Crime and Criminology

Crime and Criminology
1. What is crime?
2. Durkheim on crime
3. What is deviance?
Course Website
Crime can be defined…
 Form of normal behavior
 Violation of behavioral norms
 Form of deviant behavior
 Legally defined behavior
 Violation of human rights
 Social harm/injury
 Form of inequality
Definition of crime
 If we believe that crime is human
conduct in violation of the criminal
law, we can easily identify criminal
behavior from non-criminal
Carol Carr
 The woman, Carol Carr, 64, killed her sons,
Michael R. Scott, 42, and Andy B. Scott, 41, in a
nursing home
 Both men were in the advanced stages of
Huntington's disease and were bedridden and
unable to communicate.
 The disease, a degenerative nerve disorder that
causes involuntary body movement, dementia
and death, killed their father, Ms. Carr's first
Carol Carr
 ''What she did was illegal, but also what she
did was moral: she stopped the suffering of
these children,'' her lawyer, Lee Sexton, said.
Unusual behaviors?
 Keeping poop in show boxes
Emile Durkheim (1895)
 Made three specific claims about the nature
of crime:
1. Crime is normal
2. Crime is inevitable
3. Crime is useful
Crime is normal
 As normal as birth and marriage
 Crimes occur in all societies
 They are closely tied to the facts of collective
 Crime rates tend to increase as societies
evolve from lower to higher phases
Kitty Genovese of Kew Gardens,
New York
 In 1964, a 29-year-old Kitty cried out for help
from her neighbors when an assailant
stabbed her twice in the back.
 News reports afterwards suggested that 38
neighbors heard or saw some of what
happened that night.
 Everyone feels that someone else will do
something or that someone is better
equipped to respond
Crime is normal
 Crime is functional for society
 By punishing criminals, society reaffirms it
own values
 If crimes were not committed, then the values
of society would become blurred
 If there is no punishment, then there would be
no way of reestablishing the values that the
crime offends
Crime is inevitable
 No society can ever be entirely
rid of crime
Imagine a community of saints in a perfect and
exemplary monastery
Faults that appear venial to the ordinary person will
arouse the same scandal as does normal crime
Absolute conformity to rules is impossible
Each member in society faces variation in
background, education, heredity, social influences
Crime is useful
Crime is indispensable to the
normal evolution of law and morality
Crime often is a symptom of individual
originality and a preparation for
changes in society
Rosa Parks (was a criminal) is a hero
Her simple act of protest galvanized
America's civil rights revolution
Three perspectives on crime
 The Consensus View of Crime
 The Conflict View of Crime
 The Interactionist View of Crime
The Consensus View of Crime
 Consensus = agreement
 Crimes are behaviors believed to be
repugnant (repulsive) to all elements of
 Substantive criminal law – written code that
defines crimes and their punishments
 This code reflects the values, beliefs, and
opinions of society’s mainstream
 Concept of ideal legal system
Legalistic definition
 Crime is human conduct in violation of the
criminal laws of state, the federal
government, or a local jurisdiction that has
the power to make such laws
 Some activities are not crimes even though
they are immoral (watching pornography,
torturing animals, creating poor working
 No law= No crime
Domestic Violence
 Twenty-five years ago, police, prosecutors,
and judges did not view domestic abuse
(rape and battering) as real crime but rather
as private matter where the woman to blame
 No law = no crime
Up to fifty percent of workers
cannot drink water or go to the toilet
when they want
A quarter of workers receive less than the
legal minimum wage, even though Nike
makes huge profits
“Abusive treatment", physical and verbal, is
exercised in more than a quarter of its south
Asian plants
Poor working conditions - Crime?
 For many years, human rights groups have
attacked Nike for the low pay and terrible
working conditions, and for the use of child
 Over half of its employees in Asia work more
than sixty hours a week and have no day off
Conflict View of Crime
 Powerful groups of people label selected
undesirable forms of behavior as illegal
 Powerful individuals use their power to
establish laws and sanctions against less
powerful persons and groups
 Official statistics indicate that crime rates in
inner-city, high-poverty areas are higher than
those in suburban areas
 Self-reports of prison inmates show that
prisoners are members of the lower class
Conflict View of Crime
 Crime of inequality includes a lot of behaviors
that are omitted by legalistic definition
 Crime is a political concept used to protect
powerful people
 Crimes of power (price fixing, economic
crimes, unsafe working conditions, nuclear
waste products, war-making, domestic
violence, etc)
 The developing South (particularly African
countries like Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Algeria
and Mozambique) has become the dump for
hundreds of thousands of tonnes of
radioactive waste from the world's rich
 A colossal business which is linked to money
laundering and gunrunning
Nuclear waste drums
found by Greenpeace
 IIlegal dumps - among the largest in the world
- in Somalia, where workers handle the
radioactive waste without any kind of
safeguard or protective gear - not even
 The workers do not know what they are
handling, and if one of them dies, the family is
persuaded to keep quiet with a small bit of
Interactionist View of Crime
 This view takes a smaller scale view of society and
social order and analyses small or medium scale
social interactions
 The main idea behind the interactionist approach to
deviance is that the definition of what is deviant is
socially negotiated
 We will discuss the fact that definition of crime differs
from one culture to another and also across time
 It also differs according to where you are and with
whom at any given moment.
