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Crime: Free Will or Poor Choice?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 4863 words Published: 24th Apr 2017

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Crime: Free Will or Poor Choice


This is a social phenomenon, known as crime. Crime is known as a deviant behavior that violates existing norms, in particular, cultural standards showing how we humans should behave regarding shifting social, political, psychological, and economic conditions that have an effect on the rationalization of crime and the structural responses of the legal community, law enforcement, and correctional justifications made by Federal and State officials. The perspective theory for this is called the rational choice and deterrence perspective theory. Research has shown that there are various choices of theories that try to determine this type of deviance behavior known as crime. With all the current research information that is out there to review with their perspective responses, it still comes down to making that choice.

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This social problem sounds simple? Many individuals really don't know what the word crime is, there are also numerous individual who think they know what crime is and can do. However, it is one word that is hard to characterize in the English language. There were frequent debates to construct a precise classification. Will it be called an unsociable act that refuse to follow the guideline of behavior made in part by the community or have various oversights in which authorized retribution will be inflicted on that individual who has committed this act? The perspective for any of these definitions is that they relate similarly to things which society would agree is crimes.

One aspect that tends to cause difficulties is the matter is that nearly every one of us thinks of crime as being the similar to evil. But this is not completely precise. There are many actions that many of us would look upon as appalling or maybe even corrupt and those would not be prohibited by law, and therefore are not called crimes. While some maybe be technically crimes, they are broken every day by good citizens, because the law does not fit the acknowledged principle of behavior. The result is that the average individual breaks the law sooner or later without evening knowing it, much less being aware of it. This is for the most part true in the older states, where ancient laws remain on the statute books for whatever reason.

Crime in numerous countries is seen as an action committed in defiance of law for which that country justice system will implement a variety of punishments which will include incarceration, death, a penalty, or removal from office. These criminal activities tend to drift often in and out of the justice system and legal community, their effective shaped by public belief, tradition, or spiritual ideology. If possible, the crime should fit the punishment. However, Get help with your essay from our expert essay writers...

there are criminal offenses that could be described as harmful, but will not create a severe punishment as others.Crimes are put into two groups. They are called felonies and the other is called misdemeanors and some called violations. Here we must be careful of identifiable difficulties. The reason is that crimes in many states are worded differently. What may be felonies in one state may be a misdemeanors and visa versa. Many times the same offense carries both felony and misdemeanor charges.

All of a sudden this seemingly simple question becomes difficult and that caution should be use in using any statements to the fact that crime is increasing or decreasing and that there is no really accurate guide to predict criminal behavior. Crime is often described as an act or commission of a criminal act that is unlawful or forbidden by public law written in statutes and held that those offenders are liable for their actions by punishment prescribed by law. These laws were put into policy to defend and make certain that we will be safe in our society and public lives. However, we still hear of crime happening within our city and state.

The safety of the public becomes a concern when crime is committed since particular individuals or groups will be targeted. Although such confrontation should be avoided, many times it cannot. Consequently, public attitude and the criminal's socioeconomic status will manipulate the severity of any punishment, just as society varying social attitudes influence the type of criminal activities. Durkheim (1895/1962) argued that crime is an essential characteristic of our social culture and a normal social occurrence that had been in all societies all through our history and that crimes function in the social order as a conduit of defining the confines of tolerable actions, serving as a means for social change by extending and testing those restrictions.

Crime: Free Will or Poor Choice

When crime is committed again by a criminal, crime rates become affected by socioeconomic and demographic changes such as age, ethnicity, and migration. Economic conditions reflected by joblessness rates, prison and jail capacities, and present law enforcement policies. For the past two decades our society has focus on the norms of the societal order of committing individuals with no understanding what so ever, the realism of life behind bars and the consequences when correctional facilities are not successful in helping those who are incarcerated in prison and for the affected communities that live every day with the consequences.

Individuals change and behavior becomes complex when the offender leaves prison and when specific circumstances, like community rejection will reinforce criminogenic needs and behavior leading to criminal activities and eventually crime. More specific, there were some issues regarding the effect of imprisonment on criminals who commit crime again when release (Song & Lieb, 1993). This type of social misbehaving is referred to as recidivism. These offenders, who have the likelihood to reoffend and commit crime again when released to the community, generate an important focus to those concerned with public safety in dealing with the cost effectiveness of putting convicted offenders in prison.

Recidivism, in a criminal justice perspective, can be defined as the reversion of an individual back to criminal behavior after he or she has been convicted of a prior offense, sentenced, and presumably corrected. Contrary to deterrence theory, offenders who were incarcerated were significantly more likely than those who were put on probation to be arrested and charged with a new offense.

