A2 Sociology - Crime Control, Prevention and Punishment

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  • Created by: Joel
  • Created on: 28-04-13 11:37

Control and Prevention of Crime

Strategies for prevention and control of crime mainly come from left and right realists. Right Realists, look at the individual and note that people choose to commit crime because the benefits outweigh the costs (rational choice). So society needs to look at ways to increase the costs of crime. (punishment)Criticisms: 1) They do not address the wider social causes of crime that the left realists do. 2) Katz and Lyng suggest they offenders do it for the buzz or the thrill, not because the benefits outweigh the risks.    Left Realists, focus on the organization of society, and especially the inequality, disadvantage and poverty that result from this and which create the environment in which crime might be the norm. Criticisms:  1) They are 'soft' on crime, as they focus too much on the social causes of crime, downplaying the role of the offender in choosing to commit crime. The offender almost becomes a victim. 2) There are potentially much more practical ways of crime prevention, such as tighter social control and situational crime prevention measures as suggested by the right realists. 

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Right Realist Crime Prevention Strategies

Situational Crime Prevention: This is a right realist theory aimed at reducing opportunities for crime via target hardening, by the use of more security and surveillance eg, harder to break into cars and cctv. Therefore increasing the risk of being caught, thus deterring the criminal.  criticism: it just displaces crime to softer targets.  Enviromental Crime Prevention: This is a right realist theory influenced by James Q. Wilson. This focuses on cracking down on smaller crimes such as dog fouling (zero tolerance) in order to maintain a tight social control, and send out a message that society cares. Also done by dealing with broken windows, because if they were left broken, it would send out a nobody cares image and encourage more of the same to occur. He believes all signs of environmental decline should be tackled immediately, public housing should not exceed 3 floors and residents should be encouraged to look after their communal space, and zero tolerance policies should be put in.  criticism: was it actually the zero tolerance policing, or the fact NYPD had an extra 7,000 police officers. As well as this there was a great decline in crime in other major US cities at this time that were not implementing zero tolerance policies Left realists say both are doomed for failure because they treat the symptoms of crime rather than the disease of crime.

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Left Realist Crime Prevention Strategies

Social and Community Crime Prevention:  Left realists say politicians need to address the economic and social conditions - poverty, unemployment and poor education - that bring about the risk conditions for crime. Left realists argue that urban crime is a rational response to a lack of legitimate opportunities and powerlessness.   Left realists argue that economic and social reform programmes need to be administered by governments if crime is to be seriously reduced in inner-city areas. Policies such as educational programme aimed at inner city comprehensives, minimum pay legislation, reduction in income tax and investment in poorer urban communities to create jobs. criticism: they focus too much on 'soft' crimes and blame society to a point where the offender is almost a victim.  

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Punishment (Functionalist & Marxist)

There are two main justifications for the harm that is inflicted by punishment, Reduction and Retribution. Reduction can work in 3 different ways; Deterrence, Rehabillitation and Incapacitiation (removes offenders capacity to offend again, eg cut their hands off in olden days). Retribution is based on the idea of pay back and that it is deserved. Durkheim's (functionalist) persepective: he argues that the function of punishment is to uphold social solidarity and to reinforce shared values. He identifies 2 types of justice; Retributive: A venegful passion in pay back that is sever and cruel (traditional society/olden days) Restitutive: An aim to restore things to how they were before the crime via punishment, as the crime has damaged the interdepedness which social solidarity is based on./ Marxist perspective: For them the function of punishment is to maintain the existing social order via the 'repressive state apparatus'. See imprisonment as reflecting capitalsim, prisoners 'do time' in order to 'pay' for their crime, or debt to society. 

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Punishment (Foucault)

Foucault: He sees a striking contrast between two different forms of punishment which he sees as examples of sovereign power and disciplinary power.  Sovereign power: was typical in the period before the 19th century when the monarch had power over people. Inflicting punishment is the means of control, punishment was a spectacle, such as public execution. Disciplinary Power: Becomes dominant from the 19th century. In this form of control, a new system of discipline seeks to govern not just the body, but the mind or 'soul'. It does so through surveillance. He argues that with the new panopticon prison design where prisoners are visible to guards but prisoners cant see them and do not know when they're being watched is a form of disciplinary power as it causes the prisoners to create self-discipline. Criticisms: 1) Neglects the expressive/emotional aspects of punishment. 2) The shift from corporal punishment to imprisonment is less clear then he suggests.

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Punishment Today

Prison has not proved an effective method of rehabilitation - about two thirds of prisoners commit further crimes on release.

Statistic: Between 1993 and 2005 prisoners in England and Wales grew by about 70% - sentences not tough enough? & New labour governments after 1997 believed prisons should be used for persistent petty crime offenders. 

Alternatives to prison; for young offenders this is common, to be given a community based control, curfew, community service order or electronic tagging in order to divert them away from the criminal justice system. However S.Cohen argues all this does, especially ASBOs, is act as a means of fast-tracking young offenders into custodial sentences.

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