The complexity of crime is complex. Simply by looking at a very different type of homicide with a very different theoretical modeling, that point becomes clear.
Ordinary homicide: not to suggest that the untimely and tragic death of anyone is ordinary, simply called ordinary as it is a more common type of homicide
Examined all cases (71) of criminal homicide over a ten year period in a medium sized California county by using all official documents connected to the case
He reconstructed these homicides and found that they were the result of a culmination of an interchange between victim and offender
The question for you think about is whether these types of homicides, that generally occur between people who know each other, can be reduced. What social policy do you think would help reduce these to verbal arguments or physical non-lethal outcomes?
Luckenbill’s goal in his research: to reconstruct how homicides occur (usually in the context of people who know each other involved in an interpersonal dispute situation)
One person insults or offends another person
Physical (flirtation, affair)
Failure to cooperate with a request
Stage 1: Offense
Case 34: (verbal insult) “The offender, victim, and two friends were driving toward the country where they could consume their wine. En route, the victim turned to the offender, both of whom were located in the back seat and state, ‘You know, you really got some good parents, You know, you’re really an (expletive). You’re a leech. The whole time you ere out of a job, you were living with them and weren’t even paying. The car you have should be your father’s. He’s the one who made the payments. Any time your dad goes to the store, you’re the first in line to sponge off him. Why don’t you grow up and stop being a leech?’ The offender swore at him and told him to shut up. But the victim continued, “someone ought to come along and really expletive you up.”
Case 10 (physical or nonverbal gesture) “When the victim finally came home, the offender told her to sit down; they had to talk. He asked her if she was ‘fooling around’ with other men. She stated that she had and her boyfriends please her more than the offender. The offender later stated that ‘this was like a hot iron in my gut.’” He ripped her clothes off and examined her body finding scars and bruises. She said that her boyfriends liked to beat her. His anger magnified.
The insulted person seeks clarification (i.e., personal insult or can this be explained away).
Seeks clarification from:
Reviewing past history
Stage 2: Clarification
Case 28 (seeks clarification from the person) “The offender entered the back door of the house. His wife said to her lover, the victim, ‘there’s _____.’ The victim jumped to his feet and started dressing hurriedly. The offender having called to his wife without avail, entered the bedroom. He found his wife nude and the victim clad in underwear. The startled offender asked the victim, ‘Why?’ The victim replied, ‘haven’t you ever been in love? We love each other.’ The offender later stated, ‘If they were drunk or something, I could see it. I mean, I’ve done it myself. But when he said they loved each other, well that did it.’”
Case 20 (clarification sought from audience). “the offender and his friend were sitting in a booth at a tavern drinking beer. The offender’s friend told him that the offender’s girlfriend was playing with another man (victim) at the other end of the bar. The offender looked at them and asked his friend if he thought something was going on. The friend responded, ‘I wouldn’t let that guy fool around with her, if she was mine.’ The offender agreed and suggested to his friend that his girlfriend and the victim be shot for their actions. His friends said that only the victim should be shot, not the girlfriend.
Case 35 (clarification imputed on past history) “During a family quarrel, the victim had broken the stereo and several other household goods. At one point, the victim cut her husband, the offender, on the arm. He demanded that she sit down and watch television so that he could attend to his wound in peace. On returning from the bathroom, he sat down and watched television. Shortly after, the victim rose from her chair, grabbed an ashtray and shouted, ‘you expletive, I’m going to kill you.’ As she came toward him, the offender reached into the drawer of the end table, secured a pistol, and shot her. On arrest, the offender told police officers, ‘You know how she gets when she’s drunk. I had to stop her, or she would have killed me. She’s tried it before, that’s how I got all these scars, pointing to several areas on his back.”
The situation is not normalized and the offended party strikes back in one of the following ways:
Stage 3: Retaliation
Case 12 (lethal): “The offender, victim, and group of bystanders were observing a fight between a barroom bouncer and a drunk patron on the street outside the tavern. The offender was cheering for the bouncer and the victim was cheering for the patron, who was losing the battle. The victim, angered by the offender’s disposition toward the fight, turned to the offender and said, ‘You’d really like to see the little guy have the expletive kicked out of him, wouldn’t you big man?’ The offender turned toward the victim and asked, ‘What did you say? You want the same thing, punk?’ The victim moved toward the offender and reared back. The offender responded ‘OK buddy.’ He struck the victim with a right cross. The victim crashed to the pavement and died a week later.”