The many predictors include cognitive functioning, socioeconomic status and distress factors with any known history of antisocial behavior, social achievement and cultural involvement. It's a combination of factors concerning the consequence of failures, failure of the individual to meet society's expectations and of society to provide for the individual, to a failure of the individual to stay out of trouble, a failure of the individual to be arrest free and disappointment of that individual as an inmate of a correctional institution to take advantage of correctional programs or failure of the institution to provide programs that rehabilitate and perhaps the biggest disappointment continuing in a criminal career after release.

One belief is that criminal behavior is a product of cognitive, emotional, and mental deficiency has generated frequent models of offender treatment in the past few decades. In addition, the consequence of imprisonment did not influence the offender's situation concerning conformity. Regardless of the fact if they had weak or strong bonds to our society, drug and those offenders involved with drugs who were incarcerated recidivated more frequently and more rapidly than other types of offenders. Instead of aiding as an effective deterrent for offenders with stronger bonds to society, incarceration may have altered high profile offenders into low profile offenders with little to lose regarding any new arrest.

Crime has become a major area of public and political debate, and is often seen as a sign of underlying problems in society related to inequality, social deprivation and social class, age, gender and race. As commonly understood, crime includes many different kinds of activities such as theft, robbery, corruption, assault, fraud, rape and murder. So the simplest way of defining it is to see it as an act or omission prohibited and punished by law. To explain crime, sociologists looked at the strains in the social structure, at the development of deviant or abnormal subcultures and at the process of social change and urban growth.

For the past two decades our society has focus on the norms of the societal order of committing individuals with no understanding what so ever, the realism of life behind bars and the consequences when correctional facilities are not successful in helping those who are incarcerated in prison and for the affected communities that live every day with the consequences. This dependence continue to strain the correctional systems of the valuable limited resources of which some could be used to try and focus on rehabilitate, while working together to use treatment first, than use punish and incarceration if not successful (Travis, Solomon & Waul, 2001).

Another important issue legislators must remember is that correctional facilities administrators need increased resources and funding to sustain the safe operations of prisons and when offenders become eligibility for parole, treatment service to prepare them for release and to stop recidivism or that individual return to crime. Although improving overall financial support will not promise improved treatment programs and service operations, any fundamental reforms must be attempted, other wise it will never be implemented or even tried. For a number of offenders, incarceration and longer detention increase the likelihood of recidivism, while for other offenders recidivism statistics will not make a difference by more incarceration. It is probable that for some offenders, maximizing the length of sentence could minimize recidivism. However, other characteristics such as age, offense type, prior offense, and prior prison term involvement can influence the likelihood to re offend (Wheeler, 1961).

Obviously, one has to ask the question what works to reduce recidivism; again, it all depends on where and how one reviews data that is available. Some answers could be found looking at the general and specific data provided regarding correctional treatment. Although major advances have been made in our understanding of offender treatment and evidence for its

effectiveness exists, many critics still remain apprehensive regarding efforts to intervene in the lives of offenders. Furthermore, some doubts have developed in the offering of offender treatment, notably cognitive skill training and raise research questions about the client group, the mode of delivery, and the accuracy of the measure.

Rational Choice

The capability to implement individual self-control is an appropriate aspect in crime causation in situations where an individual considers and deliberates whether or not to participate in committing crime. The majority of citizens in nearly all circumstances, whether or not they participate in acts of crime is not a question of their capability to implement self-control but rather an issue of their moral principles. One individual trait, known as low self-control may be the primary individual characteristic influencing criminal behavior (Gottfredson & Hirschi 1990). Low self-control is seen as a summary foundation of individual traits including impulsivity; insensitivity, risk-taking and shortsightedness have an inclination to appear together in the people that are persisting through life. Any individual difference in crime involvement varies in the extent to which individuals are vulnerable to the temptations during that moment.

With the rational choice theory the focus of interest starts with the individual, either his or her interest becomes an initial point to look at. Research has shown that various supporters of the rational choice theory may possibly make to some extent, different assumptions concerning the individual and progress into different ways. It starts from the individual then on to larger social groupings and systems, but each begins with the individual as the basic component of this theory. However, it is the individuals who eventually make decision and be concerned completely with his or her own welfare.

This direction possibly will be conflicting to those who accept the particular views of Durkheim (1895/1962), concerning social facts as being at the societal level, and in some ways determining individual action through norms and general consciousness. These individuals with are considered to be more susceptible to temptations because they do not consider the negative consequences of their acts (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990: 95) and consequently are more probable to engage criminal activities. Statutes, codes and s aws are a set of laws, and crimes which violate the law are acts of rule infringement. WikstrA m (2006a) argued that a theory of crime causation may be viewed as a special case of a more general theory of moral rule breaking.

