally oriented individuals will follow the code of the street in order to avoid retaliation from the street oriented individuals.
An example of the code of the street in use would be an altercation between a street oriented individual and a decent individual: The street individual will use all tactics at their disposal to provoke a response, be it verbal or physical. The decent individual may adopt the code and respond in kind, retaliating as they see the need.
4. What are the main components of Cohen’s “Theory of Delinquent Subcultures”?
Status Frustration- a conflict of culture that is experienced by lower-class male youth because of social conditions that prevent them from achieving success. Due to this frustration with the general society around them, they join peer groups of like minded individuals, or gangs, and engage in behavior that is against the social norms, usually malicious and negative.
Delinquent Subculture- delinquent behavior that is a protest against the social norms. A value system that is adopted by lower class male youth who are unsatisfied with the status quo. This subculture is caused by a direct lack of proper socialization skills, economic skills, improper parenting techniques and poor speech and communication skills.
Middle Class Measuring Rods- standards set by authority figures that the lower class male youth are unable to live up to. Usually, the authority figure is of the middle class status and has trouble relating to those of the lower class, leading to disappointment and negative impressions.
Cohen identified three pre-existing deviant subcultures that the lower class youth who are rejected by the middle class retreat to: Corner Boy, College Boy and the Delinquent Boy.
The corner boy usually engages in petty crimes, such as drugs, or even is promiscuous during their youth, but their greatest loyalty is towards their peer group. The corner boy usually stays in the neighborhood, having a family and getting a job there.
The college boy adapts to the middle class social norms and values and attempts to become a part of that culture. The college boy is not equipped to deal with this, however, due to lack of academic and social skills and the inability to properly communicate.
The delinquent boy resists social norms, and adopts values that is against the status quo. The delinquent boy engages in hedonistic behavior, doing whatever makes him feel good. His lack of achievement in the world usually ends up in the process of reaction formation.
Reaction Formation- Illogical, hateful and unfathomable hostility towards the social norms of the middle class culture.
5. Describe the four emerging forms of Critical Criminology.
Left Realism- an approach that views crime as being caused from social inequality, gender conflict, lack of funds, and social interaction. They also view that the lower class are victims of street criminals, making them abused by both the criminals and by the capitalist system. It does not view the criminal justice system as bad, and instead views it as an institution that offers a needed service. It views that crime prevention should be community based. They view that individuals experiencing poverty grow discontent, and that discontent can breed criminal behavior.
Critical Feminism- the view that women are oppressed by the capitalist and patriarchal systems. This theory encompasses gender inequality and class inequality, both of which are due to the above mentioned capitalist and patriarchal society. This view holds that women are controlled by men, and thus have fewer opportunities to commit crime than their male counterparts in a capitalistic society, except for such crimes as substance abuse for the lower class. This theory includes individuals that would be considered ‘queer’ and would be bullied by the hyper-masculine men hoping to prove their masculinity.
Power Control Theory- the view that daughters must be controlled more closely than their sons in patriarchal families, which result in fewer opportunities to commit crimes for the daughter. In egalitarian families, the power is held between both parents and daughters have more freedom than in the patriarchal family, thus leading to more opportunities to commit crimes.
Peacemaking Criminology- the view that crime could be controlled, if not stopped completely, if poverty were to be diminished and social policies that reduce economic suffering were to be embraced. They view that crime is caused by poverty, because poverty makes an individual suffer through life. They believe that peaceful solutions to criminal behavior can be found and enforced.