Case 54 (verbal, nonlethal): The offender, victim, and two neighbors were sitting in the living room drinking wine. The victim started calling the offender, his wife, abusive names. The offender told him to ‘shut up.’ Nevertheless, he continued. Finally, she shouted, ‘I said shut up. If you don’t shut up and stop it, I’m going to kill you and I mean it.’”
Case 4 (physical, nonlethal): The offender, victim, and three friends were driving in the country drinking beer and wine. At one point, the victim started laughing at the offender’s car which he, the victim, scratched a week earlier. The offender asked the victim, why he was laughing. The victim responded that the offender’s car looked like junk. The offender stopped the car and all got out. The offender asked the victim to repeat his statement. When the victim reiterated his characterization of the car, the offender struck the victim, knocking him to the ground.
If both the victim and the offender are still alive, the fourth stage becomes the mirror image of the third stage.
Instead of an implicit decision being made that all is even, these are all cases that ended in homicide.
Stage 4: Counter-retaliation
Case 54 (continued: husband and wife)
“The victim continued his abusive line of conduct. The offender proceeded to the kitchen, securing a knife. She returned to the living room. She repeated her warning. The victim rose form his chair, swore at the offender’s stupidity and continued laughing at her. She thrust the knife deep into his chest.”
If both individuals are still alive, the course of action continues until one is dead.
Offender leaves the scene to secure a weapon
Existing prop (e.g., in these cases, a telephone cord, beer mug, or baseball bat) are turned into a lethal weapon
Finally (Stage 6), decisions are made by the killer and/or audience, but homicide has occurred.
Stage 5: Battle
Why does the United States have a high rate of homicide compared to other nations of a similar level of economic development?
A disputed area of criminology: some argue that it is structural and others that it is cultural
So, McCaghy’s model is presented so you can think about it and come to your own conclusions
Ordinary homicide rooted in:
interpersonal dispute situations
Plus alcohol (changes the context of offenses and their interpretation
Plus weapons (especially guns) (guns more lethal than knifes more lethal than fists)
Plus general cultural values supporting violence (Frontier Tradition as called by McCaghy)
Cultural values that permeate culture across place and time
Violence as solution to problems: violence is viewed as a direct and efficient way to solve a problem
General cultural values
Tradition of gun ownership
Regardless of your opinion about guns and how much control should be placed on guns, guns are simply more lethal than knives and knives are more lethal than fists
Idealized version of manhood (standing tall, confidence in physical prowess, standing tall vs. danger or affront)
While gender roles are changing, cultural notions have made it harder for men to walk away from an interpersonal dispute situation.
Persistent discrepancies in male and female homicide despite changing gender roles would have to be explained by nature (e.g., testosterone) or nurture (gender roles as shaped by society)
Independence from authority: rooted in the vigilante tradition
A perception that we have to avenge our own wrongs rather than turning problems over to authority or a neutral party
In the case of divorce, people have to go to an expensive arbitrator (i.e., lawyer) of interpersonal dispute situations. Other than that, there is a resistance to going to arbitrators (e.g., neighborhood resolutions, etc.)
What social policy do you think would help bring down homicide rates (for this type of homicide)?
Question to ponder
Hickey’s Model of Serial Murder
Various kinds of mass murder
E.g., 1) Simultaneous mass murderers: kill victims all at once; generally apprehended, commit suicide, killed by police, or turn themselves in (not an ongoing threat)
2) Serial murderer: kill over time with a cooling off period in between; make special efforts to elude capture and can extend over time; individualizes victims; usually a pattern (type of victim and/or methods/motives for killing)
Hickey’s Trauma Control Model
Hickey’s study based on approximately 400 (62 females and 337 males)
Females generally kill children, patients, and husbands; a few work in a team with a man
Hickey: Trauma Control Model
Recognizes that there is perhaps no etiology to explain the unexplainable
Perhaps, the question is impossible. How does a researcher explain the unexplainable?
So, Hickey examined these cases and simply looked for the factors they held in common. Since many other people share the factors, the etiological portion of the question is not addressed.
1) Predispositional factors
Leaves open the possibility that there may exist one or more predispositional factors (e.g., head injury, brain pathology, XYY, or certain personality traits)
Perhaps, this factor is the etiological portion of the equation.
