Labeling Theorists And Cultural Deviance Theory In Criminal Justice System

Cultural Diversity in Criminal Justice – Assignment Instructions

Labeling theorists are adamant about the labels that offenders are given throughout the criminal justice system. Labels, such as ex-felons, are deepening the very behavior that they are meant to halt because of stereotypes that incite an individual trying to recover after a prison term. The labeling theory argues that the criminal justice system is limited in its capacity to restrain unlawful conduct but also is a major factor in anchoring people into criminal careers. The cultural deviance theory explains the causes of criminal behavior in urban areas are not about the poverty suffered in those areas but the product of a distinct lower-class culture whose focal concern is deviance against the norms of society. The theory identified 3 influential versions:

  • Lower-class culture as a whole is responsible for generating crime in urban areas.
  • Urban lower-class areas produce subcultures that are responsible for the rise of crime.
  • Subcultures of crimes in which individuals come together to band in creating crimes for their own personal gain and satisfaction in urban areas

Write a 5-6 page paper answering the following questions:

  • What would be another theory and strategy to avoid stereotyping individuals in the criminal justice system?
  • Is there a legitimate reason to consider labeling theory a legitimate crime causation theory? Why?
  • In your opinion, where do gangs fit in the 3 influential versions of cultural deviance theory? Why?
  • Which one of the two theories would you use to explain the following problem:
  • The number of youths joining gangs in the inner city has doubled, while the number of gang leaders serving time in prison and being released after good conduct has increased. The crime rate for gang violence has risen 20% from last year.

Labeling Theorists And Cultural Deviance Theory In Criminal Justice System

There are many theories as well as strategies that help in avoiding stereotyping individuals in the criminal justice system. Among the theories are the controlled social control theory, labelling theory suggests that most people would commit or be willing to commit crime because of the many controls and limitations that the society has on these people(Link et al., 1989).

These limitations are widespread and are of different dimensions in the society. The society therefore posts these controls through the social institutions such as the schools, churches, workplaces among others. The theory works in conjunction with the social learning theory. The societal control on individuals may dictate where the individual victims of crime would be and the people they will associate with thereafter in the criminal justice system.

Social control theory would always explain why people commit crime; a strategy can therefore be developed from this theory that would avoid stereotyping individuals in the criminal justice system by counteracting this theory. The society would therefore instead of effecting the controls and limitations to these individuals can be optimistic minded towards these individuals, otherwise called societal optimize theory. This simply means that the society should become hopeful and optimistic that someday with the correct legal punishment; the individuals would again become law abiders(Adam, 1978).

The society would look at the past offenders are people with great potential of doing all good and with great influence to others in the society. These people can be subjected to some duties higher than their actual desires with an aim of making them aware that the society has higher expectations from them. Example of this scenarios would be, thieves from jails appointed as pastors in the local churches after confessions. Behavior modification theories would apply in making the criminals lesser and lesser criminals, these behavior modification techniques involve shaping, chaining among others. These are strategies as well as techniques aimed at decreasing the occurrence of undesirable behavior. For example, shaping involve a situation whereby an individual is reinforced for performing the required behavior step by step until the required behavior is fully achieved.

In the criminal justice system, a strategy whereby the offenders are assigned some roles that ensures that they show responsibilities to others who are also in the criminal justice system has always led to these criminals realizing that others still believe in them and would need them to be better citizens someday. The justice system would also employ a strategy derived from the social learning theory to avoid stereotyping individuals, like inviting the social good conduct personnel, people with traits that are so friendly to the society to spend some times with the offenders, this act would show love and concern thereby instilling some guilt to these offenders that despite their unfriendly criminal acts, the society still has hope that they will be better citizens.

Labeling theory is the most legitimate crime causative theory.  Labeling takes away a person’s opportunities, the society takes away a person’s opportunities once that person has been labeled a criminal. According to Frank  Tannenbaum  1938: 19-20, ‘a criminal can be made, and the process of making a criminal is  a process of tagging, describing, emphasizing, evoking the very traits that are complained of……the person becomes the thing he is described as being….’ Labeling theory basically illustrates harsh the societal response to deviance and crime is, mostly through the criminal sanctions(Matza, 1969).