Does it matter on whether the action is rational or not. We cannot assume that actions taken by others are irrational while we disagree with them. It may be that this individual taking that course of action believes it is rational. With these intention, rational choice models becomes important since they center on deliberate option between alternatives, in this example, go on with the required treatment program or deviate and risk oneself to commit recidivism then become incarcerated for that deed. Research have constantly revealed that the threat of arrest, rather than harshness of punishment is the most important deterrent and that statistics continue to illustrate a steady increase in documented crime, and many programs that focus on rehabilitation have been unsuccessful in preventing recidivism.

On the justification of perceptions, an individual will plan to make a choice, either out of habit or after some deliberation, make a judgment on what to do. When an individual acts out of habit, he/she sees only one effective alternative for action and automatically without deliberation chooses this alternative. When an individual deliberates, he/she considers the moral implications of competing action alternatives and on this basis, makes a rational choice about which action if any to pursue.

Familiar settings and circumstances tend to favor automatic choices based upon habit whereas unfamiliar settings or circumstances will tend to favor deliberate choices based on decisions. Because habits have only automated intent with one effective alternative, free will, rational choice, self-control and deterrence will be part of the process of choice, only if an individual deliberates over his/her action alternatives and specifically on the role of deterrence

(WikstrA m, 2006 b). Crucially, when making judgment decision, individuals will vary in their ability to exercise self-control as a result of their capabilities.

Consequently, the use of Rational Choice Theory must be clearly defined as a prevention and deterrent toward crime rather than punishment. The inquiry now becomes what causes in this sort of behavior. The criminal justice policies tracked throughout the past three decades depended principally on the doctrine of known deterrence theory.

Gottfredson & Hirschi (1990) hypothesize that each of these perspectives: irresponsible and criminal behavior may be linked by a simple common characteristic: the lack of self control. They disclose that the lack of self-control does not necessitate crime to exist and that self-control can be modified by opportunities and other restrictions (Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990). Various tests of Gottfredson and Hirschi's theory sustain their calculation relating to self-control and crime, although some conclude that the theory does not illustrate sufficient variation in the affect criminal behavior. Although the absence of self-control do not call for the presence of crime, what is propose instead is the trait of self-control can be changed through a number variables.

Deterrence Theory

Deterrence theory suggests that crime results from a rational calculation of the costs and benefits of criminal activity. Individuals commit crimes, in other words, when the benefits outweigh the costs. Because an important cost of crime is apprehension and punishment, deterrence theorists suggest that persons will refrain from committing offenses if they perceive that they are certain to be punished, with a severe penalty and soon after the offense has been committed (Spohn, 2007).

There are relatively few studies that compare recidivism rates for offenders sentenced to jail or prison with those of offenders given some alternative to incarceration typically probation. Smith and Akers (1993) compared recidivism rates for offenders in a prison diversion program to those for a matched sample of prisoners. They found that the recidivism rates of the two groups were essentially the same, regardless of whether recidivism was defined as a new arrest, a new conviction, a new sentence to jail or prison, or the length of time waiting for rearrest.

Durkheim (1895/1962) explains that a weakening in the social structure will change behavior and attitudes, which might cause a person to venture into crime by making bad choices. As a result offenders become younger and involved with different crimes with many involved in major crime. If the problem is with the individual, then the treatment process should begin to modify that person's behavior.  If, however, the cause is with the social structure environment, then that structure should be required to change.

If it is a social cause, then perhaps the media has influence on how an individual response by putting emphasis on unrealistic goals (Barkan, 2001). Researchers will always theorize that individuals will use rational judgment and consequently hope that their actions will in turn become a positive process.

The central points of this theory is that the human being is a rational actor, rationality involves an end to means calculation, and people freely choose all behavior, both conforming and deviant, based on their rational calculations. The central element of calculation involves a cost benefit analysis: Pleasure versus Pain. Choice, with all other conditions equal, will be directed towards the maximization of individual pleasure. Alternatives restricted in the course of any awareness and understanding of probable retribution will follow an action determined to be in infringement of the social good. The state is responsible for maintaining order and preserving the common good through a system of laws that is the embodiment of the social contract and the quickness and assurance of punishment are the key elements in understanding the ability to control human behavior.

There are some researches on deterrence that seems to signify that some crimes are designed to generate economic gains and that certain predatory street crime, correlate strategies for any reduction of criminal or deviant behaviors and activities. Nonetheless, when relating known criminal and deviant actions, crimes of hostility and subculture connect with durable forms of deviance and then the evidence becomes less persuasive. The deterrence theory has several components to try and convince criminals to alter their behavior. In the case of General Deterrence, individuals will participate in criminal actions despite the consequences, whether or not they fear apprehension or not. Our norms, statutes and laws, along with the appropriate enforcement try to enforce the perspective that anti-social and negative behavior will receive punishment.