Destabilizing or negative events occurring during the formative years
Rejections can include: unstable home life, death of parents, divorce, sexual abuse, physical abuse, failure, school ostracism, group exclusion
Combination of traumas is greater than one
Most individuals cope constructively with trauma, cope self-destructively, or cope destructively but not in a lethal manner.
Each person handles rejected differently and so may have to go back to factor 1.
3) Low Self-Esteem (Worthlessness)
Traumatization leads to low self-esteem
Collapse of self-esteem (feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and worthlessness)
Even if appear on the surface to not have this issue.
Individuals don’t cope with trauma constructively
Perceive themselves and their surroundings in a distorted perspective
Dissociation occurs: (an inner life that is lacking; a social/moral cripple)
To regain psychological equilibrium, construct masks, facades or a veneer of self-confidence and control.
For example, various serial killers have never been caught or are not caught for a long period of time (due to this façade).
Psychopaths: the typical profile
A few are mentally ill; most are psychopaths
Hickey argues that the psychopathy is a way of maintaining control and coping with the trauma(s).
Psychopaths as described by Levin and Fox have a “lobotomized morality” knowing the difference between right and wrong but not caring.
Commonly immerse themselves in facilitators: alcohol, drugs, pornography, or the occult
Violent fantasy is common among serial killers and is often fueled by facilitators.
Holmes and Deburger argue that there are many types of serial killers, from visionary (mentally Ill) to mission-oriented (mini-genocide) to hedonistic (psychopathic) to power/control( want control) to disciple (follow leader) to comfort (for money, a more common motivation of women) to power seekers (medical practitioners and power)
This shows the immense complexity of explaining even one type of criminal behavior
At the collective level, genocide is the most evil and destructive crime.
At the interpersonal level, mass murder is completely horrific and reprehensible.
What do you think is the appropriate punishment?
If you support the death penalty, obviously, these felons are most deserving.
If you do not support the death penalty, what do you think is appropriate punishment?
Conflict Criminology: The Social Reality of Crime
One of the clearest statements of conflict criminology: Richard Quinney
Conflict theory: the etiological question is not the important question
The central issue: differential application of conceptions of crime
If you are a sociology major, this theory rooted in conflict theory, and applied to crime. Thus, conflict theory stands as a critique of the system.
Prop 1: Definition of crime: crime is a definition of human conduct that is created by authorized agents in a politically organized society
Each society gives some authorized agents the power to create law (e.g., dictator or legislature are examples)
2: Formulation of Criminal Definitions
Criminal definitions describe behaviors that conflict with the interests of the segments of society that have the power to shape public policy
Powerful create laws reflecting their own interests
Thus, legislatures create laws that provides, for example, harsher punishments for street crime than suite crime.
3: Application of Criminal Definitions
Criminal definitions are applied by the powerful (those having the power to shape the enforcement and administration of criminal law
Criminal justice system: a funnel weeding out the powerful and retaining the powerless: discretion is practiced by citizens, police officers, prosecutors, juries, judges. At each stage, the powerful tend to get weeded out and the powerless retained.
(All crimes, all crimes reported to police, arrests, decisions to prosecute, guilty verdicts, prison, death penalty) each are levels of this funnel.
Rather than a funnel, it should look like this
where only evidence is considered and p power does not become an issue.
4: Development of behavior patterns in relation to criminal definitions
Criminal behavior patterns are shaped by where one exists in a society (opportunities, learning experiences, interpersonal associations, and self-conceptions)
Different behavior patterns differentially treated
Since etiology does not really matter to much to conflict theorists, imagine a person wants to steal.
If they could steal in any manner, that person would probably prefer white-collar crime as the money is better and the punishment is often less. An upper-class person has this opportunity. A lower-class person does not and will probably engage in the behavior pattern of stealing via street crime.
Street crime is usually treated more harshly.
5) Construction of criminal conceptions
Conceptions, or “pictures in the mind”
What is a crime? What is a criminal?
Citizens, police, prosecutors, and juries are influenced by the pictures in the mind and this shapes discretion.
E.g., What is a crime? Regarding rape, there are various types, including stranger rape, date rape, and marital rape. Which type of rape will have the highest probability of being reported, resulting in arrest, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing?
What is a criminal?
