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Crime and Criminology. What is crime? What is deviance?. 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.

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Crime and criminology

Crime and Criminology

What is crime?

What is deviance?

Crime can be defined
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

Social, Legal, and Moral dimensions involved

Emile durkheim 1893
Emile Durkheim (1893)

  • Made three specific claims about the nature of crime:

  • Crime is normal

  • Crime is inevitable

  • Crime is useful

Crime is normal
Crime is normal

  • As normal as birth and marriage

  • Crimes occur in all societies

  • They are closely tied to the facts of collective life

  • Crime rates tend to increase as societies evolve from lower to higher phases

Crime is normal1
Crime is normal

  • In societies with mechanical solidarity punishment was more severe

  • Criminal act offends the strong, well-defined common consciousness

  • A crime against another person=crime against the entire society

  • Rejection was the most terrible punishment

Crime is inevitable
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 is society faces variation in background, education, heredity, social influences

Crime is useful
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 now

  • Her simple act of protest galvanized America's civil rights revolution

What is crime
What is crime?

  • Crime can be defined in a variety ways

  • At least four definitional perspectives

  • Legalistic

  • Political

  • Sociological

  • Psychological

Crime as legally defined behavior
Crime as legally defined behavior

  • Rooted in the criminal law (without law there can be no crime

  • The most precise definition

  • The narrowest definition

  • Classic definition of crime is often quoted from Paul Tappan’s writings “crime is an intentional act in violation of the criminal law committed without defense or excuse, and penalized by the state as a felony” (1947)

Legalistic definition
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

  • Is anything wrong with this definition?

  • Moral definitions of crime suggests that a lot more victimization and injury occurring than is accounted for by the legal order.

Violence against women
Violence against women

  • Twenty-five years ago, police, prosecutors, and judges did not view rape and battering as real crimes but rather as private matters where the woman to blame

Shortcomings of legalistic definition
Shortcomings of Legalistic Definition

  • Some activities are not crimes even though they are immoral (watching pornography, torturing animals, creating poor working conditions)

  • Powerful individuals are able to influence the making laws

  • Powerful individuals may escape the label “criminal”

Poor working conditions crime
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 labour

  • Over half of its employees in Asia work more than sixty hours a week and have no day off

Crime and criminology

  • 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

Crime and criminology

  • The clothing company Gap

  • Report revealed terrible working conditions in its factories in Mexico, China, Russia and India

  • Report disclosed details of child labour, the virtual slavery of workers and working weeks in excess of 80 hours.

Political view of crime
Political 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

Political perspective
Political perspective

  • 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)

Eco mafia

  • 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 countries

  • A colossal business which is linked to money laundering and gunrunning

Nuclear waste drums found by greenpeace
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 gloves

  • 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 cash

Sociological perspective
Sociological perspective

  • A more comprehensive sociological definition of crime was offered by Julia and Herman Schwendinger (1975)

  • “Crime encompasses any harmful acts, including violations of fundamental prerequisites for well-being (such as food, shelter, clothing, medical service, challenging work and recreational experiences, as well as security from predatory individuals or repressive and imperialistic elites”

Sociological perspective1
Sociological perspective

  • Schwendingers have challenged criminologists to be less constrained in what they see as a crime

  • Violation of human rights

  • When a man who steals a paltry sum can be called a criminal while agents of the State can legally reward men who destroy food so that price level can be maintained while a sizable portion of population suffers from maltinutrition

Psychological perspective moralistic view
Psychological perspective (moralistic view)

  • Any behavior which stands in the way of an individuals developing to his/her fullest potential would be considered crime

  • If criminologists adopted this view of crime, the scope of criminology would be greatly expanded..

Relativity of crime
Relativity of crime

  • Space

  • Time

  • Social context

Adultery is crime
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 divorce persons found guilty of Zina (adultery) be executed by stoning


  • Prostitution legalized in Netherlands from October 1, 2000

  • Prostitutes will be able to act officially as freelance workers

  • According to estimates published by the de Graaf Foundation, some 25,000 people work as prostitutes in the Netherlands.

New interpretations of present law new view on crime
New interpretations of present law (new view on crime)

  • Moral movements lead to new judicial interpretations

  • Law of self-defense: immediate danger of being killed or gravely injured (not for cases where one kills to preserve one’s life)

  • Concern with battered wives introduced a new claim (history of abuse rather than immediate danger permits plea of self-defense)

Social context of crime
Social Context of crime

  • Crime is socially constructed (Burger, 1968 on social construction of reality)

  • An criminal act can be the same but the interpretation of it can be different

The vocabulary of homicide
The vocabulary of Homicide

  • Murder is the name for legally unjustified, intentional homicide (legal and moral meanings)

  • Execution is the name forjustified 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
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

Defining crime
Defining crime

  • Anthropologists have been unable to find behavior that is universally defined as crime

  • Every society sets boundaries b/w life and death, justifiable homicide and murder

  • Societies disagree over what constitutes murder

  • Certain cultures place little value on human life and in fact believe that life should be sacrificed to their Gods

Sati tradition
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

Palestinian suicide bombers
Palestinian Suicide Bombers

  • Claim that it is merely a tactic of war in defense of their land and homes

  • They see it as a heroic act of martyrdom, not suicide

What is deviance
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

Howard becker 1966
Howard Becker (1966)

  • “It is not act itself, but the reactions to the act, that make something deviant”

  • People in different 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 (subculture, counterculture)

Deviance is commonplace
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 act

  • Dressing too casually for a formal wedding


  • 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 well

Lack of clothing
Lack of clothing

  • A decade ago, a New York State

    county judge, overturned the convictions

    of 10 women (Topfree Ten) who had been arrested for publicly displaying their breasts

    At that time, New York law forbade women from displaying their breast (unless breastfeeding or performing on stage)

    Law discriminated women (men have right to appear in public without shirt)