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Social Transgression And Corruption Theory Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 5476 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The purpose of this thesis is to introduce Social Transgression and Corruption Theory. This theory seeks to explain the motivation of an individual into membership of an organized crime unit in rural areas of the southern United States. This theory explores the personality traits, socio-economic status, and histories of rural organized criminal participants. This principle proposes a different perspective of deviant behavior that has not been thoroughly examined before and has been generally overlooked. Most research has focused on urban areas, gangs, and the economically disadvantaged and uneducated offender. Little research has focused on rural organized crime. STCT suggests that individuals become willingly involved in criminal behavior because they desire the alternative lifestyle. This population perceives organized crime as exciting. They also possess traits such as narcissism, need for control, and are domineering individuals. They have the potential to become dangerous criminals. These subjects require a need to engage in sensation seeking behavior which involves participating in various forms of risky behavior, including organized crime without fear of repercussions. These individuals typically have had little if no prior contact with the criminal justice system; they have achieved some level of socio economic status, education level, family, and children. An archival study of public records was designed and implemented over the course of several months. Data on 78 subjects were collected from eight states available from public sources. 49 were accepted for analyzing, 29 were excluded. Results lend support that STCT have statistical significance.

Social Transgression and Corruption Theory

The Southern Rural Middle Class Mafia

Social Transgression and Corruption Theory (STCT) explores and provides an alternate explanation for the creation and continued persistence of membership into criminal groups and it’s prevalence in rural geographical areas. STCT hypothesizes that stable income is not enough to prevent individual transgressors who require physiological arousal from engaging in organized crime. Monetary wealth is not a requirement. Additional ingredients are needed which require participants to engage in sensation-seeking, aggressive, and risky behavior for the purpose of satisfying a psychological and physiological requirement by the individual. It is these wants and desires that motivate a seemingly functioning member of society to approach or acquiesce to the demands of a crime group that has dangerous consequences. The Dixie Mafia and similar groups are used as a case study and basis of this research because of their continued solid existence over a hundred years in the United States. Organized crime is a difficult proposition to define, especially in social contexts. Merton’s (1957) strain blocked opportunity theory remains a common perspective to explain the behavior of organized crime participants, but it has primarily been based upon and tested in cities. Merton theorizes blocked opportunity constrains an individual to live in an environment that have left them with limited access to education, vocational training, and legitimate means of support; therefore the person turns to a life of crime to achieve their financial goals (Agnew, 2006). The principle of blocked opportunity is thwarted by one question. What if an individual had ample chances to achieve legitimate methods of higher levels of socio economic status without the risks, losses, and persecution? Criminologists have given an explanation of participation in these crime groups as an alternative to poverty in the lower social classes (Hunter & Dantzker, 2012). Some social psychologists propose that this phenomenon remains representative of Solomon Asch’s (1951) desire of an individual to engage in group cohesion, conformity, and a desire to become a member of a dominant group. Stanley Milgram might suggest that this is merely obedience to higher level members of the group (Milgram, 1963). Participating in organized crime fulfills not only an income deficit but also affords physical protection, an exclusive group membership, and means of promotion. Many of these individuals were not originally members of the crime group and came in contact with them at some level in their life. These members presented a façade of solid and stable family units that consisted of unknowing or unwilling spouses, children, good jobs or businesses, churches, mortgages, and car payments. They are personified as the typical American middle class family which by societal definitions has all the same opportunities afforded to their neighbors. However, these new aggressive and thrill seeking subjects purposely put their own families and lives at risk for ambitious and illegal endeavors and for the sole purpose of personal and group profit, personal power, and control. Many lost their lives, freedom, marriages, families, and livelihoods over their participation. In organized crime, several were actually surprised when they were apprehended. These individuals were already involved with viable employment, so this raises the questions of why a significant number of members fit into this population.

