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Control Theory And Gang Related Crime Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 2001 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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“Discuss how control theory and classicism theory adequately explains gang related crime”

This essay will help us understand the reasons behind gang related crime. To discuss the causes of gang related crime we will look at two criminology theories. Classicism and control theory will be used to understand and to demonstrate a discussion on the matter. We will look at each of the theories separately and then apply them to gang related crime.

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Classicism or classical school has been around for quite considerable time. A group of philosophers of the 18th century argued that human problems have to be tackled in a reasonable and more traditional way(Coleman, Norris. 2000. p.17).There was a feeling that criminal justice system of the 18th century was too inhumane, ineffective and judges had too much discretion and punishment was too barbaric(Coleman, Norris. 2000. p.18). That is the reason why classicism argues: too much policing or punishment could change law abiding citizens(Jacobs. 2009. p.97). We would think that harsher punishment would change the amount of crime, however classicism stands a strong case that more policing and tougher sentences would not help the cause(Jacobs. 2009. p.97). From everything what we have looked so far we can say. Classicism is so concerned with the tough sentencing then surely it would propose us how tackle the crime. Classicism will assume that human beings make rational choices (Jacobs. 2009. p.97) and therefore this is the reason why they commit crime. For some people pleasure and gain that they get from crime is a lot larger than the pain of punishment(Coleman, Norris. 2000. p.18). Some people get so distressed and so obsessed with what they think is injustice towards a particular group of people or race that they are ready for the most extreme measures. As an example of these measures we could give you London 7/7. One of the bombers behind the attack only did this as he was willing to revenge England for how the police treated his “own kind”(Jacobs. 2009. p.98).

One of the main interests of classicism is the immediate circumstances that surrounds the offence(Jacobs. 2009. p.98). Therefore classicism thinks that all of us are potential criminals(Jacobs. 2009. p.98). Accordingly to classicism criminology have to press one main question: “whether the law is being too rigorously or softly enforced”(Jacobs. 2009. p.98). Here, on one hand, we have classicism that argues that too much policing and tough sentences are not the answer, yet, on the other hand, classicism is concerned that the law is softly enforced. Classicism as such is quite an extreme reference point in human behaviour study. Classicism is orientated on the immediate circumstances that have triggered a crime(Jacobs. 2009. p.99). This gives us some guidance as to what will be the main things that classicism would be interested in and concentrating more than anything else. In classicism we would have to consider why an opportunities arise for people to commit crime. Why this is something that is happening in certain areas and mainly to certain types of people and certain times of day(Jacobs. 2009. p.99). Some of the scientists have concerns that repressive and unjust laws could turn people into criminals. Another belief of classicism is that human beings are mainly guided by free will and hedonism and therefore these two factors are the ones that drive the crime(O’Connor. 2006).

As we saw earlier classicism is concerned about tough punishment and that is the reason why each and every offence has to have equal treatment under the law(O’Connor. 2006). Look at this controversial thought in our mind, but completely normal under classicism: “bad people are nothing more than the result of bad laws” (O’Connor. 2006).

Next thing that we have to look at is control theory. Control theory is concerned on the measures that would stop people to commit and engage in crime and criminal activities(Jacobs. 2009. p.163). Control theory argues that crime exists and is happening where there are opportunities to commit crime and where is a complete lack of socio-central(family)( Jacobs. 2009. p.163). Therefore there will be no crime or as little as none where proper solutions are in place, such as effective controls and lack of opportunities(Jacobs. 2009. p.163). Durkheim had a theory that social world is maintained by integration and regulation(Jacobs. 2009. p.163).

Control theory has emerged from the findings on family and social bonds under the Chicago School. Family and local community started to loose their grips on family members and community in general(Jacobs. 2009. p.163). Over the years many criminologists have created their own ways of control theory with the key issues that they thought were necessary.

Instead of concentrating on why people commit crime, Reiss was more concerned on how to develop an instrument to predict which factors are to blamed behind crime(Jacobs. 2009. p.163). As a result Reiss saw delinquent group of people not as a disorganized but rather a functional consequence of the failure. Failure of personal and social controls. Therefore the key issues from Reiss point of view is that the family, society and neighbourhood were the main sources of the failure (Jacobs. 2009. p.163). All of the above were in the positions which would influence the present and future of the child(Jacobs. 2009. p.163). What do we get out of this: intervention with the child at the early years of his life could play an essential and a key part to success(Jacobs. 2009. p.163). However one wrong decision could influence the way this child is going to live the rest of his life.

