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Does the ‘Crime Problem’ really have a serious impact upon the general population or is it more an artificial construction that only helps sustain existing power structures in society?
The 'crime problem' is a real issue in the contemporary society which has a serious impact and it is something that need to addressed and to be looked at in more detail. This crime problem doesn't just affect those who are its direct victims, it can have an effect upon the general population and the society as a whole. This shows how there is a difference between a crime problem and the crime problem. The kind of impact it has being whether it be serious or not depends upon the crime which is being committed, the more insignificant the crime the less severe of an impact it will have upon an individual and also the society as a whole. This doesn't mean to say that it good to commit less severe crimes as it will have an smaller impact upon and individual and society, because less severe crimes are committed more regularly and the impact which it can have upon and individual or the general population could still be high. Therefore, because of this it is necessary to create adequate reforms to reduce this 'crime problem'. There are many ideas and theories which could and should be used to understand the crime problem and I will be going into detail about a few of them.
Crime can have varying impacts upon a an individual or the general population, this can be because it depends upon those that are involved in the crime and also severity or type of crime they are committing and also other factors. The different types of crime that are committed can have varying impacts upon a individual and also a specific area of a society, nevertheless the individual and the society as a whole still suffers. An example where for instance the general population could be affect by 'the' crime problem is something like white collar crime, which can have serious ramifications, some of which for instance could be like having disadvantages effects upon the economy or stock markets, it could cause a company's costs to raise which ultimately means higher prices for consumers, could also lead to less pay for employees and even cutting jobs. Obviously, this kind of crime can have an enormous impact upon an individual and also upon general population. This kind of example shows us how this 'crime problem' can have such a large impact upon the general population, as many are oblivious to the fact that a crime that they may not have been involved is having an impact or influence upon them.
The first theory I'll be going into detail about is the labelling theory, it begins with the thought that no act is intrinsically criminal. The definitions of criminality are established by those in power through the formulation of laws and additionally the interpretation of those laws by police, courts, and correctional institutions. This theory is used to show us how the self-identity and behaviour of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to 'label' or classify them. (Mead, Becker, 2011) This implies that a behaviour or action which the majority of the general population deems to be deviant can be anything which is considered different from what is socially acceptable or considered normal. The person that has been labelled as being deviant can become stigmatised as being a criminal and is likely to be treated differently or seen as untrustworthy by others. The individual that is labelled is likely to accept the label that they have been attached to, and start to see themselves as being deviant and act in way to fulfil the expectations of the label that they have been given. (Downes, Rock, 1976)When an individual has been given a label, it is very difficult to distance or remove this label that maybe society or those who are in power put upon someone. A practical example of this being that it is usually extremely difficult for a convicted criminal to find employment after release from prison because of their label as ex-criminal. One of the downfalls of labelling theory is that it emphasises the interactive process of labelling and ignores the processes that lead to the deviant acts. Such processes might include differences in socialisation, attitudes, and opportunities. (Giddens, A. 1991) Another major criticism of labelling theory is its failure to explain primary deviance.
The last theory I will be talking about is the conflict theory of criminology which emphasises the role of coercion and power, a person's or group's ability to exercise influence and control over others, into producing social order. This theory was founded by Karl Marx. (Anderson, Taylor, 2009: 20) The conflict theory states that a society or organisation functions so that each individual participant and its groups struggle to maximise their benefits, which inevitably contributes to social change such as changes in politics and revolutions. (Anderson, Taylor, 2009: 159) The theory is mostly applied to explain conflict between social classes. It is the theory that there is a continual struggle existing between all different aspects of a particular society. (Giddens, Sutton, 2013: 789) The conflict theory talks about how the the lower class are suppressed through criminal justice as they can use the criminal justice system as a blunt instrument of class control. One major part of the conflict theory is the idea of ideology's which refers to the influence of ideas upon a persons beliefs and actions. Karl Marks saw ideology as important in the reproduction of relations of class dominance, powerful groups are able to control the dominant ideas circulating it in a society to justify their own position. (Giddens, Sutton, 2013: 789) Some of the criticisms of the conflict theory are that it states that everything only benefits the ruling class when it could in some cases not benefit them. This theory also fails to talk about whether of not the working class realise that they are subordinates.
It is necessary to create adequate reforms, this is to try and reduce the crime problem that exists in contemporary society. One of social reform that might be effective is to minimise the stigma surrounding the criminal label, this would mean that less crime is committed in the long run and crime would have less of a serious impact upon the general population. The labelling theory's reforms are seen to be quite radical, some of the reforms that they push for are abolishment of prisons, deinstitutionalisation, decriminalisation and they want civil not criminal law. The conflict theory's reforms would be to try and increase the punishment or prison time for the crimes that are committed, this will mean there would be an increase in the level of control that the ruling class have over the working class. Both of these theory are not very useful in trying to create adequate reforms to reduce crime, this is because both of these theory's don't actually address why deviance or crime is increasing and how to prevent it from increasing with having practical reforms. Neither of these theory's give practical reforms, having civil law and abolishing prisons would have a negative impact upon the general public, as most of the psychopaths and criminals will not abide by these 'civil laws' and be free from prosecution. Having harsher punishments for crime doesn't address the issue of why they are committing the crime so in turn it isn't really addressing the crime problem, also having more people in prison for longer will have a negative impact upon the general population, as more prisons will need to be built which will in the long term make tax's increase to pay for the addition in expenditure.
It seem to be that the effect that a crime can have upon the general population can be large, you can see this for when I talked about white collar crime and how it doesn't just have consequences for an individual it has a knock on consequences upon the general population. A crime might not affect an individual to severely but the crime problem can, when there is hundreds of crimes being committed daily that can have a more severe affect upon the general population or society. Another factor is that it appears that many people don't always recognise that they have been effected by crime as they don't see themselves as being a victim. For me it is quite clear that reforms must be put into place to try and prevent the crime problem from having such an extensive affect upon the general population. This however is where the theory's don't help, as many of the reforms they propose to prevent or stop deviance and crime are seen to be radical and unrealistic. To reduce this serious crime problem we can put into practise realistic and helpful reforms to decrease the crime problem which has had such a grave affect upon the general population.
Andersen, M.L. and Taylor, H.F. (2009). Sociology: The Essentials. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. pp. 20-159
Downes, D. and Rock, P. (eds) (1979) Deviant Interpretations, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Becker, H. and Mead, G. (2011) 'Labelling Theory: Social constructionism, Social stigma, Deinstitutionalisation' in Labelling Theory. Memphis: Books LLC
Giddens, A. (1991). Introduction to Sociology. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Giddens, A. and Sutton, P. (2013) Sociology, Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 789