Imagine a 92-year-old woman is the perpetrator of a crime. Does she match our picture of criminal? Will this have an impact of the discretion of the citizen against whom the crime was perpetrated, the police officer, the prosecutor, the jury, and the judge?
Justice would demand all being treated equal. But, mercy would often be the basis for discretion in this case.
6: The social reality of crime refers to all the above stated.
If you believe that humans are basically bad, or self-centered, this will be a theoretical approach more compatible with your assumptions.
Clearly, regarding control theories, Travis Hirschi has been more influential than Reckless. But, Reckless presented an interesting control theory. It integrates various levels of explanation unlike most theories.
Containment Theory (A Control Theory)
Containment Theory – like all control theories – based on the following assumption: the motivation for criminal behavior is a part of human nature and all people would commit crime if left on their own.
Important question thus becomes: Why don’t people commit crime? If people don’t commit crime, something is stopping them from committing crime. It is the weakness of forces restraining humans that produces crime.
The natural tendency is for all individuals to commit crime. As Jack Katz noted there are seductions to crime. The temptations of crime can include money and revenge among others.
This natural tendency for individuals to commit crime can be enhanced by the following: social pressures, social pulls, and pushes.
1) Social Pressures—forces bearing down on the individual (difficult life circumstances) including adverse living conditions, family conflicts, stigmatized/minority group status, and lack of opportunities.
2) Social Pulls—bad influences drawing the person away from accepted norms of living, such as bad companions, delinquent or criminal subcultures, deviant groups, and mass media.
3) Pushes—biological and/or psychological factors within each individual, driving him or her toward crime, including restlessness, discontent, inner tensions, hostility, aggressive nature, need for immediate gratification, rebelliousness, etc.
What keeps a person from committing crime? There is a containment system: a containing external structure and an internal buffer. These two containments act as a defense against deviating from the legal and social norms. If there are causes which lead to deviant behavior, they have to be negated by the containing buffers.
Inner containment: internal containments consist of the inner strength, or internal constraints, of an individual personality (e.g., good self-concept, ego strength, high frustration tolerance, goal orientation and tension-reducing capabilities).
External containment—outer constraints or the normative constraints that societies, institutions, and social groups (like the family and school use to control their members)
Reckless felt that in mobile, industrial societies, found to reside primarily in the family and other supportive groups.
In less advanced and highly managed societies, external containments are strong and so internal containments are probably not put to the test.
In mobile, industrialized societies, internal containments are more important for constraining behavior.
Do you think Reckless was right?
Do humans need to be contained?
Rooted in Symbolic Interactionism
Labeling theory was developed by sociologists such as Edwin Lemert, Howard Becker, Edwin Schur, Kai Erikson during the mid-twentieth century to explain deviance.
Criminology has been harsher on labeling theory than some other substantive areas of sociology, including deviance and disability studies. I
Labeling theory is not a theory that is good at explaining the etiology of initial crime. It is a theory that is better at explaining recidivism, or repeat crime.
Labels – images (stereotypical images)
Societally constructed, even when individually acted upon. Thus, labels do not change to rapidly as they are maintained at the societal level.
(e.g., Criminal as Dangerous –societally constructed); at an individual level, an employer may not hire or a neighbor might shun.
Interesting point to ponder: many criminals are dangerous and labeling them helps keep society safe. Nevertheless, around half of all those incarcerated are there for non-violent offenses.
So, rather than create different labels for different crimes, we tend to operate under the label: criminal as dangerous.
Labels of crime are a Master Status
A master status is a status that is considered more important than any other status and to which others are more likely to react.
Thus, for example, an employer might be reluctant to higher an ex-convict (master status) even if competent accountant (one of the other statuses the person occupies).
Impact of labels
Labels can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As others may react to the person based on the label, the person may become more enmeshed in the role of the label. Further, it is hard to disavow the deviance.
Ex-criminal, ex-alcoholic: the focus is not on the ex portion of the label, but the criminal (alcoholic) portion of the label.
The self-fulfilling prophecy
An individual has decided in prison to become a conforming citizen. The ex-convict leaves prison and the label makes it difficult to secure employment. What is the outcome?
So, recidivism can be explained using the lens of labeling theory.
As opposed to the other cycle. For example, a pedophile repeats crime and whatever caused them to commit the first crime, produced subsequent crimes. Labeling theory does not explain this scenario.