 Imagine that a young male of 18 is walking
home late one night through the city streets
singing at the top of his lungs and weaving
about in the road
 The police are called and the young man is
taken to the police station
 When he gets there he explains that earlier
that day he has been accepted for a place at
Cambridge University and he had been out
with his friends to celebrate
 He has no previous police record. His father
is the local GP (General Practitioner)
 The police call his father who arrives looking
rather embarrassed. He apologizes to the
police and they have a little joke together
about young men and ‘boys will be boys’
 The young man is sent home with a mild
warning and the suggestion that he won't feel
very well in the morning.
Another Scenario
 A young male of 18 is walking home late one night through the
city streets singing at the top of his lungs
The police are called and the young man is taken to the police
When he gets there he explains that earlier that day he has
been out with his friends to celebrate birthday
He has no previous police record
When asked for his address and telephone number the police
realize that he lives in a notorious housing estate that has a high
rate of criminal activity.
The police call his father who arrives looking not very
embarrassed. He apologizes to the police but they are
The boy is charged with breach of the peace
Howard Becker (1966)
 “It is not act itself, but the reactions to the act,
that make something deviant”
 People in different social groups/societies
react differently to the same behavior
 Moreover, within the same society at a given
time the perception of deviance varies by
class, gender, race, and age
Deviance is commonplace
 We are all deviant from time to time
 Each of us violates common social norms in
certain situations
 Being late for class is categorized as deviant
 Dressing too casually for a formal wedding
Relativity of crime
 Space
 Time
 Social context
Adultery is crime
Saudi Arabia, the
United Arab Emirates,
the Sudan, and some of
the northern states of Nigeria practice a very
strict form of Sharia law
Sharia law requires that married or divorced
persons found guilty of Zina (adultery) be
executed by stoning
Sati tradition
 Within the Indian culture there is a custom in
which a woman burns herself either on the
funeral pyre of her deceased husband or by
herself with a momento after his death
 Proof of her loyalty to husband
 Prostitution legalized in Netherlands from October 1,
Prostitutes have the right to hygienic working
conditions and security in the workplace
They must pay taxes
Can have social insurance, be paid sick leave, and
receive a pension if they work for a brothel or own a
According to estimates published by the de Graaf
Foundation, some 25,000 people work as prostitutes
in the Netherlands.
Prostitutions in the USA
 A federal law against prostitution concentrate
on the prohibition of crossing state or
international boundaries for the purpose of
engaging in sex for pay
 In selected counties in Nevada prostitution is
not criminalized
Social Context of crime
 Crime is socially constructed (Burger, 1968)
 An criminal act can be the same but the
interpretation of it can be different
The vocabulary of Homicide
 Murder is the name for legally unjustified, intentional
homicide (legal and moral meanings)
 Execution is the name for justified homicide (when
terrorists kill their enemies)
 Journalist Ambrose Bierce: “Homicide is the slaying
of one human being by another. There are four kinds
of homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and
praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference slain
whether he fell by one kind or another-the
classification is for the purposes of the lawyers”.
Vocabulary of homicide
 Debate about abortion
 Those who oppose call it murder
 Those who favor legal access to abortion
speak of “terminating pregnancy” or
“removing tissue”
 Different moralities-different vocabularies
 Crime is socially constructed?
What is deviance?
 Deviance involves the violation of group
norms which may or may not be formalized
into law
 Some examples: criminals, alcoholics,
people with tattoos, compulsive gamblers,
and the mentally ill
 Deviation from norm is not always negative:
 A member of an exclusive club who speaks
out against its traditional policy of excluding
women, or poor people
 Police officer who speaks against corruption
within the department
 Deviant behavior is human activity that is
statistically different from the average
 Deviance and crime are concepts that do not
always easily mesh
 Some forms of deviance are not violations of
the criminal law and the reverse is true as
Relationship between crime and deviance
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