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Labeling, Interaction, and Crime: Societal Reaction and the Creation of Criminals

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  1. Labeling, Interaction, and Crime: Societal Reaction and the Creation of Criminals Part VII

  2. Labeling/Social Reaction Perspectives • Unlike other sociological theories, the labeling/social reaction perspectives reject using the offender as the starting point in their analysis • Rather, these theories focus on the behavior of those who label, react to, and otherwise seek to control offenders • These social control efforts are what trigger the processes that trap individuals in a criminal career • Self-fulfilling prophecy

  3. Creating Criminals • Early criminologists recognized that placing people in prison, or “houses of corruption,” could deepen involvement into crime • Tannenbaum discussed the “dramatization of evil” • Argued “a decisive step in the education of the criminal” is being arrested and having the criminal status held up for public scrutiny • Thus, criminals are made when they are defined as such

  4. Creating Criminals • Tannenbaum argued being arrested and labeled as criminal forced the person to: • Associate with others defined as criminal • Leads to the exposure of criminal values • Think of himself as a criminal and thus begin to act as a criminal • Tannenbaum argued the best policy in dealing with juvenile delinquents is to not dramatize or draw attention to the crime • Radical nonintervention

  5. Lemert: “Primary and Secondary Deviance” • Edwin Lemert (1951) discussed primary and secondary deviance • Primary deviance: “polygenic, arising out of a variety of social, cultural, psychological, and physiological factors” • Peripheral to the person’s identity so does not influence how the person views him/herself • Rationalized and dealt with as functions of a socially acceptable role

  6. Lemert: “Primary and Secondary Deviance” • Edwin Lemert (1951) discussed primary and secondary deviance • Secondary deviance: occurs after the deviance inspired a social reaction • When a person begins to employ his deviant behavior or role based upon it as a means of defense, attack, or adjustment to the overt and covert problems created by the consequent societal reactions to him/her • This affects identity and conception of self • Narrows the ability to choose conventional ways of life • One’s “life and identity are organized around the facts of deviance”

  7. Lemert: “Primary and Secondary Deviance” • Seldom one deviant act will provoke a strong enough societal reaction to create secondary deviance, unless the individual projects anticipatory fears onto the situation • Frequently, there is a progressive reciprocal relationship between the deviation of the person and the social reaction

  8. Lemert: “Primary and Secondary Deviance” • The sequence leading to secondary deviance is as follows: • Primary deviation • Social penalties • Further primary deviation • Stronger penalties/rejections • Further deviation (perhaps with hostilities and resentment upon those doing the penalizing) • Crisis reached in the tolerance quotient, formal action by the community stigmatizing the deviant • Strengthening of the deviant conduct as a reaction to the stigmatizing and penalties • Ultimate acceptance of the deviant social status and efforts at adjustment on the basis of the associated role

  9. Lemert: “Primary and Secondary Deviance” • Current research suggests that crime is rooted more fully in individual differences and in family, school, and community life • However, societal reaction is not inconsequential • Not the main source of persistent criminality, but societal reaction can reinforce a criminal lifestyle and make desistence more difficult

  10. The Rise and Fall of Labeling Theory • In the 1960s, based off the work of Lemert and Tannenbaum, criminologists focused on social reaction, not the offender • Focused on three main issues • Asked why certain behaviors were labeled as crime and others were not and how definitions change over time • Asked why everyone who broke the law was not detected and designated as criminal • Howard Becker argued “social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance” and applying those rules to particular people • Asked what the consequences of being labeled were • Self-fulfilling prophecy • Becomes a master status

  11. The Rise and Fall of Labeling Theory • Drawing on the sociological theory of symbolic interactionism, labeling theorists argue a person’s identify is shaped by the messages other people deliver as to who the person is • Over time, people begin to embrace the label, which shapes their behavior • Labeling also shapes a person’s social relationships • Once stigmatized as criminal, the person loses conventional relationships and is forced to associate mainly with other criminals • Also is denied opportunities (e.g., employment) in conventional society

  12. The Rise and Fall of Labeling Theory • Labeling theory grew in popularity as the 1960s progressed • An interesting theory • Critiqued the state’s power • However, labeling theory soon fell out of favor • Empirically weak • Argued societal reaction was the key in the stability of criminal behavior; however, research has shown that stability occurs early in the life course before formal interventions • Does not recognize the impact of criminogenic environments (e.g., dysfunctional family, failing at school, antisocial associates)