As a result this theory focuses on reducing the prospect of deviance in the general public. With Specific Deterrence, it focus on known individuals who deviate, then tries to keep them from repeating that specific norms or law that have been broken. The problem is what the rationales of this behavior were. However, the use of punishment as a sanction raises the hope that this behavior can be modified. In the majority of modern societies, punishment includes incarceration of that individual. There is information showing that committing crime again among convicted offenders when release from prison can climb as high as 63% (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1989). Even when using prison as a deterrence and punishment, it may not alter any future behavior. At the most, it reduces the chances for that individual to engage in other crime.

Routine Activity Theory

In the field of criminology, Routine activity theory is characterized as a sub theory that was developed Marcus Felson. This perspective states that crime is considered normal and depends on the opportunities that present at the time. If the target of opportunity is present and not protected, crime can take place, if the incentive has value. The basic principle of this theory is that it does not take a criminal to commit it; all it needs is an opportunity. Many crimes are petty theft and may also be called victimless crimes and are unreported to proper authorized personnel.

Routine Activity Theory can also be called environmental criminology that was developed by two criminologists, Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson who worked on a crime prevention theory. Their research states that for a crime to happen there must be certain elements present before any crime is committed. Their model used the problem analysis triangle which focuses on three things that should be present and happens at the same time and place. There must a suitable target of opportunity available, there is no protection to prevent crime from taking place and the offender is motivated to commit deviant behavior.

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This model looks at crime in the offender's outlook. That individual will commit the crime if that target is appropriate and a capable protector is not present. It is the evaluation of circumstances that dictates whether a crime will happen. Another hypothesis is called the Crime Prevention Theory, was introduced by Clarke (1995, 1997), focuses on reducing available favorable crime opportunities and instead, focus on certain characteristics of criminals. Like the Rational choice theory it proposes to increase the related risks and difficulties, and reduce the rewards. It states that crime is often committed through an attractive opportunity. If that's individual's everyday routines expose that person to a stimulus for any specified time frame, the more of that consequence will be linked to that individual.

Patterns in criminal activity are reflected through a concentration of opportunities for crime areas. Clarke (1995, 1997) combines the Crime Prevention Theory to Rational Choice Theory through his recommended assortment of opportunity reduction procedures. Its objective and goal was to increase the physical effort needed to execute a crime, increase the expected consequences of capture and diminish any anticipated profits of a crime and displace the excuses for conformity with the authorities (Clarke, 1997).

When reviewing research data regarding the routine activity theory, the risk embraces three fundamental variables: the degree of exposure from the intended victim to the offending criminal, any environmental obstacle that will diminish the prospect for crime, and deterrent traits of the intended victim. Research has shown that Routine activity theory is frequently in studies of regarding victimization, where demographic variables vary. Brunet (2002) discuss more current research to merge and use an theoretical integration with other theories like rational choice (Clarke & Felson 1993), situational crime prevention (Clark 1997) and social disorganization (Miethe & Meier 1994) in developing a better explanation.

Crime is not pretty. It is routine and takes place all the time. Another peerspective is that crime is somewhat unaltered by social problems. Cohen & Felson (1979) endorsed and supported the assumption that because the wealth of modern society offers vast and favorable circumstances of opportunities to commit crime, the temptation is often irresistible to control.


The consequence of crime may possibly be traced to social and economic tribulations. Many individuals are jobless, still more are unable to fine work, and many are homeless, ill and indigent. For many of these individuals, crime becomes a tempting and quick way to acquire money. When left with these choices, many will turn to criminal activities and behavior. If these behaviors are left unpunished, the misconception is that crime pays, reinforcing criminal behavior and discouraging good behavior.

How do we eradicate crime, there are numerous proposal put forward. But with greed, inadequate oversight of laws, poverty and homelessness, with poverty, drugs and racial disarray the task in can be overwhelming. Consequently, numerous of the uneducated currently find themselves without a job, existing in sub-standard accommodation in impoverished surroundings. The result is that now money becomes insufficient to support them, influencing these individuals to engage in criminal activities and end up committing crimes.


The boundary of crime in any community develops into various structures, which often influence offenders. Research has shown that crime rates are affected by socioeconomic and demographic changes such as age, ethnicity, and migration. Economic conditions reflected by various policies. Various definition of deviant behavior sees crime that violates established norms, in particular, cultural standards of principles dictating how humans should behave.

This approach considers the multifaceted realities surrounding the totality and concept of crime to understand how changing social, political, psychological, and economic conditions affect the definitions of crime and the response of legal, law enforcement, and correctional actions taken by the State. As culture changes and the political environment shifts, behaviors may be criminalized or decriminalized influence by the general public.


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