On the other hand Nye(1958) took completely different approach in his studies of control theory. He was looking for an explanations as to why crime is not more common(Jacobs. 2009. p.164). In his studies Nye concluded that the most important REAGENT of the social control was the individuals family(Jacobs. 2009. p.164). Nye came up with four types of control: direct, indirect, internalized control and alternative satisfaction. The key one in his mind was the family, school and police. They control people using direct restraints accompanied by punishment. However other types of control theory would reinforce each other depending on the context of the individual(Jacobs. 2009. p.164).

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Another one who had his opinion was Reckless(1967) who saw family as the main source of influence of a small child. Reckless realized that urban lifestyle contained many temptations to commit crime. Reckless came up with a suggestion that each individual has to break through numerous barriers to commit crime. These barriers were inner and outer containment where inner was a self control and outer was social control(Jacobs. 2009. p.164). Reckless main concern was concentrating on the self control or so as called inner containment. He suggested that we can control ourselves regardless of what happens around us(Jacobs. 2009. p.1634). Regarding the inner circle containment Reckless came up with four key factors: self concept, goal orientation and two later ones frustration tolerance and norm retention. Reckless has discovered that norm erosion is more bigger problem than norm retention.

Sykes and Matza(1957) argues that it takes only a split second to commit a crime. Therefore for the people who were involved in criminal activities and delinquency it only took a small part of their life(Jacobs. 2009. p.165). What were they involved in between committing crimes? Could it be a small and temporary drift away from crime? In the eyes of Sykes and Matza many offenders still had bonds with social order. Sykes and Matza tries to explain this sort of behaviour and as a part of explanation they believed that we would learn conventional behaviour rules by learning the excuses or “techniques of neutralization”( Jacobs. 2009. p.165). In a simple terms we try to explain our dealings and ignore an obvious. We deny our behaviour and even victims.

Hirschi(1969) on the other hand believed that social bonding hold the key to law – abiding and delinquent behaviour(Jacobs. 2009. p.165). Social bonds had to be strong and effective or otherwise people would turn themselves to delinquency. The key factor for this drive would be rewards that can be gained. Hirschi categorized the social bonds as: attachment, commitment, involvement and belief. Attachment is quite an important social part of a person. A delinquent person will never have the same social bonds with his friends, teachers, relatives as a person who is out of the crime world. Concern for what people think about us is the driver or controller of our actions. Commitment is another example of a perfect people behaviour. It takes one small stupid act to ruin your life and everything that you have built in your life. So this is something that you are daring to loose. Therefore crime is not going to be an option for you. Involvement and belief could be combined as one. You believe in yourself and you are committed to the rules of society. Because of this you will be involved in as many activities as possible so that you can be busy and have no time for crime.

Having looked at criminology theories let us look at the actual gangs. Some say that gangs are created spontaneously. However they become integrated in society by conflict(Greene, 2007. p.1375). Gangs differ in the members they all have. The type of activities they do. What type relationships do these gangs have with local community(Conly. 1993. p.20). Gangs can be defined as: group of people involved in the significant amount of antisocial activity(Conly. 1993. p.7).

Reading all the above, we see that family has a massive role in children’s family. One of the key points in control theory is family. Control from the family has to have the biggest impact on the way the child looks at the world. Society and neighbourhood comes after. In the society we are living in many families have only single parent. In 2006 24% of children lived in single parent family(Self, Zealey,. 2007. p.15). Young people from different backgrounds have one thing in common. They all need families. Due to a lack of control many young people turn to gangs when their families have failed. A video on BBC website regarding gangs clearly emphasises this problem(Gangs, knives and crime. 2008). As a youngster you want to have a role model. In the family this could be your father. However in gangs, this can be an older gang member. Gangs replace a family for young kids. Looking at gangs and classicism we are unable to draw a common things. Classicism stated that any person could be a criminal. Therefore being in a gang would not make you different. However gang as such could be crime driven. In that case, all of its members could do criminal activities.

In conclusion, we know what is the key issues in classicism and control theory. Classicism concentrates on the immediate reasons on why crime has happened. As much as to why these opportunities arise for people to commit crime. Control theory makes us understand which time in the child’s life is the most important. At what stage we can get the biggest influence. In control theory main figure is family and the way family can control the youngster. As of gang related crime we understand the reasons why young people have to join gangs. This is due to the lack of control from family. When youngsters commit crime the pleasure they get is more than pain if they are caught. From classicism point of view: they have nothing to lose, because they haven’t earned anything yet. Family values and your own achievement would hold you back from crime. Therefore we can clearly say: both of these theories combined gives us an easy understanding of gang related crime.


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