  13. Contemporary Labeling Theories • Many abandoned labeling theory as it did not have empirical support • Recently, a revisionist position has emerged arguing that societal reactions can impact criminal behavior • Several studies show contact with the CJS increases recidivism • Imprisonment disrupts family relationships and decreases job prospects

  14. Contemporary Labeling Theories • Three theoretical developments have emerged that helped revitalize the study of social reactions • Matsueda’s focus on informal reactions • Braithwaite’s focus on reintegrative shaming • Sherman’s focus on defiance

  15. Matsueda and Informal Sanctions • Labeling theory is usually interpreted as contending that the application of formal criminal sanctions is the key societal reaction leading to subsequent criminal behavior • Less attention paid to informal sanctions • Reactions of parents, friends, neighbors, etc. • Ross Matsueda argues that a key proximate cause of delinquent behavior is the “reflected appraisals of others” • The person’s perception that others view them as delinquent or deviant

  16. Matsueda and Informal Sanctions • When kids are labeled as delinquent or troublemakers, they perceive themselves as others see them and act upon that perception • Labeling creates a delinquent self that prompts deviant behavior • Matsueda has found support for his proposition of informal sanctions

  17. Braithwaite’s Theory of Reintegrative Shaming • Other revitalizations have argued that the effects of societal reactions are contingent on a range of factors • All reactions do not increase criminal behavior (e.g., rehabilitation) • John Braithwaite argues when a criminal act occurs attempts are made to “shame” the person • Whether shaming makes things worse depends on the quality of the societal reaction

  18. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Seeks to specify the types of shaming which cause and prevent crime • Stigmatizing shaming leads to subsequent criminal behavior • The key to crime control is cultural commitments to shaming in ways that are reintegrative

  19. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • The consequence of stigmatization is the attraction to criminal subcultures • Formal criminal punishment has a degradation ceremony and has maximum prospects for stigmatization • The consequence of reintegrative shaming is that criminal subcultures appear less attractive

  20. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Reintegrative shaming is more likely when: • Individuals are enmeshed in multiple relationships of interdependency • They live in a communitarian society • Notice some of these factors can be seen in other theories • Interdependency—control theories • Stigmatization and reintegrative shaming—labeling theories • Subculture—subcultural theories and social learning theories • Opportunity—opportunity theories

  21. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Reintegrative shaming works to prevent crime by: • Specific deterrence—people fear the shame of intimates more than formal sanctions • General deterrence—deters others who wish to avoid shame • These effects are greater for those who remain strongly attached in relationships of interdependency and will accrue greater costs from shame • Stigmatizing shame can be counterproductive by breaking attachments to those who shame future criminality • Shaming leads to the cognition that certain types of crime are unthinkable

  22. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Reintegrative shaming works to prevent crime by: • Shaming followed by forgiveness and repentance builds more commitment to the law than shaming alone • Shaming builds consciences through citizens being instruments and targets of social control • Once consciences have been formed, pangs of conscience become the most effective punishment for crime • Shaming is both the social process which builds conscience and the most important backstop to be used when conscience fails to deliver conformity • Gossip within wider circles of acquaintances and shaming of offenders not even known to those who gossip are important for building consciences

  23. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Reintegrative shaming works to prevent crime by: • Public shaming puts pressure on parents, teachers, and others to ensure that they engage in private shaming which is sufficiently systematic. • Public shaming has a more important role with adult offenses because adults are further removed from the influence of the school and family • Public shaming generalizes familiar principles to unfamiliar or new contexts • Cultures with a heavy emphasis on reintegrative shaming establish a smoother transition between socialization practices in the family and socialization in wider society • This cultivates internal controls

  24. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Reintegrative shaming works to prevent crime by: • Gossip and other modalities of shaming can be especially effective when the targets of shame are not directly confronted with shame, but are directly confronted with gestures of forgiveness or reintegration • The effectiveness of shaming is often enhanced by shame being directed not only at the individual offender but also at the offender’s family, workplace, etc. • These collectivities are put on notice to exercise informal social control over their members