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This thesis will explore prior theories offered by social, cognitive, and personality psychology, along with criminological perspectives that have been utilized to explain the behaviors and motivations of seemingly average people who had access to respectable means of acquiring higher status, but for unknown reasons, chose not to pursue the societal norms for achievement. It is assumed that stable income remains insufficient to detain individual transgressors who are corrupt to pursue money and power. The subjects for this archival research were studied by analysis of public records, interviews, case studies, and a review of the literature. SCTC and the subsequent archival study examines and categorizes the typographies and characteristics of participants, and portrays these individuals, not as the disenfranchised of society, but those who have actually obtained legitimate social statuses, yet is not enough personal and physiological fulfillment. It is theorized that these individuals require a stimulation that they are only able to acquire from participating in sensation-seeking activities. These middle class mafia members decide to become a deviant individual in this violently unforgiving but profitable sub-culture. STCT seeks to answer the questions that blocked opportunity, personality disorders, social problems, and other theories cannot explain by themselves for this population. STCT defines organized criminals as a sub-culture that violates social norms and laws, and exploits its own members, victims, and society for financial gain. They have had minimum contact with the criminal justice system, engage in risky and sensation-seeking behavior; show signs of narcissism, and may become controlling and aggressive individuals. The results of this study showed a statistical significance between socio economic status, prior criminal history, and the traits of narcissism aggressiveness, dominance, and sensation-seeking behavior.

The History of the Dixie Mafia & Rural Organized Crime

The Dixie Mafia and similar rural crime organizations are a predominately rural United States criminal group that has many different factions spread out over parts of the nation. This particular group originated from poor dispersed regions throughout the Appalachian Mountains. It lies beneath the Mason Dixon Line, which separates the northern states from the southern states. In the 19th century, the inhabitants of the Appalachian Mountains were historically, an economically group of small communities with little marketable resources. The rough terrain did not allow for very much agriculture except for orchards and small gardens. Most families raised domestic animals and poultry, herding cows and goats in small coves, valleys, or mountain sides. The majority of industrialized factories were located in the north-eastern U.S. and other urban areas. Coal mining or logging the forest for lumber were the major employers for most mountain villages. These industries were dangerous and offered unsafe conditions, little pay, and long hours for the workers. Miners and laborers often suffered from (a) accidents and diseases from hazardous working conditions, such as toxic coal dust, (b) dueling clans over territory rights, and (c) living in an often hostile and isolated environment. The Appalachian people were also often stigmatized by outside society as an inferior group consisting of lawless and illiterate individuals (Lindheimer, 1994).

The turn of the 20th century marked an increase in industrialization and big business grew exponentially. The country was experiencing a rapid increase new and powerful corporations and business men, such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller. New inventions in technology were shifting to meet the demands of expanding economic markets. The west was still being settled and explored. It also marked a time of the perceived moral decay of society by religious groups of men and women called the Temperance Movement. The movement was very organized and publically advocated for laws to be passed making the purchase and manufacture of alcohol illegal. The group claimed that saloons, alcohol, and “loose women”, were to blame for societies evils. On January 16, 1920; Congress passed the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The act prohibited the sale and manufacture of alcohol.

The Temperance Movement intensions for America to return to a moral society did not occur. Instead the 18th Amendment gave a new crime group, the American Mafia, a prized commodity. Prohibition caused the demand for illegal alcohol to increase exponentially. From the poor to the richest of society, the demand for alcohol was on the rise. The American Mafia was gaining strength during Prohibition and the Great Depression and sought to fill the demand for liquor and so began a violent era of battles between rival gangs, local law enforcement, and the newly formed Federal Bureau of Investigations. However, organized criminal mafia factions were increasing in strength, power, and money. By the end of W.W.II, the American Mafia was more powerful and lucrative than General Motors and Carnegie Steel combined.