Do you think that labeling theory has efficacy for explaining criminal behavior?
DIFFERENTIAL ASSOCIATION THEORY
Father of American Criminology
What is your view of human nature?
1) humans are basically bad by nature (consistent with control theories)
2) humans are basically hardwired to do good (think about altruistic behavior during times of crisis or natural disaster)
3) humans are born blank slates (consistent with differential association)
In other words, a baby is born innocent, an empty vessel waiting to be filled. If that baby is basically filled with good there will be a different result then if basically filled with bad.
Edwin Sutherland was a very critical sociologist in the development of criminology. He developed differential association theory, the notion of white-collar crime and for several generations, his text was the most widely used criminology text.
If you are a sociology major, you will recognize symbolic interactionism at the root of the theoretical assumptions of this theory.
Basic assumption: humans are born blank slates, empty vessels
Humans are the product of molding, determinism according to differential association and that molding comes from our primary groups.
Criminal behavior is a learned behavior.
Criminal behavior is not inherited.
(Clearly, much early criminology was arguing that criminals were a product of nature, so he had to state that it was not inherited.)
Criminal behavior is learned in interaction with others, in a process of communication.
The principle part of the learning occurs within intimate personal groups (primary groups).
Unlike Robert Merton who lived a long life and continued producing scholarship into this century, Sutherland died in the middle years of the twentieth century.
Ideas are products of their time and you might wonder had he lived longer, what he would have thought about the power of mass media.
Learning crime includes:
A) techniques of committing the crime
B) the specific direction of motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes.
Regarding the techniques, it does not take much to learn to assault another human. However, to become a successful art thief requires a steep learning curve.
Regarding the motives, we receive all kinds of messages about crime. Maybe a parent states to the child that it is not all right to hit the neighbor, but then hits the spouse. A child can learn a multitude of messages.
The specific directions of motives and drives is learned from definitions of the legal codes as favorable or unfavorable.
A criminal becomes criminal because of an excess of definitions favorable to the violation of law over definitions unfavorable to the violation of law.
The heart of the theory. It is not simply associating with bad companions, it is concerned with contact with criminal definitions balanced against contact with conforming definitions.
Differential associations may vary:
Duration—lasting how long; long, lasting relationships more important than short-term relationships
Priority—when in life they first encounter it
Intensity—the importance and prestige attached (strength of relationship)
So, for example, family and peers are critically important as various factors are present for these associations in life.
The process of learning criminal behavior by association with criminal and anti-criminal patterns involves all of the mechanisms that are involved in any other type of learning.
(One reason that this theory has been critiqued is for not being a good theory of learning).
Although criminal behavior is an expression of general needs and values, it is not explained by those general needs and values, because noncriminal behavior is an expression of those same needs and values
Differential association has been variously modified and presented over the years.
(One example wass Daniel Glazer who felt that Sutherland presented too “mechanistic” or passive an image of criminals, ignoring the choice-making abilities of humans. So, he presented differential identification, and included mass media as a teacher when he argued, that “…a person pursues criminal behavior to the extent that he identifies with real or imaginary persons from whose perspective his criminal behavior seems acceptable.”
If you are interested in further pursuing this theory, Akers and Burgess have modified this theory by integrating the theory with behaviorism.
Do you think Sutherland was basically right?
Nature of Deterministic argument
Determinism: (in contrast to free will) assumes human behavior is determined or caused to at least a certain extent, by forces beyond the control of the individual. The individual does not control, for example, the family or society into which they are born. We are molded and shaped.
Thus, assumes, causes of criminal behavior differs at least to a certain extent from causes of noncriminal behavior.
Sociologists speak in probability terms not prediction terms. We can’t predict if a particular severely abused child will become a criminal or non-criminal. We do know that there is a greater probability for severely abused children to become criminal.
Thus, assumes, causes of criminal behavior differs at least to a certain extent from causes of noncriminal behavior.
In other words, children who are not severely abused less likely to be criminal than those who are severely abused (different causes).
The early history of criminology was dominated by biological determinism. It is important to understand the historical context of criminology. Even though the ideas are obviously not accepted today, it demonstrates that a large chunk of criminological time was distracted by the search for a biological type.
The idea that a criminal had a biological difference, or at least an unusual physical appearance, had long been held by humans.
