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Monday, May 26, 2014

Week 4 Discussion 2 - Criminological Theory.

  • How is labeling theory different from anomie and ecological theories? How does the concept of symbolic interactionism affect labeling?
Labeling theory and anomie theory have a similarity in that they can describe an individual's deviance based upon reaction to societal norms; however, they can be differentiated in that labeling theory is based upon the assumption that this deviance can be based upon the individual's reaction to being labeled by society as a criminal, while anomie theory explains deviance as a reaction to the strain placed on the individual when contrasting the goals set by society on the individual, and that individual's ability to attain those goals within the guidelines set by society. Thus, labeling theory places more emphasis on how social norms shape the individual.
Labeling theory is “an offshoot of symbolic interactionism,” ((Williams & McShane, 2014, p.110) that describes the behavior of an individual to a symbol in the form of a label.
  • How effective is labeling theory in explaining the situation in San Francisco and other cities in California? Why?
Labeling theory is effecitve at explaing the situation under the theory's assumptions: Tim Nichols, ex-San Francisco police officer, on the high black arrest rate: "It comes from the fact the majority of officers who want to take on criminals are in the Bayview and the Fillmore, which are heavily black. I don't believe it's racism. ... Officers have to pick and choose the severity of the crime they want to spend their time on, and officers who make a lot of arrests generally go after hard-core criminals." He also said black drug dealers are particularly visible: "How often do you see a group of whites standing on the street corner selling narcotics? Generally whites don't sell on the corner." (Swaed, 2006, p.8) Thus it can be seen that police are looking for suspects based upon labeling premises, which are then justified by making the arrests. It aalso present the danger that an individual may be labeled with courtesy stigma for being associated with a suspect, annd on the officer's radar in the future
  • Do you believe individuals who are arrested once for a blue-collar or white-collar crime earn a permanent label of “criminal,” and are, therefore, more prone to commit crimes again? Why?
I think that this differs from case to case. The head of Travis County's DWI unit within the DA's office, Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested for a hit and run DWI, and yet remained head of the unit.
  • Could expanding the number of activities that are labeled as crimes actually create more criminals rather than deterring crime? Why?
Criminalization of activity that had previously been normalized will certainly create more “criminals” in a technical sense. Logically speaking, the more “crimes” that exist means more opportunity to violate those laws.
  • Shaming sentences have been criticized by some as placing a stigma or label on offenders and potentially can do more harm than good. Others believe that shaming can only work on offenders in small communities where individuals know many of their fellow citizens. In the context of shaming sentences, answer these questions:
    • How effective are policies of shaming and placing stigmas on individuals in deterring crimes?
    • Do shaming sentences have equal impact on individuals of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds or will it affect some individuals more than others? Why?
    • Can shaming sentences be used in specific environments of San Francisco and other Californian cities that are more prone to crimes? Why?
There is a difference of opinion on the effectiveness of shaming programs. Supporters claim that “When those techniques work, as Cornell University law professor Stephen P. Garvey explored in an analysis of shaming punishments, society saves money because offenders do not have to be locked away for eons, victims have a sense of being made whole again and punishment becomes more than retribution (Cole, 2006, para.6). But what factors make a shaming program work? The first factor would have to be the individual himself; does the individual place higher values on his own outlook on life, or is he susceptable to the views of his peers. The second factor would have to be whether his subculture shares the “shame” assigned by the criminal jutice system. Culture conflict suggests that a subculture does not share all the values of socity as a whole, and shaming will not work in which the subcultural mores of a neighborhood of a different ethnicity do not assign a criminal marker to the behavior being punished by the criminal justice system.
  • With a disorganized “melting pot” found in many large urban areas, does criminal labeling have a strong stigma and impact on an individual's self-concept, or is it reserved more for smaller homogenous communities?
Culture conflict theory suggests that a homogenous community will have better chances of having shaming programs work, in that there are no competing moral values. In addition, a community that is smaller will have stronger interpersonal relationships then a larger community in which there are more strangers. Stronger relationships will carry more moral weight upon the individual.
Cole, K. (2006, November 28). Should "Shame" return to the criminal justice system? CrimProfLaw. Retrieved May 3, 2014 from http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/2006/11/should_shame_re.html
Swaed, S. (2006, December 17). High black arrest rate calls for inquiry. SFGate. Retrieved April 29, 2014 from http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/HIGH-BLACK-ARREST-RATE-RAISES-CALL-FOR-INQUIRY-2482118.php
Williams, F. & McShane, M. (2014) Criminology Theory (6th edition). Pearson

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