Author Topic: Sociological Factors and Criminal Behavior: Theories of Criminal Science.  (Read 161 times)

Offline Mahmud Arif

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Crime is a violation of social rules of behavior as interpreted and expressed by the criminal law, which reflects public opinion, traditional values, and the viewpoint of people currently holding social and political power. Individuals who violate these rules are subject to sanctions by state authority, social dishonor and loss of status. Many theories have been developed to explain criminal behavior. While some theories are not as common, others have evolved and are used in many criminal studies today.

(1) Rational Choice Theory:
Crime is a function of a decision-making process in which the potential offender weighs the potential costs and benefits of an illegal act. The view that crime is a matter of rational choice is held by a number of criminologists who believe the decision to violate any law like commit a robbery, sell drugs, attack a rival, fill out a false tax return -- is made for a variety of personal reasons, including greed, revenge, need, anger, lust, jealousy, thrill-seeking, or vanity. Regardless of the motive, criminal actions occur only after individuals carefully calculating the potential benefits and consequences of crime. The drug dealer concludes that the huge profit from a single shipment of cocaine far outweighs the possible costs of apprehension. Rational choice theory has its roots in the classical criminology developed by the Italian social thinker Cesare Beccaria.

(2) Trait Theory:
The view that criminality is a product of abnormal biological or psychological traits. The view that criminals have physical or mental traits that make them different and abnormal began with the Italian physician and criminologist Cesare Lombroso. Having a particular physical characteristic does not, in itself, produce criminality. Crime-producing interactions involve both personal traits (such as defective intelligence and abnormal brain chemistry) and environmental factors (such as family life and socioeconomic status).

On Monday, April 16, 2007, 23-year-old “Seung-Hui Cho” took the lives of 32 people—27 students and 5 professors—at Virginia before taking his own life. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Cho was described as a loner unable to make social connections. He had been involuntarily institutionalized in a mental health facility. Several female students complained to the police that he was showing up at their rooms and bombarding them with instant messages. In a creative writing class, he had read one of his poems aloud, and its sinister content had so frightened classmates that some did not show up the next class.

(3) Social Structure Theory:
The view that disadvantaged economic class position is a primary cause of crime. This view is referred to as social structure theory. Social structure theories suggest that social and economic forces operating in lower-class areas push many of their residents into criminal behavior patterns. These theories consider the existence of teenage gangs, high crime rates, and social disorder in slum areas as major social problems. Most social structure theories focus on children’s law violating behavior. They suggest that the social forces that cause crime begin to affect people while they are relatively young and continue to influence them throughout their lives.

The tiny country of El Salvador (population 6.6 million) is home to more than 40,000 gang members. In the early 1990s, hundreds of members of two of the largest gangs in Los Angeles, the 18th Street gang and the MS-13 gang, who had illegally made their home in the United States, were deported back to El Salvador. The deportees brought Los Angeles gang culture with them to a country already swamped with weapons from an ongoing civil war. Now on their home turf, gang boys recruited thousands of local teenagers into their reconstituted gangs. Joining a gang gives these poor, urban teenagers a powerful sense of identity and belonging. They were also free now to show their courage and manhood by engaging in a never-ending turf war with one another.

(4) Social Process Theory:
The view that criminality is a function of people’s interactions with various organizations, institutions, and processes in society. The social process approach has several independent branches. These are described briefly below:

(i) Social learning theory suggests that people learn the techniques and attitudes of crime from close relationships with criminal peers: Crime is a learned behavior.

(ii) Social control theory maintains that everyone has the potential to become a criminal, but most people are controlled by their bonds to society. Crime occurs when the forces that bind people to society are weakened or broken.

(iii) Social reaction (labeling) theory holds that people become criminals when significant members of society label them as such and they accept those labels as a personal identity.

Under the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act an imprisoned sex offender or child kidnapper must register with the Department of Corrections before release from prison. The law requires that the offender’s name, address, photograph, and physical description be published on the Internet. While some lawmakers may view sex offender registration as an effective method of alerting citizens to the presence of dangerous person in their community, such methods may also have their downside. It is possible that such measure can continuously label a person into social outcast/monster although he has already paid his debt to society and might actually encourage rather than deter criminal behaviors.

(5) Social Conflict Theory:
The writings of Karl Marx greatly influenced the development of the view of crime that rested on the concept of social conflict. The cause of crime can be linked to economic, social, and political imbalances. Some groups in society, particularly the working class and ethnic minorities, are seen as the most likely to suffer oppressive social relations based on class conflict and racism and hence to be more subjected to criminal behavior.

In June of 2009, Amnesty International, the civil rights watchdog organization, published a report accusing the Sri Lankan government of a vicious cycle of civil rights abuse in its war against the Tamil Tiger rebel group. In addition, the Sri Lankan government was accused of failing to investigate civil rights violations, including disappearances and torture of political suspects, in their suppression of the Tamil independence movement. But it was not just the rebels who were hunted and killed. There were more than 30,000 “disappearances” of people considered sympathetic to the Tamil cause, including businessmen, journalists, and individuals suspected of having “terrorist links“; even a vice chancellor of a university was a victim. Once they were taken into government hands, people suspected of aiding the rebels were often never seen again; they just “disappeared.” In addition to this outrage, hundreds of thousands of innocent people were displaced from their homes and involved in crimes.

(6) Routine Activity Theory:
Routine activity theory emerged as a key theoretical approach in criminology in the late 1970s. A key idea of the theory is that people act in response to situations (including when they commit crimes); therefore, the kinds of situations they encounter in their daily lives influence their crime involvement (and, as a result, influence a society’s crime rate). Routine activities theory requires three elements be present for a crime to occur:

(1) A motivated offender with criminal intentions and the ability to act on these inclinations
(2) A suitable victim or target, and
(3) Absence of a capable guardian who can prevent the crime from happening. These three elements must converge in time and space for a crime to occur.

The routine/activities of people over the course of their day and night lives make some individuals more susceptible to being viewed as suitable targets by a rationally calculating offender. If there is an unprotected target and there are sufficient rewards, a motivated offender will commit a crime. The number of motivated criminals in the population also affects crime levels. It is held that offenders are less likely to commit crimes if they can achieve personal goals through legitimate means. This implies that criminal motivations can be reduced if offenders awareness that there are alternatives to crime.

                                                                                                                                                                                Thank you.
Arif Mahmud
Department of Law
Daffodil International University
Contact: +8801682036747

Offline Nahid Afreen

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Nahid Afreen
Assistant Professor
Department of Law (FHSS)
Daffodil International University,
Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh