Hours: Monday, Wednesday
From 4 – 5:00
and by appt.
Phone: 272-3764 or
272-2661 (Main Soci.)
2nd Summer Session, 2005
Room 104, Preston Hall
Probably no subject (with the possible exception of sexual behavior) receives more emotionally charged treatment by civic and religious organizations, and radio-television-motion picture and printing press industries, and "the public" (or "publics"), than "criminal behavior" including its causes, its meaning, and how it should be dealt with and by whom. However, these emotional responses to the subject of crime and delinquency can be shown (and will be shown in this course) to have in many respects created crime and criminals (i.e., "over-criminalization") and (b) by correctional policies, practices, and institutions (prisons, for example which often vastly increase the probability that a "client" will commit further crimes.
If we are truly interested in reducing crime, treating criminals in a morally responsible fashion, actually "rehabilitating" offenders who are apprehended and allowing both criminals and those individuals who compose the non-criminal public to develop their full legitimate human potentials (in so far as this development is prevented by criminal behavior), we can no longer afford the luxury of a highly emotional response to crime. What is needed is a calm, rational, scientific approach to the study of crime and delinquency. Even within these limits there are several ways we can study crime and delinquency; we can adopt not only a sociological viewpoint, but also a psychological viewpoint (as in law schools), a city-management point of view, and so on. In this course, we will, of course, be primarily concerned with a sociological perspective rather than with the other various possibilities, and during the course we will try to discover just what is distinctive about a sociological approach that separates it from other possible approaches.
WHAT IS DISTINCTIVE ABOUT A SOCIOLOGICAL APPROACH TO CRIME AND DELINQUENCY?
As pointed out above, there are several
scientific approaches to the study of crime and delinquency and the
sociological perspective is only one of these.
How then do we recognize the sociological aspects of crime and delinquency? First of all, sociology is primarily
concerned with how groups or categories or aggregates as a whole
or even total societies are involved in crime and delinquency rather than how
individuals and individual mental states are involved (this latter being the
psychological approach). Thus, sociology
asks questions such as what categories of people, or groups, or societies are
most likely to commit the various types of crimes? Are there different crime rates for (a)
different types of societies?, (b) social classes
within a given society?, (c) different regions within a nation?, (d) different
areas within a city?, and (e) are there different crime rates for males and
females as a whole? Also, we want to ask
not only are there different crime rates for comparisons similar to those
above, but also we want to ask if different types of crime are committed by the
groups being compared above. For
example, do Southerners in the
Sociological inquiry might also ask "What group or groups 'create' the law?" Do these laws serve the interest of everyone in the society, or do they sever primarily the interests of certain segments of society?
We might also wish to ask questions about the responses of categories of people within a society or of different societies to criminal or delinquent acts. How can they respond with courts of law, prisons, rehabilitative programs,...what else? What purposes do these responses have for different societies? for different categories within these societies?
WHY STUDY CRIME AND DELINQUENCY FROM A SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE?
One primary reason is so that we can obtain an accurate picture of the distribution and cost of crime. While most of us have what we might call an "emotional" picture of crime, how closely does this emotional picture correspond to reality? We must answer this question before we can design responses to crime (including police programs, judicial techniques, and punishment and/or rehabilitative programs) which will have beneficial effects. If our perceptions of crime and delinquency are not accurate, any program we design as a response to these problems, will, of course, not "fit" reality and, hence, will be largely or completely ineffective. This is an inefficiency which we can ill afford both morally and economically. Morally, we may punish certain segments of society seriously out of proportion to the true seriousness of their crimes - while letting other segments off lightly for much more serious crimes (one example which we will discuss in class is the issues of "white-collar crime"). Or we may, if we are not careful, end up punishing people simply for "being different" rather than for any clearcut infraction of the law where an easily identifiable victim can be found (for example, many would question the wisdom of passing laws against marijuana use, homosexuality, prostitution, etc. -- these are so-called "victimless crimes" which we will discuss under the topic of "overcriminalization" or the possible tendency to pass too many laws). In summary, there are serious moral consequences for not obtaining a scientific, rational understanding of the cause, distribution, and consequences of crime and delinquency.
