Examining The History Of Social Control Criminology Essay

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This is a long history on the concept of social control. Taking the classical tradition in nineteenth century into consideration, the social control paid more attentions to both connecting sociology to political philosophy and settling the controversial discussions of macro-sociology (Janowitz, 1975, cited in Cohen and Scull, 1983). Social control, at that time, solved a great number of complicated issues. However, Cohen and Scull (1983) pointed that:

the unit of analysis was the whole society, and the question pose was how to achieve a degree of organization and regulation consistent with certain moral principles, but without an excessive degree of purely coercive control" .(p5)

During the twentieth century, the social control, even sociology was to be "a point of view and method for investigating the processes by which individuals are inducted to and induced to co-operate in some sort of permanent corporate existence we call society" (Park and Burgess, 1924, cited in Cohen and Scull, 1983, p5). Indeed, the alteration of the process that inducted individual into society has great benefits on social control. Additionally, at present, the concept of social control is basically: "defined as any structure, process, relationship, or act that contributes to the social order" (Liska, A.E, 1992, p3). There are three regulatory models of social control to interpret this definition. Typically, the first model is 'custodial institution', which is established on the theories of social order and punitiveness, the police and prisons are the representative organizations of this model. In addition, 'community care', such as welfare agencies and halfway house, is also a important methods of social control. Particularly, the 'custodial institution' and 'community care' create formal methods because of the rules that is law and rehabilitation they base on. However the informal model is 'self and mutual help', such as social pressure and peer group. Less formal face to face controls are considered in this model (David and Stasz, 1990). Overall, social control uses the ways of punishment, prevention and rehabilitation in order to solve the deviant, threatening and disorder behaviours.

In particular, imprisonment is one of the highly use of ways of social control as a punishment. There are some factors that strongly influence the development of imprisonment. First of all. Some theories of 'punishment as control' emerged. In Gramsci's theory, the most important things for capitalist society in the revolutionary struggle are 'superstructure' of ideology, law and politics. Hegemony, which means that one class is convinced to accept other classes' moral, political and cultural value, is the central of his idea. A successful ruling class dominates the whole society, however, Cavadino and Dignan (2007) point out that coercion, particularly punishing people for breaking law, is not a merely way that ruling class uses. Additionally, Althusser improved the work of Gramsi. He put penal system in the Repressive State Apparatus (RSA), which includes the police, the courts and the prison. However, he claimed that the functions of RSA are not only to coerce, but it also has ideological functions, such as to reproduce personal values. Distinguished from RSA, Althusser established Ideological State Apparatuses (IRA). He put some forgettable parts of the state in this mechanism, such as educational system, the media and political parties (Cavadino and Dignan, 2007). What is more, Foucalt, who created the phrase 'carceral archipelago' to show western liberal democracies close in touch with forms of oppression, argued in Discipline and Punish (1977) that: "the emergence of the prison does not make a more humanitarian form of punishment, instead it represent an attempt to punish more efficiently and extensively to create a disciplined society" (….prison and imprisonment, p362). Furthermore, the English historian E.P.Thompson indicated that law, as well as penalty, can be found 'at every bloody level'. However, if the law is unjust, the class's hegemony will benefit nothing from that. Therefore, he pointed out that law and punishment were "never exclusive possession of the ruling class; rather it provided an arena for class struggle, within which alternative notions of law were fought out" (Thompson, 1978, cited in Cavadino and Dignan, 2007, p75).

Those sociological theories, particularly Foucault's 'great confinement' that: "institution of various kinds came to be adopted as the solution to a wide range of social problem" (Cavadino and Dignan, 2007, p194), shows that imprisonment has its social functions. Mathiesen, a Norwegian penologist, suggests that there are five social functions result in the fact that imprisonment is still the dominant way of punishment. He calls the first function 'the expurgatory function'. Many of people in prisons, as Cavadino and Dignan (2007) researched, are unproductive and disruptive, such as homelessness, the abuse and the mental illness. They are easily being put into prisons so as to prevent society from various damages. The second function is called 'the power-draining function'. Except for preventing prisoners from involving in the normal society, the prisoners are also: "denied the opportunity to exercise responsibility" (Cavadino and Dignan, 2007, p195). 'minimal practical contributions' is the function that is considered when the prisons were designed. Thirdly, the prisoners are easily insulated themselves from society, because of the shameful experience of imprisonment from their own moral thoughts. This is called, by Mathiesen, 'symbolic function'. It shows a effect that those prisoners are less risks to society after being on release. The fourth function, related to the third one, is called 'the diverting function'. Mathiesen (2007, p195) claims in his book that: "socially dangerous acts are increasingly being committed by individuals and classes with power in society". However, the fact is that the heavy-handed of prisons are high used to the lower working class offenders. It diverts social attention from more serious social harm committed by the groups in power. For instance, acts of pollution and eco-systems destruction. Finally, Mathiesen identifies the function as 'the action function'. Because of the most serious ways of social control, prisons play a vital role in comforting people from anxiousness of problems and reducing their fear of crime. However, Cavadino and Dignan (2007) argue that the imprisonment functions that Mathiesen suggests are not that efficient: "there is also a heavy price to be paid, not only in terms of resources and human suffering, but also in managing the increasing tensions that are associated with the steady enduring penal crisis". (p196)

Secondly, in recent decades, 'new punitiveness', which means a general rise in the severity of punishment, have become a notable penal trend all a around the world. Exactly, the aim of 'new punitiveness' is to make offender suffer. At present, the 'imprisonment rate', which is a measure of harshness of punishment, has increased in nearly three fourths of countries all over the world. Undoubtedly, the United States has led this mew trends, because "the prison population and imprisonment rates in this country are the highest in the world and where numbers of prisoners have quintupled since the early 1970s" (Cavadino and Dignan, 2007, P84). In company with other countries, England has followed the 'new punitiveness'. Meanwhile, this punitiveness are connected with 'populist punitiveness' whose policies and slogans, for instance, 'zero tolerance', 'three strikes' and 'prison works' are far-reaching influence on policy-making, particularly penal policies. Definitely it represents this penal trend: 'new punitiveness'. (Garland,2007)

'New punitiveness' is connected with the official aims of using imprisonment that result in increasing use of prisons. Deterrence and retribution to offenders are the primary aims of imprisonment in nineteenth century. However, during this period, the prisons were still possible to return back to society and those ideas were treated as official policy. Additionally, although the 'rehabilitation ideal' collapsed in the 1970s, in the late 1990s, rehabilitation was reintroduced and became an important aim in penal practices, especially in UK Criminal Justice System. The current aims of rehabilitation are not only reforming prisoners' characters, but more importantly to prevent reoffending from public (HCHAC, 2004). At present, the Prison Service more usually states the official aims as: to reduce the risk of reoffending, hold prisoners security and provide safe (Cavadino and Dignan, 2007). However, practically, all of three aims are lamentable. Consider the first aim. Shepherd and Whiting (2006) shows the figures to argue that it is unsuccessful to prevent reoffending: "two-thirds of all prisoners are reconvicted within two years of being released, and for young men aged 18-20, the figure is 74.8%" (cited in Cavadino and Dignan, 2007, p193). It is worse than a decade ago, which is just 70% of offenders under 21 reconvicted a crime (Home Office, 1999). Secondly, to hold prisoners securely, which not just means to prevent them safe, should also keep them from escaping. Although, currently, the Prison Service and governments pay more attention to lessen the rates of abscondence, the escapes from prisons have become periodic (Cavadino and Dignan, 2007). Therefore, it is hard for Prison Service to achieve the third aim that is to provide safe. The prisoners' escapes will increase their anxiety and unsafety of crimes. Cavadino and Dignan (2007, p193) claim that: " there is a very long way to go before it can claim to be providing safe, well-ordered establishments in which prisoners are treated humanly, decently and lawfully".

Thirdly, political economy, particularly its welfare system, plays a vital role in causing different methods of punishment among various countries and it can revealingly explain the reason of the rise of 'new punishment'. There are three key categories. Firstly, at present, 'Neo-liberalism', which means free-market capitalism, exists in the US, Britain and Australia. The welfare state, under this ethos that individualism is more important than communitarianism, is minimalist. Cavadino and Dignan (2007, P86) argues that: "the economic system creates much material inequality, and this results in the social exclusion of many people and communities". Secondly, the welfare benefits in 'conservative corporatist' countries whose collectivism is more important, such as Germany, are more generous than 'Neo-liberal' countries. The citizens in those countries get better protection against unusual market forces and products. However, it is still not equality and is shown in Cavadino and Dignan's (2007, P86) book: "their welfare states enshrine and perpetuate traditional class, status and economic division between different group of citizens who are entitled to different levels of welfare benefits". Thirdly, the more equality and generous welfare states are 'social democratic' countries, such as Sweden. Although they share conservative corporatism's communitarian approach, their systems are the most egalitarian one among those three kinds of countries. According to Walnsley's (2005) research on imprisonment rate, the rates in all neo-liberal countries are the highest, while the lowest rates are in social democratic countries. Cavadino and Dignan (2007) suggest that the reason of why political economy and rates of punishment have connections is the different cultural attitudes:

the reality of living life in a society is likely to condition, reinforce and reproduce our attitudes towards others in society, thus helping to continue the existing system and culture, including the penal culture and penal practices which that culture brings about.(P88)

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