The life course theory is one of the developmental theories that is interesting. The life course theory incorporates the idea from the social learning theory that “crime is a learned behavior” (Siegel, 2011). This occurs when the individual experiences a transition during their life course. According to the life course theory we start behaviors at a very young age that can have a significant impact on our adult life. One of the points brought up in the life course theory is about transitions that we go through as we grow up such as finishing school, getting a job, getting married and having kids (Siegel, 2011). These transitions are what make the life course theory a developmental theory because these transitions are what can make or break your life. If a person experiences a good transition during their life it will help them to stay away from crime whereas if they have a bad transition period it can actually cause them to start or resume a criminal lifestyle. If these transitions are experienced to soon or too late it can also impact your life. Our textbook talks about these transitions as being too soon when a girl gets pregnant at a young age or too late when a teenager gets into the wrong crowd and makes choices that affects their futures and how these decisions can put their life on a totally different path than the one that they were on. The life course theory and the social learning theory are similar in that they both have the principle that a person is born not knowing how to be a criminal but rather learn how to be a criminal over the span of their life. The life course theory and the social learning theory are different in that the life course theory concentrates more on the experiences of a person’s life that affects them and if it influences them to become criminals or not whereas the social learning theory concentrates more on how the person is shaped by the society that they live in and how that influences them to become criminals or not.
2. Compare and contrast the different theories of victimization. In addition to explaining the theories, discuss their strengths and weaknesses. Also, use one of the theories to explain why women are more likely than men to be the victims of rape and domestic violence.
There are four different theories of victimization. These include victim precipitation theory, lifestyle theory, deviant place theory, and the routine activities theory.
The victim precipitation theory is where “some people actually initiate the confrontation that eventually leads to their injury and death” (Siegel, 2011). There are two ways that this theory can happen. It can either be active or passive. With active precipitation you have the victim that is showing threating behavior along with an exchange of words that sometimes even leads to the victim attacking first. In the passive precipitation the victim acts in a way that can encourage the person doing the attacking to attack or sometimes the victim can even send out threating signals that causes them to be a victim of crime. I believe that the passive precipitation form of the victim precipitation theory would be the reason why women more than men are the victims of rape and domestic violence. Some women unknowingly flirt or exhibit sexual behavior that can encourage or entice a male into wanting to have his way with her. In the case of domestic violence the woman can cause the man to feel threatened by her actions without meaning to. She may be mad and yell or strike at him and he feels threatened so he fights back. This is not an excuse for a male to strike a female of course but it can happen. One weakness of the victim precipitation theory is that with the passive precipitation form of this theory a person can become a victim when they actually had nothing at all to do with what was going on.
The lifestyle theory is where “crime is not a random occurrence; rather it is a function of the victim’s lifestyle” (Siegel, 2011). Basically the more risk factors that you have in your life such as drinking and taking drugs the higher the chance that you will become a victim at some point. I like the way that our book points out that if you live a party type lifestyle in college it makes you more susceptible to becoming a victim. If you are a person on the other hand that is settled down and stays home a lot it reduces your chances of becoming a victim.
The deviant place theory is “the greater the exposure to dangerous places, the more likely people are to become victims of crime and violence” (Siegel, 2011). This is basically that the person does not exhibit any behaviors to encourage the criminal to victimize them but because of where they live they become a victim. For example people that live in the poorer areas of the city are more susceptible to becoming a victim than say someone that lives in the suburb outside of the city where they can better control the elements that they live in and around. In the poorer areas is where I believe most of your criminals and homeless live and people who live around those elements become easier targets for the criminals.
The routine activities theory is where “victimization results from the interaction of three everyday factors: the availability of suitable targets, the absence of capable guardians, and the presence of motivated offenders” (Siegel, 2011). Basically this theory is where you have three things that can increase the likelihood of crime taking place. You have houses that are in a nice neighborhood that have nice things in them that entice a criminal to break in to get these things to sell, you have no one home to guard the house and the nice things in the house and you have the criminal that is motivated by seeing this and wanting to profit from breaking into the house.
3. Explain the theory of general deterrence and the theory of specific deterrence. Discuss how certainty, severity, and speed of punishment impact general deterrence? Then, discuss whether our current criminal justice system effectively produces general deterrence and specific deterrence? If so, how? If not, what needs to change to produce general deterrence and/or specific deterrence? Be sure to answer these questions in regard to both general and specific deterrence.
