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Lesson 1 – Crime, Criminology and the Sociological Imagination. Robert Wonser Introduction to Criminology Crime and Delinquency. Introduction. U.S. crime rate has declined since 1990s, but prison/jail population has increased Media distorts our knowledge about crime

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Lesson 1 – Crime, Criminology and the Sociological Imagination


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    1. Lesson 1 – Crime, Criminology and the Sociological Imagination Robert Wonser Introduction to Criminology Crime and Delinquency

    2. Introduction • U.S. crime rate has declined since 1990s, but prison/jail population has increased • Media distorts our knowledge about crime • Crime is both an individual problem and a social problem • Sociological criminology: Sociological understanding of crime and criminal justice

    3. 2013 UCR Preliminary Crime Data, Select California Cities

    4. The Field of Criminology • An academic discipline that uses the scientific method to study the nature, extent, cause, and control of criminal behavior. • Interdisciplinary science involving two or more academic fields. • Criminal Justice • System made up of the agencies of social control, such as police departments, the courts, and correctional institutions, that handle criminal offenders.

    5. The Sociological Perspective • Social structure: Refers to how a society is organized in terms of social relationships and interactions • Social inequality: Tefers to how a society ranks different groups of people • Sociologist C. Wright Mills emphasized social structure lies at root of private troubles • Public issues

    6. The Sociological Imagination • The ability to understand structural and historical basis for personal troubles • Berger observed that sociology studies false claims about reality and “unrespectable” elements of social life • Debunking motif

    7. Mutual Relevance of Soc and Crim • Crime, victimization, and criminal justice cannot be fully understood without appreciating their structural contexts • Crime and victimization are public issues rather than private troubles (Mills) • Rooted in: • Social and physical characteristics of communities • In the network of relationships in which people interact • In the structured social inequalities of race and ethnicity, social class, and gender

    8. The Rise of Sociological Criminology • Basic concepts • Norms: standards of behavior; present in all societies. • Deviance: behavior that violates norms and arouses negative social reactions. • Customs: norms that remain unwritten and informal • Social control: society’s restraint of norm-violating behavior. • Laws: formal norms; written or codified.

    9. What Criminologists Do: The Criminological Enterprise • Criminal Statistics/Crime Measurement • Create valid and reliable measures of criminal behavior

    10. What Criminologists Do: The Criminological Enterprise • Sociology of Law/Law and Society/Socio-Legal Studies • Investigate the role that social forces play in shaping criminal law • Investigate the role of criminal law in shaping society • Investigate history of legal thought • Assess effects of proposed legal change

    11. What Criminologists Do: The Criminological Enterprise • Developing Theories of Crime Causation • Psychological • Biological • Sociological

    12. What Criminologists Do: The Criminological Enterprise • Understanding and Describing Criminal Behavior • Victim-precipitated homicide • White collar crime • Mental illness • Terrorist characteristics • History of abuse

    13. Class Discussion/Activity Criminologists devote themselves to understanding the causes of criminal behavior. For instance, the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooter killed 26 children and teachers. Can knowing that such crimes are an urban phenomenon help us understand why they occur and how they can be prevented?

    14. What Criminologists Do: The Criminological Enterprise • Penology: Punishment, Sanctions, and Corrections • Penology: the correction and sentencing of known criminal offenders. • Rehabilitation • Social control

    15. What Criminologists Do: The Criminological Enterprise • Victimology • Victim surveys • Victimization risk • Victim culpability • Services for crime victims

    16. What Criminologists Do: The Criminological Enterprise

    17. A Brief History of Criminology • Classical Criminology • Theoretical perspective suggesting that people choose to commit crime • Crime can be controlled if potential criminals fear punishment

    18. A Brief History of Criminology • Positivist Criminology • Application of the Scientific method • Objective • Universal • Culture-free • Empirical verification • Value-free

    19. A Brief History of Criminology • Sociological Criminology • Anomie • The Chicago School • Individual’s socialization

    20. A Brief History of Criminology • Conflict Theory • Karl Marx • Bourgeoisie • Proletariat • Critical Criminology • Crime as a product of capitalism

    21. A Brief History of Criminology • Developmental Criminology • Complex View • Integration of sociological, psychological, and economic elements

    22. A Brief History of Criminology • Contemporary Criminology • Rational Choice Theory • Trait Theory • Social Structure Theory • Social Process Theory • Critical Theory • Developmental Theory

    23. A Brief History of Criminology

    24. Deviant or Criminal? How Criminologists Define Crime • Deviance includes a broad spectrum of behaviors, ranging from the most socially harmful, such as rape and murder, to the relatively inoffensive, such as joining a religious cult or cross-dressing. • A deviant act becomes a crime when it is deemed socially harmful or dangerous; it is then specifically defined, prohibited, and punished under the criminal law.

    25. Deviant or Criminal? How Criminologists Define Crime • The Concept of Crime • Consensus View of Crime • Conflict View of Crime • Interactionist View of Crime

    26. Deviant or Criminal? How Criminologists Define Crime

    27. Deviant or Criminal? How Criminologists Define Crime • A Definition of Crime Crime is a violation of societal rules of behavior as interpreted and expressed by the criminal law, which reflects public opinion, traditional values, and the viewpoint of people currently holding social and political power. Individuals who violate these rules are subject to sanctions by state authority, social stigma, and loss of status.

    28. Class Discussion/Activity • What are 3 behaviors that are deviant but not criminal and 3 behaviors that are criminal but not deviant? • How may behavior you consider non-deviant could be seen as deviant by someone else?

    29. Criminology and the Criminal Law • Common Law • precedent • mala in se • mala prohibitum • Contemporary Criminal Law • felony • misdemeanor • The Evolution of Criminal Law

    30. Common Law Holdovers • Retention of common law concepts of the types of crime and the elements of criminal law violation that must be proved before a defendant can be found guilty • Mala in se: Evil in themselves; violate traditional norms and moral codes (i.e. murder, theft) • Mala prohibita: Wrong only because prohibited by law (i.e. drug use, white collar) • Felony: Punishable by more than 1 year in prison • Misdemeanor: Punishable less than 1 year

    31. Criminology and Criminal Justice • The Criminal Justice System • The Process of Justice • Structured and legal process from initial contact, through arrest, trial, and post-release

    32. Ethical Issues in Criminology • What to Study • Whom to Study • How to Study