This gave the mountain people an advantage and a new and valuable resource. The mountaineers were very adept at making their own moonshine, strong, brewed liquor made in outdoor stills from distilled and fermented corn. Since they lived in remote and isolated areas, they could produce moonshine in mass quantities and sell it to suppliers and distributors for a good profit. It was not long before the revenuers appeared. Revenuers are government agents responsible for stopping the selling and manufacturing of illegal alcohol, began to prosecute the mountain bootleggers. The bootleggers began to organize themselves into groups to combat law enforcement more effectively. The organizations invested in guns and a new technology, the automobile. Drivers became skilled at racing through dangerous hilly roads, with their merchandise, speeding away from revenuers. They became so skilled at racing their cars against and from the police, that in their free time they raced each other more for fun. These rural criminals were to be the initial instigators of the now popular, National Association Stock Car Auto Races, (NASCAR) races. [1] The newly formed groups called themselves by various labels, usually according to their family name. It was not uncommon for several members of one family to participate in this lucrative trade. One rural crime affiliation became more powerful and dominant than many other smaller groups. They called themselves the Dixie Mafia and were quickly gaining a reputation of violence and had spread to Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Georgia (Bradley, 1991). Georgia became geographically desirable because it was easy to get merchandise in and out of Atlanta before disappearing back into the Appalachian Mountains. Atlanta was and still is a major distribution center for illegal contraband. The Prohibition act was repealed in 1933 after the stock market crash of 1929, which lead to the Great Depression. Prohibition had cost the U.S. millions of dollars while largely failing to enforce it. Many lives were lost and the perfect world that the Temperance Movement predicted, never happened. However, organized crime was solidly implanted in large cities, small towns, and remote areas (Hagan, 2010).

The Dixie Mafia reached their height of power in the 1960’s gaining footholds all over the southeast. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the public murders of Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife, council woman Margaret Sherry of Biloxi, Mississippi amongst other murders of public officials by reported Dixie Mafia, sparked a new-found interest in prosecuting mafia members (Smith, 1991). The organization progressed to crimes consisting of: (a) drug-narcotics, excluding marijuana, (b) auto theft, (c) gambling, (d) prostitution, (e) weapons trafficking, (f) assassinations, (g) human trafficking, (h) money laundering, and (i) contract killings. They did so by committing crimes against the government instituted laws and rebelling against society’s definitions of rules and guidelines of acceptable behavior. They consistently stayed away from metropolitan areas unless for the transfer of goods, contraband, or illicit services (Calder & Lynch, 2008).

To understand the Dixie Mafia and other similar affiliates, it remains necessary to understand the definitions of organized crime. Typically, it is considered a deviant sub-culture consisting of an ongoing conspiratorial enterprise comprised of two or more people who engage in illicit activities as a means of generating income, otherwise known as “black money”. These activities can range from a broad spectrum of “male in se” crimes such as prostitution, bootlegging, gambling, drug trafficking or “mala prohibita” offenses that consist of contract murder, human trafficking, arson, motor vehicle theft, credit card fraud, weapons distribution, kidnapping for ransom, racketeering, smuggling, pornography, money laundering etc. (NCJRS, 1989). All organized criminal sub-cultures differ in some ways, but there is a general consensus amongst scholars that they also share common rites. These traits suggest that most of these organizations are hierarchical in nature, have a limited or exclusive membership, is monopolistic, have political goals, exhibit a willingness to use violence, and are governed by explicit rules and guidelines (Schuler, 2012).

R.I.C.O. and Current Statistics of Organized Crime

Law enforcement officials were frustrated because of the barriers of prosecuting organized criminal activity. Many crimes were handled by the state or local officials and charges typically had diminished by the time they appeared in court. There were minimum criminal and civil repercussions for participating in these crimes. Power of the mafias and gangs of both rural and urban areas escalated. The mafia’s money was able to purchase the best lawyers, accountants, judges, and politicians. Frustrated with the violence and prevalence of such groups, legislators introduced a bill with the sole purpose of fighting organized crime. Its principle was to prosecute organized crime and make it a federal crime with extensive penalties including a minimum of five years to life in prison and monetary fines. In 1970, the Organized Crime Control Act became law. Title IX refers to law is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Statute (RICO) statute is “the elimination of the infiltration of organized crime and racketeering into legitimate organizations operating in interstate commerce” (U.S. Attorney General, 2012). However, the statute is sufficiently broad to encompass illegal activities relating to any enterprise affecting interstate or foreign commerce. Furthermore, under the RICO Act, “a person can be charged with racketeering – which includes bribery, extortion, illegal drug sales, loan sharking, murder and prostitution – if he or she has committed two of the 27 federal and eight state crimes under U.S. legislation within a 10-year period. The law gives the government the power to criminally prosecute, imprison, and fine an organized crime leader even if he or she has never personally committed any of the components of racketeering, but solely because he or she is part of a criminal enterprise” (Finklea, 2010). Since RICO was enacted, it has been updated regularly to include many other crimes as technology has progressed. These crimes include, cybercrime, violations of public oaths of office, human trafficking, drug smuggling, gambling, illegal securities trade, white collar crime, pornography, etc. [2] In the decades following, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies made progress against organized crime. By the late 1980’s, many authorities assumed that these sub-cultures had all but virtually disappeared from power (Reuter, 1995). The state of Georgia protested these findings and published a report in 1990 stating that organized rural crime was on the increase. It had asserted that there were eleven traditional and thirty non-traditional organized crime families in Georgia alone. Georgia joined nineteen other states and twenty-nine law enforcement agencies which con-jointly called Project Leviticus. This program investigated and prosecuted criminal activities in the coal, oil, gas, and precious metals and jewels industry (NCJRS, 1989). RICO was empowering agencies with the power to go after the leaders and primary members of organized crime.

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On September 11, 2001, the United States was faced with a new enemy. The 9/11 attacks on U.S. soil by foreign terrorist agencies compounded by recent episodes of domestic terrorism had diverted law enforcement resources. The public demanded that the government prosecute terrorists and the U.S. became involved in another war. In the meantime, organized criminal activity was overlooked. Over the past decade, there has been a resurgence of these groups. The rural as well as urban mafia’s groups have re-organized and adapted to changing technology and have become more secretive and technologically diverse with progressive networking abilities. Data obtained from the FBI Resource Management and Allocation Office pointed out that the FBI utilized 35% fewer agents on organized crime matters in FY2004 than it did in FY2000. Kristin Finklea, a security analyst for the U.S. government, presented a report to Congress in 2010 depicting the trends and rise of organized crime. In her first statement of the report she states, “Organized crime threatens multiple facets of the United States, including the economy and national security.” (Finklea, 2010) In fact, the Organized Crime Council was reconvened recently for the first time in fifteen years to address this continued threat. Organized crime has taken on an increasingly transnational nature and with more open borders and the expansion of the Internet, criminals endangers the United States not only from within the borders but beyond them. Rural and urban crime organizations have taken on a new face. They are recruiting more members from society. Increased numbers of women, professionals, politicians, government leaders, and other prominent officials have succumbed to the attraction of the mafia (Schuler, 2012). Organized crime is now linked to terroristic and gang groups for the sole purpose of doing a profitable business for goods and services, resulting in billions of dollars of revenue per year. The United States Department of Justice estimates that this kind of illegal activity costs taxpayers eight hundred and seventy billion dollars a year and since 1999, has cost over two and a half trillion dollars (U.S. Attorney General, 2012). Because of the high cost to society, it is important to understand and interpret the actions and behaviors of all organized criminals. It is hoped that the primary investigation of the Dixie Mafia will allow a better understanding of the internal mechanisms of rural organized crime members.