  25. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Key concepts of reintegrative shaming • Interdependency • Condition of individuals • Extent to which individuals participate in networks wherein they are dependent on them • Approximately equivalent to social bonding, attachment, and commitment elements in control theory • Measured by age, gender, marital status, employment, and educational and occupational aspirations

  26. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Key concepts of reintegrative shaming • Communitarianism • Condition of societies • In communitarian societies, individuals are densely enmeshed in interdependencies that have the special qualities of mutual help and trust • Interdependencies have symbolic significance in the culture of group loyalties which take precedence over individual interests • Invoke personal obligation to others in a community of concern • Resists interpretations of dependency as weak or threatening individual autonomy • Measured by urbanization and residential mobility

  27. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Key concepts of reintegrative shaming • Shaming • All social processes of expressing disapproval which have the intention or effect of invoking remorse in the person being shamed and/or condemnation by others who become aware of the shaming • Sets out to moralize with the offender to communicate reasons for the evil of the person’s actions • Most shaming done by individuals within interdependent communities of concern

  28. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Key concepts of reintegrative shaming • Reintegrative shaming • Shaming which is followed by efforts to reintegrate the offender back into the community of law-abiding or respectable citizens through words/gestures of forgiveness or ceremonies to decertify the offender as deviant • Shaming and reintegration occur sequentially with reintegration occurring before deviance becomes a master status • Label the act as evil while striving to preserve the identity of the offender as essentially good • Shaming of criminal behavior is complemented by ongoing social rewarding of alternative behavior patterns • Has a finite duration and is terminated by forgiveness • Efforts to maintain bonds of love and respect are shown throughout the shaming period

  29. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Key concepts of reintegrative shaming • Stigmatization • Disintegrative shaming • No effort made to reconcile the offender with the community • The offender is an outcast • Deviance becomes the offender’s master status

  30. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Key concepts of reintegrative shaming • Criminal subcultures • Sets of rationalizations and conduct norms which cluster together to support criminal behavior • Provides systematic social support for crime • Provides criminal opportunities, values, and attitudes

  31. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • In communitarian societies with highly interdependent individuals, shaming can be either stigmatizing or reintegrative • In places where the shaming is reintegrative, low crimes rates will be the result • In places where shaming is stigmatizing, criminal subcultures will be attractive and the individual is cut off from mainstream society • This supplies criminal role models, training, and attitudes • These areas will have higher crime rates

  32. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • High levels of stigmatization is one factor that encourages criminal culture formation by creating populations of outcasts with no stake in conformity • Another factor leading to the development of deviant subcultures is the systematic blockage of legitimate opportunities for factions of the population • Subcultures develop in these outcast areas that supply illegitimate opportunity structures

  33. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • A communitarian culture nurtures deviants within a network of attachments to conventional society and inhibits the widespread outcasting of those who violate the law

  34. Braithwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration • Within the U.S., restorative justice programs most closely mirror Braithwaite’s admonition to meld shaming with reintegration • The goal is to restore the victim, the offender, and the community • Victims receive restitution and a public apology • Offenders are granted a measure of forgiveness by victims and are reaccepted by their families and the community • Evaluations have yielded some promising results

  35. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Lawrence Sherman observes that, depending on the circumstances, interventions can have diverse effects • Legal punishments either reduce, increase, or have no effect on future crimes depending on the types of offenders, offenses, social settings, and levels of analysis

  36. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Attempts to move beyond the labeling and deterrence perspectives to develop a comprehensive theory of the criminal sanction • Accounts for when sanctions create defiance, deterrence, or are irrelevant • Sherman discusses three theories that offer promise in solving the stalemate between deterrence and labeling theories • Braithwaite’s theory of reintegrative shaming • Tyler’s study of compliance • Scheff and Retzinger’s sociology of the “master emotions” of pride and shame that dominate human responses to experienced and vicarious sanctions

  37. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Braithwaite (1989) • Reintegrative shaming controls crime • Stigmatizing shaming increases crime • Tyler (1990) • Sanctions citizens perceive as fair increase compliance with the law • Sanctions citizens perceive as unfair reduce compliance • Scheff and Retzinger (1991) • Individuals vary in their emotional response to sanctions/shaming depending on the social bond to the sanctioning agent and to society in general