In the Illiad, Homer’s description of an evil man (Thersites): “One eye was blinking, and one leg was lame, His mountain shoulders half his breast o’er spread, Thin hairs bestrewed his long misshapen head.”
Levin and Fox: argue still in modern times many still think that a criminal will have a certain look (shifty eyes, etc.)
In fact, if that is not the case, why does a lawyer wand a disheveled client cleaned up prior to court appearance?
Studies of mock juries with mock evidence: mock juries more likely to find and unattractive person guilty (culturally defined, of course)
Cesare Lombroso: a biological determinist
The father of criminology as he was the first to apply science to the study of crime. As such, much early criminology dominated by his quest.
1876—The Criminal Man
Ideas not taken seriously today, but he argued that criminals had various biological differences (e.g., head shape, asymmetrical faces, receding chins, ears standing out, etc.) that differentiated them from non-criminals. While the study of female criminals was neglected for much of the twentieth century, he maintained that female criminals were more virile in appearance.
Atavists–some criminals were born atavists, or throwbacks on the evolutionary scale
In other words, this is pure biological determinism. If a person was an atavist, that person was born, more or less, to be a criminal.
The scientific part of his study was that he compared the measurements of noncriminal (Italian soldiers) with those of living and dead criminals (autopsies).
Even Lombroso by the end of his life included factors other than biological factors.
1911—Crime: Its Causes and Remedies
Argued that many factors, including environmental, were related to crime causation
1) born criminals—atavistic reversions
2) insane criminals—(i.e., imbeciles, paranoids, dementia, epilepsy, hysteria, and alcoholism)
3) criminaloids—like modern notion of psychopaths
The quest of Lombroso dominated and distracted criminology well into the 20th century.
E.g., as late as 1939 (at Harvard) Ernest Hooten was still looking for physical differences between criminals and non-criminals (firemen) and he still concluded that there were differences.
Hooten’s List of physical differences
Criminals—thinner beard and body hair and thicker head hair
Criminals—more straight hair
Criminals—more red-brown hair, less gray-white hair
Criminals—more blue-gray and mixed eye color
Criminals—more low and sloping foreheads
Criminals—more high narrow nasal roots and bridges
Criminals—more thin lips and compressed jaw angles
Criminals—more long thin necks and sloping shoulders
Another biological argument made in the 1940s and 50s by William Sheldon and revived as late as the mid 80s by James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein (at Harvard) in Crime and Human Nature
1) ectomorph: lean, skinny, fragile, delicate
2) mesomorph: muscular
3) endomorph: heavier, less muscular
They argued that mesomorphs most likely to be criminal.
Heading to modern biological interpretations
Max Weber once argued the sometimes social scientists have to deal with “inconvenient facts.” Sociologists are socialized to favor the nurture argument in the nature-nurture debate.
Still, concordance studies done on twins (identical vs. fraternal) and adoptees (comparing records with biological and adoptive father) tend to suggest that there is something to the nature argument.
What do you think?
(Lombroso and his early followers)
1)Biology causes crime
(a more modern way of looking at it)
2) Biology shapes social experience shapes crime
E.g. XYY syndrome (an argument made a couple of decades ago and not widely accepted today) regarding this genetic anomaly
1) the genetic anomaly XYY is more likely to cause crime than XY (i.e., biology causes crime)
2) the genetic anomaly XYY causes certain physical traits (gangly limbs, severe acne) which leads to a greater likelihood of awkward social experiences for adolescents which increases the probability of crime (i.e., biology shapes social experience shapes crime)
Modern: look at single traits or causes
Some examples for you to ponder: do you think that these are worthy of further study?
(nutritional deficiencies, sugar in the diet, brain functioning, hypoglycemia)
(testosterone, PMS, postpartum, ADHD)
Some questions to ponder:
Do you think science will ever fully understand the human brain?
What role do you think that the brain plays in criminal behavior?
Psychology determinism: located in the individual
Personality: emotional and behavior attributes tending to remain constant as the individual moves from situation to situation
Gleuks: (Harvard) in one of the largest studies ever done comparing matched delinquents with non-delinquents, the Gleucks argue that extroversion was more likely to produce delinquency that introversion
Eysenck argues that either extreme extroverts or extreme introverts more likely to be antisocial
Some researchers now focusing on impulsivity, irritability, and low self-control (whatever the cause)
Psychopths: a pervasive pattern of disregard for the rights of others; a lobotomized morality; haven’t internalized the norms of society; lack conscience; lack remorse; don’t learn from others
Most criminologists who study serial murder argue that it is the most common profile of a serial murderer
The psychopath understands the difference between right and wrong but just doesn’t care.