Typology and Characteristics of Dixie Mafia & Affiliate Members

This theory focuses on why middle and upper class men and women join and maintain membership in the Dixie Mafia and comparable organizations. A specific typology of behavior has been formulated to describe these individuals. The typologies of the group, while diverse, they do maintain similar consistencies. Most urban organized crime members are typically white males with bigoted beliefs; however in the Dixie Mafia and other rural criminal groups, women hold positions of power. The anomaly of allowing women into membership is gauged by familial traditions. Women bring with them authority, leadership roles, discipline, expertise, and power based off of the family unit itself. In contrast, the perceived mentally deficient members are used as “flunkies”, workers, or laborers (d’ Andria, 2011). Traits of middle class group members include but are not limited to the following: (a) narcissism,(b) delusions of grandeur,(c) desire for higher socio economic status, (d) distinctly unsatisfied with their perceived mediocrity in social status, (e) deceitful, (f) transitional in methodology,(g) intensely loyal,(h) obedient,(i) predators, (j) propensity for violence,(k) intelligent,(l) vindictive,(m) charismatic,(n) need for adrenaline rushes, and adept with (1) firearms, (2) explosives, and (3) usage of criminal tools (Potter & Gaines, 1992). They also feel a need for control and are dominant in private and public settings. They view family, especially spouses and children, as possessions and expendable. Many have had some experience with religion or have a religious background, however feel unfulfilled by traditional religions and generally ridicule any signs of religiosity. The divine has no place in their lifestyle; however they are compelled to belong to a group, even if it is a deviant culture. They are disdainful of the simplest laws regarding society, whether they are local ordinances, traffic violations, or littering unless they are transporting contraband. There is generally a perception and sense of being wronged by society, government, or other institutions. Above all else, these individuals relish indulgent in the thrill, excitement, and adrenaline rush they achieve by being a member and participating in the Dixie Mafia (Weisheit, Falcone, & Wells, 1994).

Many of these traits are considered mental illnesses and it is assumed that members could conceivably be diagnosed with schizophrenia, anti-social personality disorder, socio-pathic, and psycho-pathic behaviors. The Dixie Mafia remains particularly xenophobic and resist outside influences. This world view is dominant in organized criminal activities as one of their top rules is to be suspicious and repellent to outsiders. They tend to recruit from within and are extremely suspicious of others that they perceive as a detriment to their sub-culture. They also tend to react violently to those they believe could possibly dismantle their institution. Members engage in recreational drug usage but do not tolerate addiction and consider it a weakness that could compromise the structure of the group. Members are also discouraged from seeking other professions unless approved and sanctioned through the hierarchical chains of authority. It is assumed that one’s particular talent is what made them attractive to the group in the first place and changes are not tolerated unless it results in more monetary benefits. It is not uncommon to indoctrinate a young family member or a promising juvenile into the group and then send them to college to gain a desirable profession and afterwards, utilize their new skills for the benefit of the family. These professions may include attorneys, accountants, or other professionals. Hierarchical typologies can be formed from these descriptions and these roles are as follows: (a) leaders who are defined by seniority, family, election, or self-appointment; (b) administrators who are political liaisons, lawyers, brokers, professional, educated ; (c) highly desirable members; (d) middle-men who are transporters, communications, in charge of control of high risk situations and the subordinates. These individuals are familiar with the local area and generally have medium educational levels. Last in line are the “flunkies”, or grunt workers. They take orders easily and follow without question and possess minimal education. Hierarchy of the organization remains typical of these conglomerates and includes a well-established chain of command. This remains contrary to the older days of the Dixie Mafia when authority was a loosely knit establishment. Modern day Dixie Mafia members utilize their resources by employing the best attorneys, accountants, and administrators, and removing or buying political leaders. Their social structure stands firmly established in their local communities, nationally, and globally. Therefore, as a collection of many socially unacceptable activities, most of society is in agreement that organized crime is immoral and wrong, unless one is the criminal (Haralambos & Holborn, 1995).

Communities historically and present, perceive many of these groups as “country gangs” who in the past have been portrayed as gangsters by the media. In modern times, they typically represent themselves as reputable businessmen. These individuals routinely conduct illegal proceedings as if they were the everyday activities of a corporation; from small to large scales operations. Modern metropolitan areas possess high tech law enforcement manpower, equipment, and resources but once one leaves the urban areas, cultures, technology, knowledge and experience of law enforcement agencies change quite significantly. Gary Potter and Larry K. Gaines (1992) investigated rural organized crime by completing field research in Kentucky. These researchers infiltrated the local organized crime groups and recorded their experiences. They came to the conclusion that in the poorest communities, the local economy could possibly collapse without organized crime, making illegal activities a necessary evil. The National Institute of Justice (1994) released a report discussing the difficulty of prosecuting corruption in rural districts because the population was dependent on the revenue that organized crime creates. The lack of judicial organization and resources, lower income rates, lower education, the availability of multiple methods of dispersing and acquiring contraband, and higher influences of outside sources, make the rural south a primary area for the prevalence of organized crime.

