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Criminology- Chapter 4 Notes

by: Carly Pate

Criminology- Chapter 4 Notes SOC3890

Marketplace > Clemson University > Sociology > SOC3890 > Criminology Chapter 4 Notes
Carly Pate

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About this Document

Notes cover Chapter 4 which is on Exam 1.
William White
Class Notes
criminology, Criminal Justice, sociology
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This 7 page Class Notes was uploaded by Carly Pate on Wednesday January 20, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to SOC3890 at Clemson University taught by William White in Spring 2015. Since its upload, it has received 114 views. For similar materials see Criminology in Sociology at Clemson University.


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Date Created: 01/20/16
Criminology Chapter Four: Rational Choice Theory Introduction -rational choice says that crime is a decision to violate the law and is made for a variety of reasons, including greed, revenge, need, anger, lust, jealousy, thrill-seeking, or vanity -what do you believe? is all criminal behavior a matter of thought and decision-making?  strict liability offenses  don’t put yourself in indefensible situations The Development of Rational Choice -prior to the 18 century, and especial during the early Middle Ages (1200-1400), superstition and fear of satanic possession dominated thinking -people were thought of as naturally good; thus, bad acts were caused by demon possession -the common practice was to use cruel methods of punishment, including whipping, branding, maiming, and execution -as new insights were developed about human nature and behavior during the Enlightenment, these practices decreased -Thomas Hobbes suggested the existence of a “social contract” in which people agree to give up selfish interests to decrees social chaos; as not all agree to the social contract, the state is empowered with the right to use force to maintain the contract -according to classical theory, the purpose of the law is to produce and support the total happiness of the community it serves -punishment is designed to prevent crime and if punishment cannot prevent crime then punishment is to convince the offender to commit a less serious offense -according to rational choice theory, crime is an event and criminality is a personal trait  criminality:  offense specific o easy money  offender specific o boosters, professional criminals might plan a crime for a long time (most white collar crimes) -several personal factors condition people to choose crime -among these are economic opportunity, learning and experience, and knowledge of criminal techniques -rational choice theorists propose that offenders choose the type of crime to commit, choose the time and place of the crime, and choose the target of crime -Jeremy Bentham  Utilitarian calculus o pleasure v. pain choices were made based on this principle o all human decisions, regardless how they appear, are based in hedonism  four main objectives of punishment: o prevent all criminal offenses o if prevention is not possible, convince the offender to commit a less serious crime o ensure that a criminal uses no more force than is necessary o to prevent crime as cheaply as possible -when criminologists study criminal behavior, they find that there is a great deal of rational decision-making -Cesare Beccaria believed people were selfish and ego driven. He also believed that the fear of punishment was the only way to deter bad behavior and that punishment must be proportional to the crime committed -However, Beccaria called for fair and certain punishment to deter crime -Marginal deterrence- if petty offenses were subject to the same punishment as more serious crimes (non-proportional), offenders would choose the more serious crimes (Alabama law Repealed: punishment for rape was death) -the basic elements of Classical Criminology are:  people have free will  crime is attractive because there is little effort and a promise of a huge payoff  if the punishment is greater than the reward, it will deter people from committing crime  to be effective, punishment must be severe, certain, and swift enough to convince potential criminals that “crime does not pay” th -by the end of the 19 century, the classical approach declined and positivistic views gained mainstream acceptance -mid-1970s: the classical approach becomes popular again and Contemporary Choice Theory emerges  rehabilitation failed to prevent future criminal activity  public fear rose because o there was a significant increase in reported crime o prison disturbances o media depictions of criminals as dangerous rather than deserving of public sympathy -then, in the late 1970s writings reflected that criminals are rational actors who plan their crimes, fear punishment, and deserve to be penalized for their misdeeds The Development of Rational choice -In 1975, James Q. Wilson wrote Thinking About Crime  the effect of his work was: o 1. it debunked the positivist view that crime was a function of external forces o 2. it said criminals lack inhibition against misconduct o 3. the idea that wicked people exist was accepted  it became widely acknowledged that there was what was called “the Seductions of Crime” -Katz argued there were immediate benefits to criminality; these seductions are situational inducements, which directly precede the commission of a crime, and draw offenders into law violations -do you believe in the veil of immediate gratification? -crime can help satisfy personal needs and soothe the strain produced by emotional upheaval -people are most likely to be “seduced” if they fear neither the risk of apprehension nor its social consequences -when then is the impact of crime control:  there was a conservative shift in US public policy o make the suffering greater  tougher laws were passed including mandatory sentences o tough on crime movement o mandatory sentencing, mandatory sentencing minimums  stiffer penalties enacted leading to huge prison populations o criminalizing public crime orders The Concepts of Rational Choice -law-violating behavior occurs when an offender decides to risk breaking the law after considering both personal factors and situational factors  emphasis is on the actor; person behaving in criminal matter -why crime?  