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Do you think crime and criminality are the results of social inequality embedded in...

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coolmaster | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted April 3, 2012 at 1:27 PM via web

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Do you think crime and criminality are the results of social inequality embedded in race, class, and gender?

Please discuss the issue addressing Race, Class, and Gender separately. With examples, justify your stand.

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted April 2, 2012 at 3:46 AM (Answer #2)

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Any sociologist will tell you that this is a gross oversimplification of the causes of criminality.  Behavior against the accepted legal behavior can and does have a multitude of causes, and while poverty, lack of opportunity, the stigmata of a minority class, etc. do figure into much criminal behavior, so do greed, egotism, intolerance, physical necessity, lust, and a hundred other human traits.  In fact, the Seven Deadly Sins are at the bottom of all abhorrent human behavior.  Add to that the fairly narrow range of behavior tolerated by the law-making members of society (I speak here of such “illegal” behavior as public nudity, prostitution, walking on the grass, speeding, etc.), it is quite possible that no-one goes through life without ever “breaking the law.” But, who gets caught and who gets prosecuted and who gets labeled a “criminal” may very well be linked to recognizable socio-economic causes.  It is important to avoid logical fallacies—oversimplification, post hoc ergo propter hoc, etc.--when making such statements, especially if one is seeking remedies for such social problems as prison over-population, gangs, etc.  There is something called human nature and, however difficult it is to define, it must always be taken into account in sociological studies.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 3, 2012 at 1:59 PM (Answer #3)

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To argue that they are, you can point to the idea that poor people, and particularly poor minorities, are disadvantaged and tend to be stigmatized as well.  This gives them fewer opportunities to get ahead in ways that are acceptable to society.  As for gender, masculinity tends to be defined as involving aggression.  This, you can argue, makes men more likely to be criminal because society expects them to be aggressive.

I don't think that this is all there is in the way of causes of crime, but if you have to argue that it is, this is how to do it.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 3, 2012 at 11:08 PM (Answer #4)

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To a certain extent, yes.  Our current society is highly unequal.  I do not think that females are less likely to be involved in crime than males, but they might be involved in different crimes.  Low socioeconomic status can lead a person to be targeted day in and day out by criminal influences.  A child in a middle class neighborhood might join a gang (criminal apprenticeship) by seeking one out, perhaps for the glorified lifestyle.  But a child growing up in an impoverished neighborhood has to actively choose NOT to be in a gang and fight off those influences, and the danger involved in not being affiliated.  You see the difference?  Middle class=opt in.  Poverty level= opt out if you can survive it.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 3, 2012 at 11:16 PM (Answer #5)

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If you are looking for a basic explanation for these phenomena, then yes, you have to look at basic structural characteristics that contribute to them. The down-to-earth example given in post 4 is a good one. It is more difficult to opt out than it is to actively opt in. Even ideas about what crime is, and how we should punish it, are related to cultural biases often perpetuated by power groups. Thus so-called "white collar" crime, which often affects millions of people, is often not punished as severely as, say, armed robbery, which affects one person or a family. Social circumstances limit options, and some of the best options for many people lie outside the pale of what is tolerated by society, which sets norms that are inflected by race, class, and gender.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 4, 2012 at 7:25 AM (Answer #6)

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For myself, I do believe that a lack of perceived access to resources can lead to criminal behavior. People of certain demographics (class, gender, or race) might be more prone to choose to commit crime due to this dynamic.

The fewer legal options you think you have, the more likely it is you will choose an illegal option.

This idea is borne out in class-based statistics which suggest that class is relatively good predictor of crime rates.

Sadly, race and gender can both be predictors of class. It is important to carefuly distinguish, however, among these causal relationships which factor leads to crime and which to poverty, which comes first and which comes second.

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