Theory of general deterrence is “a crime control policy that depends on the fear of criminal penalties, convincing the potential law violator that the pains associated with crime outweighs its benefits” (Siegel, 2011). Basically with the theory of general deterrence it is saying that you will have a lower crime rate if the criminal believes that they will be severely punished for the crime that they commit. The certainty of punishment aspect impacts the general deterrence theory in that offenders that believe that they will be punished and that the punishment is not worth it to them will cause them to not commit the crime whereas offenders that believe that when they get caught they will not be punished will commit the crime. Certainty of punishment has a huge impact on a criminal when they are deciding to commit a crime or not. If a criminal believes that they will be severely punished for the crime they will think twice before committing the crime. However this aspect has little effect on the general deterrence theory. The swiftness of punishment does not have a large impact on the general deterrence theory because it takes so long to get through the court systems that by the time the criminal is sentenced that the effect of deterring the crime has long since been forgotten. It would be a good deterrent if the punishment was carried out quickly I think. Like in the old days when someone killed someone they were taken out by the local sheriff and hung. This being witnessed by the community deterred anyone else from wanting to commit the same crime and the same thing happening to them.
Theory of specific deterrence is “the view that criminal sanctions should be so powerful that offenders will never repeat their criminal acts” (Siegel, 2011). Basically with the theory of specific deterrence you have the thought that a very high punishment or long jail sentence would keep a criminal from repeating their crime. Some times this can backfire though where the worse the punishment the more the criminal wants to commit the crime. This can be caused by the criminal wanting to show how big and bad they are and that the judicial system did not win. I think that the criminal judicial system produces more general deterrence than specific deterrence because we see more people that are deterred away from crime because of the perception that they have of the punishment that they will receive than we have people that don’t drink and drive because of a fine and a small time spent in jail. If the punishments were higher for drinking and driving then I think we would have more specific deterrence than we do.
4. Social disorganization theory links crime rates to neighborhood ecological characteristics. Identify and discuss these characteristics and explain how/why they lead to crime. Use social disorganization theory to explain why there are more robberies in Atlanta, GA compared to Kennesaw, GA.
The characteristics of the social disorganization theory are poverty, social/community disorganization, breakdown of traditional values, criminal areas, cultural transmission and criminal careers. Poverty can lead to crime in the neighborhoods that have a poverty concentration effect occur due to the middle class leaving and only the poorer residents remain. Our textbook states that, “urban areas marked by concentrated poverty become isolated and insulated from the social mainstream and more prone to criminal activity” (Siegel, 2011). In an area where you have “white flight” occur the people that are left have a harder time keeping gangs and violence under control due to their limited resources. Social/Community disorganization occurs when you have a lack of informal social control. When the families in these communities have a hard time keeping their kids under control and away from delinquent behavior this in turn causes crime to occur. When a breakdown of traditional values occurs the youth feel detached from their communities this leaves them more open to be recruited by the neighborhood bad guys and this leads to gang being formed and therefore crime being done in the neighborhood. Cultural transmission occurs when you have community fear. In neighborhoods that have teenagers that are getting into trouble a lot and a lot of empty stores the residents of these neighborhoods become fearful that they will become a victim of crime and this causes them to withdraw from their neighborhood. This fear is then passed on to the younger generation. According to our textbook the “crime rates are elevated in highly transient, mixed-use and changing neighborhoods in which the fabric of social life has become frayed” (Siegel, 2011). Atlanta is more of a mixed used society than Kennesaw and with the bigger businesses in Atlanta they have more people moving in and out of the city for work that is constantly changing the different neighborhoods in Atlanta. Kennesaw does not have the big corporate offices and therefore does not have the change of the neighborhoods and appears to be more stable than Atlanta. Atlanta is unable to provide the basic services to all of its residents and where you have a lot of people unemployed and homeless with a lot of time on their hands you usually have a high crime rate. You see more homeless people in Atlanta than you do Kennesaw. Also you have the concentration effect going on in Atlanta where a lot of the middle class have left the city leaving the disadvantaged citizens in the city. Kennesaw does not seem to have the concentration effect that we see in Atlanta. When you have a poverty concentration you see more criminal activity and a higher rate of robberies.