1. helps overcome the problems and stresses faced daily lives  2. helps achieve a sense of control or mastery over the environment o acting instead of being acted upon  3. engaging in risky behavior helps some feel alive and competent -choosing crime  before choosing to commit a crime, reasoning criminals evaluate the following: o 1. the risk of apprehension o 2. the seriousness of expected punishment o 3. the potential value of the criminal enterprise o 4. their immediate need for criminal gain; their behavior is systematic and selective  the decision to commit crime is enhanced by the promise of easy gain with low risk -forgoing crime  in contrast, people will forgo crime if they conclude: o 1. they stand a good chance of caught and punished o 2. they fear the consequences of punishment o 3. they risk losing the respect of their peers, damaging their reputations and experiencing feelings of guilt or shame o 4. the risk of apprehension outweighs the profit and/or pleasure of crime -offense and offender  offense-specific crime: offenders will react selectively to the characteristics of particular offenses  offender-specific crime: criminals are not simply automatons who, for one reason or another, engage in random acts of antisocial behavior  distinction: crime is an event, criminality is a personal trait -structuring criminality: a number of personal factors condition people to choose crime  1. economic opportunity: crime occurs when one feels they will profit  2. learning and experience: career criminals learn their limits; when to take a chance and when to be cautious  3. knowledge of criminal techniques: criminals learn techniques to avoid detection -structuring crime  criminals rationally choose where and when to commit crime and whom to target -choosing the type of crime-  choice of crime may be dictated by market conditions; generalists may alter criminal behavior according to shifting opportunity structures  choice of crime is structured by the situational factors -choosing the time and place of crime-  criminals select times that are better and are selective in the location of the crime -selecting the target of crime-  criminals select vulnerable targets  in some instances, targets are chosen Is Crime Rational? -crimes are the product of rational, objective thought  is theft rational?- seem more likely to be random acts of criminal opportunity than well-thought-out conspiracies o even unplanned events may involve risk assessment  boosters: professional shoplifters  permeable neighborhoods  is drug use rational?- at the onset, drug use is controlled by rational decision making; it is treated like a business  is violence rational?- there are a number of indicators that suggest violence has rational elements: o control: the violent person may want to control their victim’s behavior and life o retribution: the perpetrator may want to punish someone and take the law into their own hands o deterrence: the attacker may want to stop someone from repeating acts that they consider hostile and provocative o reputation: an attack may be motivated by the need to enhance reputation and create self-importance in the eyes of others Eliminating Crime -crime may produce sensations that are reinforcing -edgework: the exhilarating, momentary integration of danger, risk, and skill that motivates people to try dangerous criminal and noncriminal behaviors -says crime is not a random act, but a means that can provide both pleasure and solutions to life’s problems -thus, if crime is rational, the only way to prevent it is convince potential offenders that:  1. crime is a poor choice and ultimately leads to hardship  2. crime is not worth the effort; criminality doesn’t pay enough  3. crime brings long-term pain and those who experience the true pains of punishment will not recidivate Situational Crime Prevention -criminal acts will be avoided if:  1. potential targets are guarded securely  2. the means to commit crime are controlled  3. potential offenders are carefully monitored -defensible space: crime can be prevented or displaced through the use of residential architectural -targeting specific crimes  there are five strategies to reduce or eliminate a specific crime problem: o 1. increase the effort needed to commit crime o 2. increase the risks of committing crime o 3. reduce the rewards for committing crime o 4. induce guilt or shame for committing crime o 5. reduce excuses for committing crime -among the hidden benefits of situational crime control efforts are these:  1. diffusion: when efforts to prevent one crime unintentionally prevent another and crime control efforts in one locale reduce crime in other non-target areas  2. discouragement: when crime control efforts targeting one locale help reduce crime in surrounding areas and groups  3. displacement: doing something in one area which may re- direct the crime to another area  4. extinction: crime reduction programs may produce a short- term positive effect, but benefits dissipate as criminals adjust to new conditions  5. encouragement: crime reduction programs may boomerang and increase rather than decrease the potentiality for crime General Deterrence -crime rates are influenced and controlled by the threat of punishment -principles:  1. if people fear punishment, they will not break the law  2. the severity, certainty, and speed of punishment are inter- related  3. the actual chance of punishment influences criminality, as does the perception of punishment -according to deterrence theory, if the probability of arrest, conviction, and sanctioning increase, crime rates should decline; however punishment is not very certain -certainty of punishment will only deter if likelihood of getting caught reaches a critical point; crime persists because we have not reached the “tipping point” -crime continues because criminals believe:  1. there is only a small chance they will get arrested  2. police officers are sometimes reluctant to make arrests even if they are aware of the crime  3. even if apprehended there is a good chance of receiving a lenient punishment -which factor is more controlling or influencing?  1. rationality: deterrence theory assumes a rational offender weighs the costs and decides on their course of action  2. compulsion: offenders have an innate or inherited emotional state that renders them both incapable of fearing punishment and less likely to appreciate the consequences of crime  3. need: many offenders are members of the underclass  4. greed: some are immune to deterrence because they feel the profits are worth the risk  5. deterrability: threat of formal sanctions is irrelevant for high- risk offenders of those with personality disorders and mental infirmity Specific Deterrence -criminal sanctions should be swift, sure and powerful so that known criminals will never repeat their criminal acts -does specific deterrence deter crime?  a majority of known offenders are not deterred by their punishment  actually, punishment may increase reoffending rates for a variety of reasons Incapacitation -incapacitation effect: placing offenders behind bars during their prime crime years should lessen their lifetime opportunity to commit crime; the shorter the span of opportunity, the fewer offenses they can commit during their lives; hence crime is reduced  a belief exists that a strict incarceration can shape criminal choice and reduce crime rates has encouraged states to adopt tough sentencing laws -does incarceration control crime?  crime rates have dropped while the prison population has boomed supports incapacitation as an effective crime control policy Public Policy Implications -Choice Theory  those who violate others’ rights deserve to be punished  just deserts- retribution justifies punishment because people deserve what they get for past deeds


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