Previous theories for explanation of organized criminal activity

Many theories offer explanations for the behavior of the Dixie Mafia’s members, but they do not fully explain the activities of these individuals. Blocked opportunity theory (Merton, 1938) otherwise known as Merton’s strain theory, focuses on the sociological perspective that people are unable to obtain legitimate means of gainful employment. Blocked opportunity has been generally theorized as occurring when a person lives in conditions that have left them with limited access to education, vocational training, and legitimate means of support, therefore the individual turns to a life of crime to achieve their goals. This remains a reasonable assumption however it does not explain why some individuals have the means and ability to achieve acceptable socio economic status but remain unsatisfied with their middle class status (Agnew, 2006). Criminologists have used blocked opportunity as one of the explanations for participating in crime groups as a sole alternative to poverty in the lower social classes (Hunter & Dantzker, 2012). Social psychologists propose that this remains group conformity, cohesion, and a desire to become a member of an institution. [3] Conflict theory assumes that there remains a discrepancy between the upper and lower classes which causes adversarial relationships between social groups; as the wealthy are powerful and are perceived to thwart and undermine the poor. In retaliation, the disadvantaged respond creatively by grouping themselves into crime rings (Hughes, 2007). Social learning theory proposes that aggression is learned by modeling. By imitating role models and peers, children learn how to be violent and aggressive towards others (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1961). One biological theory proposes that individuals are experiencing physiological under arousal condition which is an unpleasant state that leads individuals to increase arousal by engaging in risky behavior to increase their arousal levels (Eysenck, 1997) or that the individual is suffering from a mental illness. Economist Bruce Yandle (1999) asserts that this behavior is driven by simple supply and demand of the local economy.

These theories attempt to propose an explanation of organized crime; however the weakness of many of these theories lies in the data obtained to define such activity, and usually comes from urban areas. They do not explain why a specific population participates in these organizations.

STCT: explaining the phenomenon of participation in rural organized crime

Social Transgression and Corruption Theory, (STCT) seeks to explain the motivations of educated middle-class men and women to seek out and join rural mafia groups. This population has families and many have no criminal history. These individuals remain unaffected by the previous aforementioned theories. The Dixie Mafia is used as a case study for rural areas of the United States. The Dixie Mafia’s rich history and century old dominance over the southern state’s organized crime groups is appropriate for this study. STCT explores and provides a possible explanation for the creation and persistence of these groups. This theory examines the personality traits, socio-economic status, and histories of rural organized criminal participants. This idea presents a new perspective of deviant behavior that has not been thoroughly examined before and has been generally overlooked. STCT defines organized crime as a sub-culture that violates social norms and laws, and exploits its members, victims, and society for financial gain and increased economic status. Their perceptions of their lifestyles remain indicative of their moral compass and these individuals perceive their world as an “us versus them” paradigm. Most research has focused on urban areas, street gangs, and the economically disadvantaged and uneducated offender. This theory is different because it proposes that individuals participate in organized criminal activity for other reasons besides monetary gain. STCT proposes that this population is motivated to participate because they need to be stimulated by their environment. They feel unfulfilled by the norms of conventional behavior and if presented with the opportunity may engage in criminal activity. Involvement with rural organized crime satisfies the physiological and psychological compulsion and it gives the individual the thrill they require. Continued involvement corrupts the individual and their risky behavior increases until it culminates into their death, family member’s deaths, exposure and incarceration. Their activities are localized because of minimal criminal justice repercussions and limited mafia associations. These individuals display characteristics such as narcissism and often engage in sensation-seeking activities on a regular basis.

Definition of STCT

Before one can understand STCT, the terms themselves must be defined. Social: defined as a group of people living together, wh


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