Mental illness – especially serious mental illness– can also be a cause of crime. Basically, the legal standard – although – it is varied boils down to whether or not the person can understand the difference between right and wrong.
Since criminology was dominated by sociologists rather than psychologists after being wrestled away from the biologists sociological explanations are more prominent in the explanation of crime.
Classical (Basis of Choice and Rational Choice)
An Essay on Crime and Punishment
Rational Choice Theory: roots in the classical tradition
A child of the Enlightenment and a student of math in his university days, Beccaria wrote An Essay on Crime and Punishment in 1764 (predating criminology).
Beccaria was somewhat radical in his time (e.g., he opposed torture and the death penalty).
In the current era, conservatives tend to be advocates of this theoretical framework (rational choice theory, deterrence theory).
FREE WILL: the most basic assumption
Free will: Humans are free will actors. In other words, humans are rational, intelligent beings.
Humans weigh the benefits and consequences of future actions before making the decision of whether or not to engage in those actions.
Humans want to pursue maximum pleasure and self-interest (utilitarianism is reflected here).
Think of Beccaria as a student of math and view humans as economic actors.
If a person wants to buy a car, they will want to pursue maximum pleasure (their ideal car) and minimize pain (the cost).
Crime is the same.
Humans weigh the benefits and consequences of future actions before making the decision of whether of not to engage in them. This can be applied to crime.
If the pain is greater than the gain, the person will tend to refrain from the action.
If the gain is greater than the pain, the person will tend to engage in the behavior.
A taxpayer is filling out an annual tax form. If knowing that the underreporting of income is punished by a small penalty, the person might be more willing to cheat than if the person feels that tax evasion is usually punished by a large fine or a mandatory prison sentence. If people feel they won’t get caught as there is little enforcement, they will be more likely to engage in the criminal behavior.
Thinking about Beccaria in modern terms, the gains of crime (e.g., money, revenge, power, what Katz calls the seductions of crime, etc.) are varied.
The pains of crime are incarceration, shame, loss of voting rights, future employment problems, etc.
Modern thinkers note that the gains are more concrete (e.g., money) in that the pains of crime are often unknown (will the person be arrested, convicted, incarcerated?) and refer to events further in the future.
Points to ponder:
1) Does this apply to property crime (the person rationally weighs money against their perception of punishment)?
2) Does this apply to violent crime (the person is rational when committing murder) or is some violence less rational? Think of a crime of passion as an example. Is the person operating under rational thinking?
3) Does this apply to all crime?
4) Or, are humans not free will actors and rational?
To deter crime: the pain of punishment must outweigh the benefit of illegal gain.
At the time, it was supportive of reform. Punishments were quite severe, including death, torture, and involuntary servitude. Beccaria opposed the death penalty and torture, feeling that it had no place in a civil society and that it overshot the mark.
Punishment is JUSTIFIED because of its practical usefulness. Punishment is not acceptable on the grounds of vengeance. Punishment is not for rehabilitation. Punishment is for deterrence.
A rational scale of punishment must be developed. The rational scale of justice must be legislatively based (and not judicially based). In his writing Beccaria noted that punishment couldn’t be dependent on a variable factor such as whether a judge was having a good digestion day. People had to know the punishment in advance (rational).
Justice had to be equal for all (rational).
In other words, people need rational punishment to respond rationally.
In modern terms, this theoretical perspective supports determinate sentencing, rather than indeterminate sentencing.
Variables of Punishment
Severity: how tough is the punishment
Certainty: how sure the person is that he/she will be punished
Celerity: how fast, or promptly, the person is punished
Beccaria: more of an advocate of certainty and celerity
Modern conservatives (e.g., James Q. Wilson and Ernest Van Den Haag) started arguing for severity, suggesting that rehabilitation did not work (starting in the mid-70s). With the revival of this type approach, punishment focused on severity (e.g., increased incarceration rates, three strikes, etc.)
Questions to ponder
Assume you accept the notion that humans are free will actors. You can imagine one of two scenarios: you are a parent trying to produce good behavior in a child or you are designing criminal justice policy.
