SOC 203 Week 3 Assignment: Social Problems

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The Interconnection of Social Problems

SOC 203 Social Problems

The Interconnection of Social Problems

After reviewing the article, “Race, Poverty and Punishment: The Impact of Criminal Sanctions on Racial, Ethnic, and Socioeconomic Inequality,” it seems that there are still some unjust punishments being given. This paper will focus on the overlapping of three social problems that connect in one way or another. According to Wheelock and Uggen, “the association between crime, punishment, and poverty has long been the subject of sociological and criminological investigation” (Wheelock & Uggen, 2006). The article displays five central arguments that link the three social problems together. The five arguments include Criminal sanctions and victimization, how punishments impact the convicted their families, friends, communities, and racial group. Another topic being discussed is the insane amount of Black Americans who are jailed way more than White Americans. Also how criminal punishment is linked to economic deprivation will be debated alongside the increasing number of offenders who will have a hard time making an honest living in society.

Criminal sanction is a penalty given for breaking the rules and regulations of the law. These penalties can lead to life sentences in prison, the death penalty, smaller incarceration sentences, and extreme fines. A victim is someone that has been hurt, damaged or killed due to a crime or any event where they feel victimized. Victimization is when someone makes you the victim. Criminal sanctions and victimization go hand and hand because it is a continuous cycle of hindrance among the lower classes of people who come from poverty. Wheelock and Uggen stated, “Those at greatest risk of both phenomena – young men of color – are also highly vulnerable to the deleterious effects of criminal punishment and victimization” (Wheelock & Uggen, 2006). Racial inequality has been around forever so the idea that racial inequality plays a role in the sentencing of one’s life it not surprising. Minorities will always get the bad end of the stick when it comes to the quality of life they get to live and the law. According to the National Poverty Center, “Poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics greatly exceed the national average. In 2014, 26.2 percent of blacks and 23.6 percent of Hispanics were poor, compared to 10.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12 percent of Asians” (NPC, 2014). If you are black or Hispanic as soon as you enter the criminal court system, you are looked at as a menace to society and will receive a cruel punishment if convicted of a crime. The public now sees these people as criminals who do not belong in our society. Minorities are at a disadvantage even when they return to society. For a convicted criminal it will be hard for them to get a decent job leaving them to indulge in more criminal actions to be able to provide for their family. Those who have a criminal record cannot get public assistance for food, clothes, housing, education, and other benefits they or their family may need. Receiving public assistance can also cause an issue within the household.

Families suffer dearly when a loved one especially a parent in the household goes to jail. The impact of the punishment trickles down to their friends, communities and ethnic group. Their actions cause more challenges for any ethnic group to fight to dismantle the stereotype they face every day. For example, African American males are categorized as drug dealers so with the increasing number of African-American males going to jail for this reason it is harder to contest the accusations. The black male actor in movies are most likely involved in selling drugs or other criminal activities. When you are a part of racial groups that are seen as criminals you are seen as guilty until proven to be innocent which is the opposite of the law. Selling drugs also have an adverse impact on their community and friends. Filling the neighborhood with drug increases the crime rate and addiction rate in your area. This activity causes children to be neglected and abused in many ways because their parents or parent is on drugs. According to Wheelock and Uggen’s article many disadvantaged neighborhoods face the difficult task of reintegrating large numbers of released prisoners and dealing with the socially 3 4 divisive impact of offending and victimization (Clear, Rose, Waring, Scully 2003)”. A neighborhood full of released convicts is a risk to everyone in the community because they may have bad intentions. All criminals who are released from jail do not cause a threat, but the repeat offenders do because they will most likely continue in illegal activities. This could bring the morale in any community down.

As I mentioned, families are severely affected by a jailed love one. Families who struggle to pay bills cannot afford for someone in the household who contributes to the bills to go to jail. This can lead families to become homeless, living without heat, electricity, and food among many other struggles. When the convicted felon gets out, things get harder for many reasons. If their family is receiving housing aid, they are no longer welcomed in the home because there are strict rules that say convicted felons cannot live in the home. The consequences of having a convicted felon living in your home will get you kicked off the program and you will have to pay the full amount of the rent. This is one reason why minority families do not have male role models in the home and are forced under the stigma of being a deadbeat dad.

The law says you are innocent until proven guilty but that does not apply to all racial groups primarily African Americans. According to  Wheelock and Uggen, “After controlling for population differences, African Americans are incarcerated approximately seven times as often as Whites”(Wheelock & Uggen, 2006). This finding was interesting because it is such a big difference. African American men are criminals in the eyes of society and the justice system. Black people who live in poverty witness an abundance of crime and are sometimes sucked into the criminal world to make ends meet. It is almost impossible to stay out of trouble when you are a black male because police officers and judges pigeonhole you. According to Laura Green “A 1997 study conducted by Peffley et al indicated that whites who hold negative stereotypes of African-Americans judge them more harshly than they do other whites when making hypothetical decisions about violent crimes and welfare benefits”(Green,1998-99). The issue with this it has been nineteen years, and this still applies to today’s society and criminal system. Police officers in poverty-stricken areas always pick on the black children and other minority’s because it is mostly filled with minority families. If you are black or Hispanic as soon as you enter the criminal court system, you are looked at as a menace to society and will receive a cruel punishment if convicted of a crime. The law changes when it comes to African Americans.

In conclusion, if you gain a criminal record you are going to have a hard time living. Even if you get out of jail and want to change your life the obstacles, you will face may defeat you. Adding fuel to the fire is being an African American man applying for a job that you would not get because of your race but know they can use your criminal record to disqualify you. According to Sean Nicholson-Crotty and Kenneth J. Meier authors of “Crime and Punishment: The Politics of Federal Criminal Justice Sanctions,” “incarceration rates for federal prisons have tripled since 1975. Accompanying this growth was increased racial imbalance, with black Americans now constituting almost half of new admissions (Maguire and Pastore 1997; Blumstein and Beck 1999).” Young black men and minority men should be careful because your record will follow you into adulthood and ruin your chances of having a bright future. Stay away from crime and drugs.


Green, L. (n.d.). Stereotypes: Negative Racial Stereotypes and Their Effect on Attitudes Toward African-Americans. Retrieved from

National Poverty Center | University of Michigan. (2014). Retrieved from

Nicholson-Crotty, S., & Meier, K. (2003). Crime and Punishment: The Politics of Federal Criminal Justice Sanctions. Political Research Quarterly, 56(2), 119-126. doi:10.2307/3219891

Wheelock, D. & Uggen, C. (2006). Race, poverty and punishment: The impact of criminal sanctions on racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic inequality. Working Papers: National Poverty Center. Retrieved from

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