There are also serious economic consequences for an inaccurate picture of crime and delinquency. It is safe to say that the economic costs of crime and delinquency are enormous when we consider the fact that the scope of such cost covers petty theft, auto theft, organized crime -- including narcotics sale, gambling, prostitution, and white-collar crime -- including false advertising, price-fixing, product fraud, cost "overruns" on government projects, etc. Secondly, there are many thousands of Americans in prisons, and prison is probably the most expensive "treatment" possible for an offender, running about thousand dollars per year per prisoner, and for this money we usually get back an individual better prepared both in terms of knowledge and motivation to commit further crimes. Finally, economically, sociology would question the wisdom of trying to rehabilitate prisoners on a one-to-one basis either before (early identification and prevention) or after committing a crime (basically a psychological or psychotherapy approach to crime). Instead, sociologists would suggest that aggregate or group approaches concerning prevention and responses to crime would be much more economical. Rather than deal with offenders or potential offenders on a one- to-one basis, sociologists might try approaches such as raising the income of crime-ridden areas, improving education and job opportunities in these areas, and improving health care in these areas. Or they might try to restructure the social relationships between people or categories of people in high crime areas (for example, hiring potential delinquents to work in community service programs, trying group mental health programs, opening progressive day-care centers for children in crime-ridden areas, helping minority groups to start their own businesses and so forth).
By studying crime and delinquency from a sociological perspective, we may be able to begin to move towards a society free of crime and criminals. But before we do this, be sure you think you know the answer to the question, "Are there any undesirable effects which would be created by the elimination of all crime and criminals?" Think deeply before you try to answer this question. What would be the impact of eliminating the need for many police, detectives, and social work agencies? What would the effect on banks and insurance companies be like? Where would innovation, both technical and in terms of new adaptive life-styles come from? We will seek an answer to these questions in the course, but you should be aware at the outset that crime is big business for both criminals and the legitimate occupational sphere, and its complete elimination might have major disruptive effects.
There are no specific prerequisites for this course; however, it is strongly recommended that the student has taken either Introductory Sociology (Sociology 1311) or Social Problems (Sociology 1312) or has obtained permission of the instructor before taking juvenile delinquency.
3. COURSE DESCRIPTION
This course will have as its goals inquiry into the following questions: (1) what are the social and political processes through which certain behaviors and persons (and not others) come to be considered "delinquent?" (2) what are the social sources of different degrees of involvement in crime and delinquency? and (3) what are the formal and informal societal or social reactors to crime and delinquency (e.g., prisons, juvenile corrections programs), and how successful have these various responses been in eliminating offenses? What other alternatives are possible and/or desirable?
In addition to the above goals, we will also try to establish certain basic skills of methods and interpretation in each student, e.g., simple analysis of data and statistics related to criminal activity, ability to read and interpret tables of data, ability to avoid making errors in inferences concerning the sources of crime, and so forth.
Attendance will not be taken in the course. However, students who attend regularly and otherwise reveal sincere motivation, will receive more sympathy in course evaluation than students who attend rarely.
Chronic absenteeism (more than 10 abscences during the course) will be
grounds for being dropped from the course at the Professor's discretion.
It is the responsibility of each student to formally drop the course
if they desire to do so. The professor will not automatically
aid a student in withdrawing or dropping a student for non-
5. GRADING PRACTICES
Your grade will be based on two non-comprehensive objective exams – i.e., a midterm and a final exam. A written term project is OPTIONAL.
Each student will be required to turn in one term project. This project is a brief (about 5 typewritten pages) paper which will be based on some type of actual observation, interview, or study performed by the student. The term project will represent 10% of your total course grade.
Reasons for excusal from the exams or quizzes must be very serious (Medical excuses per the University rules will be acceptable).
Exam 1 = 50% (July 21st)
Exam 2 = 50% (August 9th)
6. LATE ASSIGNMENTS
Important!!! Any assignments which are turned in late will have their scores reduced by 5% each day they are late unless the student has a valid, verifiable excuse of a serious nature. Please try
to contact your Professor beforehand if you will miss an exam date.
Siegel, Larry and B. Welsh. Juvenile Delinquency: The Core. (2nd
Lundman, Richard J., Prevention and Control of Juvenile
8. Disability Policy
If a student requires special arrangements based on a disability,
the student should inform the professor at the earliest time possible.
9. Honesty Policy
Students are required to conform to the University’s policy
regardinging academic honesty.