  38. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Proposes that in the face of criminal penalties, “defiance” and thus greater crime are likely to result when offenders are poorly bonded to society and define the sanctions against them as stigmatizing and unfair • Recidivism is less likely when offenders have close ties to conventional society and see the sanctions against them as deserved and fairly applied • Offenders may react to the same sanction differently depending on their social bonds and sensitivity to justice • Suggests the quality of the behavior of the police, court, and correctional officials plays a role in precipitating or depressing the likelihood of defiance

  39. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • There are four key concepts in the emotional response to sanctioning experiences: • Legitimacy • Degree of legitimacy the sanctioned offender grants to the sanctioning agent’s behavior, driven more by the agent’s respectfulness and procedural fairness than the substance of the morality the agent enforces • Social bonds • The bond the offender has to the sanctioning agent, the community in whose name the sanctioning agent was acting, and other close attachments

  40. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • There are four key concepts in the emotional response to sanctioning experiences: • Shame • The offender either acknowledges or bypasses the shame, respectively repairing or weakening social bonds to the agent or community • Pride • The source of pride the offender feels in the aftermath of the sanction; social solidarity with the relevant community or isolation from that community as an unconquerable soul

  41. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Defiance theory argues: • Sanctions provoke future defiance of the law (persistence, more frequent or more serious violations) to the extent that offenders experience the sanctioning conduct as illegitimate, have weak bonds to the sanctioning agent and the community, and deny their shame and become proud of their isolation from the sanctioning community

  42. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Defiance is the net increase in the prevalence, incidence, or seriousness of future offending against a sanctioning community caused by a proud, shameless reaction to the administration of a criminal sanction • Specific defiance is the reaction of one person to that person’s own punishment • General defiance is the reaction of a group or collectivity to the punishment of one or more of its members

  43. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Direct defiance is a crime committed against a sanctioning agent • Indirect defiance is the displaced just deserts committed against a target vicariously representing the sanctioning agent(s) provoking the anger • Defiance explains variation in criminal events, not criminality

  44. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Defiance occurs under four conditions: • The offender defines a criminal sanction as unfair • The offender is poorly bonded to or alienated from the sanctioning agent or the community the agent represents • The offender defines the sanction as stigmatizing and rejecting a person, not a lawbreaking act • The offender denies or refuses to acknowledge the shame the sanction has actually caused him to suffer

  45. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Sanctions are defined as unfair when: • The sanctioning agent behaves with disrespect toward the offender, or toward the group to which the offender belongs, regardless of how fair the sanction is on substantive grounds • The sanction is substantively arbitrary, discriminatory, excessive, undeserved, or otherwise objectively unjust

  46. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Defining sanctions as unfair: • Respect • Respect by punishers for the punished • Matter of treating people with human dignity • Offenders’ interpretations they are getting a fair hearing and the sanctioning decision maker considers and respects that viewpoint • Groups receiving the most disrespect from the police also have the highest participation rates in crime • The lower class and minorities are much more exposed to police disrespect and brutality vicariously and in person prior to their peak years of first arrest and initial involvement in crime

  47. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Defining sanctions as unfair: • Substantive unfairness • Those who approach authority with defiant attitudes are often punished for their speech rather than for any substantive offense • When a sanction is used in this fashion, it is substantively unjust and another potent source of defining police as illegitimate • Disrespect toward police increases the odds of being arrested • Increases the chance that the police are seen as unfair • Nonenforcement of minor offenses with arbitrary or discriminatory cases of enforcement also leads to feelings of unfairness • Implies police laziness in looking for the truly guilty • Personal experience with unfairness may be the greatest spark of defiance

  48. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Anger and displaced just deserts • Anger often displaced onto other people besides the police • Often borne out of disrespect shown to the offender from the police, courts, or correctional officials • Deals with the conduct of everyday discourse with alienated persons who react with indignation to any hint of social disapproval • Recognize large numbers of highly touchy, angry people ready to punish any available target for the sins of their past insulters

  49. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Defiance theory argues: • Sanctions produce future deterrence of law-breaking (desistance, less frequent or less serious violations) to the extent that offenders experience the sanctioning conduct as legitimate, that offenders have strong bonds to the sanctioning agent and community, and the offenders accept their shame and remain proud of their solidarity with the community

  50. Sherman: “Defiance Theory” • Defiance theory argues: • Sanctions become irrelevant to future law-breaking (no effect) to the extent that the factors encouraging defiance and encouraging deterrence are fairly evenly counterbalanced