Which of these three components (severity, certainty, celerity) or combination of components are most effective in modifying behavior? Which do humans respond to the most?
This model will become useful as you start to go through the theories. It is primarily designed to help you answer some questions. Your job is wrestle with these theories and come to your conclusions about the causes of crime. Crime policy should be linked to what as a society we conclude the causes of crime to be.
Answer each of these three questions and it will help guide you in deciding what theories to apply to the criminal you study.
Theories are not facts. They are guides to help us illuminate. Human behavior is elusive and perhaps, even somewhat, mysterious. Humanity will perhaps never fully be able to delineate the causes of human behavior, especially criminal behavior that is particularly heinous. Nevertheless, the question is important. Perhaps, the more we understand about the causes of crime, the more we can effectively design crime policy that will decrease crime.
ETIOLOGICAL ISSUE (OR ISSUE OF ETIOLOGY): WHY DO INDIVIDUALS COMMIT CRIME?
1) ARE HUMAN BEINGS FREE WILL ACTORS OR PRODUCTS OF DETERMINISM?
Free will – intelligence and rationality are fundamental human characteristics and the basis for explaining human behavior. Humans can understand themselves and act to promote their own best interests. Each person is the master of their own fate; their own free will. Crime then is the free choice of an individual who assesses benefits and costs.
Classical (Cesare Beccaria, 1764, An Essay on Crime and Punishment, predates criminology)
Rational choice theory (the revival of classical theory)
Free will: basis for classical, choice and rational choice theories
Are humans free will actors?
In the poem, Invictus, Henley wrote, “I am the captain of my fate, I am the master of my soul.”
Do you agree?
For example, why is a student in college today?
You might argue free will. They have weighed the benefits (i.e., around a million dollars over the course of a life that differentiates the average college graduate and high school graduate) against the consequences (i.e., for a traditional college student, four years of focusing on studies and not earning full salaries).
Or, would you argue that the student is shaped by factors such as:
A) their own internal ability to focus
B) the expectations of family members and high school teachers
C) a society that increasingly differentiates the professions (and salaries) available to college graduates and high school graduates in a postindustrial society (with fewer high paid manufacturing jobs).
Free will—individual chooses to commit crime after having weighed the benefits and consequences
Determinism—Criminal behavior is the result of factors beyond the control of the individual. Humans are not free will actors. People behave as they have already been determined to behave. They are molded and shaped. Thinking and reasoning are just processes of rationalization by which individuals justify their predetermined course of action, rather than processes by which individuals freely and intelligently choose what they do.
2) If human beings are the products of determinism, what level of molding shapes humans?
Or, are humans, shaped by the forces in their life.
In the poem, Ulysses, Tennyson wrote, “I am a part of all that I have met.”
Which matches your view of humanity: free will or determinism?
Hard (total determinism)—individual almost completely molded; little free will
Soft (partial determinism)—individual partially shaped; partially free will
Descending order from macro to micro (not the order of the chapters in the book)
Does society shape us in ways that are powerful?
Macro level: society, social structure, culture shapes us
Robert K. Merton (1938) and anomie or strain theory
Level of Determinism
Do the groups of which we are a part shape us?
Edwin Sutherland and Differential Association theory – 1924
Walter Reckless and Containment (a social control theory) – 1961
Social psychological, groups, or the interaction between individual and society
Do our own individual traits shape us?
Lombroso – The Criminal Man 1876
E.g., Personality traits – 1950s – Gluecks
Individual (Biological or Psychological)
For example, if there is unfairness in the criminal justice system and criminals in the corporate street are treated more leniently than criminals in the street, is the etiological question even the most appropriate focus of criminological attention?
3) Is the etiological question the right question?
Labeling theorists: do not focus primarily on the issue of the initial etiological issue. Instead, labeling theorists focus on how labels (e.g., ex-convict) impact repeat crimes.
Other labels (e.g., bad kid, stupid kid) may shape the initial etiology, however.
Conflict theorists say that the etiological question may be interesting but not fundamentally important. Conflict theorists focus on the unfairness of the criminal justice system. If the criminal justice system is a funnel that retains the powerless and weeds out the powerful, then the etiological question is not the most important question. Instead, the central issue should be focusing on the unfairness in the system.
As you review the next several chapters on criminological theory, these are some overarching questions for you to consider.
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