It explains how the society has regarded criminals as those individuals who require insufficient attention and opportunities. In the criminal law justice, there are categories of deviant behavior, there is the primary deviant behavior and the secondary deviant behavior, labeling theory also explains that through labeling of the deviant, there are endless opportunities that the deviant might graduate from the primary stage to the secondary stage. In other words, a minor criminal, through labeling, with time might undergo transition from being a minor criminal victim to a major criminal.

A person who has been labeled a criminal by the people in power or any element of the society as a result of a minor criminal offence, would have his opportunities taken away from him by the society, the opportunities that would otherwise make him an independent and a better individual, for example, no one would like to employ a criminal, work with a criminal, be in the same school with a criminal or even worship with a criminal in the same church, people will always be very careful with such a person in the society. This reaction might and will definitely lead to that person having a low self-esteem and developing hatred to the society.  Due to the opportunities that the individual has been denied by the society as a result of labeling, the person might and will definitely resort to criminal activities for survival(Link & Phelan, 1999).

In the three influential versions of the cultural deviance theory, I would confidently classify gangs at the first influential version; the lower-class, gangs are just but the self-centered individuals who make sure they get what they want mindless of who they hurt or what they damage in the process. These are the selfish individuals driven by their selfish desires to do evils, thereby engaging in the major criminal activities in the urban areas.  Gangs do not exclusively involve the rural-lower class culture, or the urban- lower class but both.  These individuals turn to crime because they do not have access to the legitimate opportunity structures, they therefore form collective views which are completely different from others on the nature of the criminal behavior.

They are therefore led by their selfish gains and bitterness. Gangs therefore form their own norms as well as values that make their activities acceptable as well as rewarding. They therefore can falsely justify their activities and reinforce them according to their own constitution. This group evidently consists of the lower class mindless of origin, whether from the rural sector or the urban sector. Quite often we witness or hear of the youths who are members of a particular gang who have been ganged down; some are just the lower-class individuals from the rural areas who have been introduced by the lower-class individuals from the urban sectors.

They have their organized crimes which are so drastic upon happening. A gang member is knowledgeable of the possible drawbacks, repercussions when caught since they are all trained and all risks made clear to them upon membership of the gang. The lower-class group in general is responsible for organizing and creating crimes in urban areas. This group accuses the society for denying them access to the legitimate opportunities without considering justifiable the reasons behind their limited or non-existing access.

I will confidently use the cultural deviance theory; sub-cultural theory of deviance to explain why there are twice as many youths joining gangs in the cities while there is an increasing number of gang leaders released after good conduct. With the current world, the youths are exposed to a variety of sub cultural values as well norms. The youth’s focal concern is the adaptable values that do appeal to their particular generations. Culture is complex; it is transmitted to members of a particular group. When culture is transmitted, particular fundamental and dominant values and beliefs are as well transmitted alongside, these values and beliefs are deemed acceptable and normal to a particular group receiving them.

The above stated theory dwells on sub cultures, well; a sub culture is a subgroup within a larger cultural population. This subgroup shares only some of the values, norms and beliefs of the dominant or bigger group, in the same way, this subgroup has some norms and beliefs that are so different from t those of the dominant larger group. This theory focuses on the minority of the populations. Mostly, the sub cultural theory of deviance focuses on the lower-class individuals who are mainly the youths forming the minority population. The youth therefore come up with unique cultural values (Gove, 1975). 

These values are particularly in regard of crime. The working class youth had a different major concern submitting according to their subcultures surrounding basic concepts as excitement, trouble, smartness, toughness, fatalism as well as autonomy. This brought about different values and norms and as a result, high crime rates could possibly be found to be in consistent with the different sub cultural values that existed among these youths. These sub cultural values are considered pervasive. Youths therefore are the only age group with this kind of mindset; they are the most affected since they have particularly different holding views of crime and delinquency from the major group. While most of the youths were getting into crimes as a result of the differences in the sub cultural values and morals, the gang leaders on the other hand are segregated and are excluded from the varied sub cultural norms and values thereby explaining why most of them are released after exercising good conduct (Tannenbaum, 1938). Youths will increasingly have varied values and therefore most of them will sort for criminal activities at a high rate explaining why their number has doubled in the criminal sector in the urban areas.

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