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Criminal justice system derives its policies from the assumptions of varied criminological theories. There are many criminological theories and their differences lie in the assumptions that give explanations or predictions of crime. Since crime is a social issue that affects everyone in the society, formation of social policies based on the same theoretical assumptions applied in the criminal justice system would enhance public understanding and the control of crime.
Cullen and Agnew assert that,”social policy touches all our lives improving the welfare of all citizens and in particular meeting the needs of those who cannot provide for themselves by addressing social issues such as immigration control, prostitution, drug abuse, domestic violence and poverty” (1999, p. 23).
Concerted efforts of the criminal justice system and social policies offer structural approach of combating crime in the society. This essay examines criminological theories and the development of social policies that are necessary for effective crime control.
Criminal Justice System and Society
The development of the social policies has encouraged active participation of the public in combating crime and creation of a safe society. The realization by the criminal justice system that members of the public can participate cooperatively in prevention of crime has led to the formulation of social policies to guide them in their participation.
Blakemore and Griggs argue that, “…connection between crime and social conditions can be altered by forms of social interventions that provide the connection between criminal justice and social policy in terms of the concept of the social control” (2007, p. 60). Incorporation of the members of the public in the criminal justice system through formulation of policies will have significant augmentation in fighting against crime.
Strain theory supports that crime occurs in the society due to the inequalities rather than poverty. For example, the United States of America is a wealthy country thus free from poverty yet she has the highest rates of crime. Knepper argues that, “the strain traditions insists that crime is not brought by poverty so much as inequality because an economic system that prevents participation by some individuals is a relative deprivations that pressurizes them into criminal activity” (2007, p. 25).
Due to economical strains in the society, the less privileged members of the society struggle very hard to meet their needs but since they have no available means of achieving them, they resort to crime as an alternative means of survival. Therefore, criminal justice system and the society should consider the economic inequality as the possible cause of crimes in the society and formulate social policies that will give every member in the society an opportunity to access livelihood.
The current state of unemployment all over the world strains the lives of helpless youths who are potential human resources. The unemployed youths are struggling to make fortune by using all legitimate means; nevertheless, when these means are no longer available, they opt for criminal activities.
According to the opportunistic theory of crime, “…a young person who has decided to pursue an illegitimate route to success could only choose from those illegal activities available within the community … that adults in the neighborhood had already organized” (Knepper, 2007, p. 26).
Since the youths take opportunity of the available criminal activities in a certain community setting, the criminal justice system and the society should identify those criminal activities or gangs set up by adults and eliminate them in the society. If the society becomes free from any criminal gangs and criminal activities, the youths will not seize the opportunity and utilize them in conducting crimes.
There are several criminological theories including routine activities theory, deterrence theory, rational choice theory, conflict theory, and techniques of neutralization.
The routine activities theory postulates that lack of guardians, presence of a motivated offender and availability of target, are the three elements that prompt occurrence of crime. According to the deterrence theory, “…crime can be controlled through the use of punishment that combines the proper degrees of certainty, severity, and celerity” (Akers & Sellers, 2004, p. 7).
This theory forms the basis of punishing criminals as in the classical school of thought. The rational choice theory supports that criminals are rational because they have ability to assess the costs versus benefits of committing a given crime and make a rational choice whether to do it or not. This theory supports punishment since criminals commit crimes intentionally.
The conflict theory suggests that there are two or more conflicting groups in the society. The powerful group has privilege to control the society through laws and institutions but the less powerful group continues to exercise power informally thus viewed by the powerful groups as errant group; therefore, called criminals.
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Conflict theory holds that “the law and the criminal justice system primarily embody the interests and norms of the most powerful groups in society, rather than those of society as a whole” (Garland & Sparks, 2009, p. 12). The powerful group has the responsibility to provide safety to all groups.
Techniques of neutralization states that people tend to justify criminal activities based on the conditions of occurrence. Techniques of neutralization assume that a criminal activity can be right at times depending on the circumstances of its occurrence.
Social policies to prevent occurrence of crimes in the society have their basis in criminological theories. Based on the routine activities theory, rational choice theory and conflict theory, the social policy of community policing derived from these theories has proved quite effective in controlling crime in the society.
Community policing provides ready witness and gives valuable information to the police concerning occurrence of crimes and are invaluable when tracing criminals. According to the deterrence theory and techniques of neutralization, it has been possible to formulate social policies regarding corrections measures that ensure that criminals receive fair trial.
According to Costa, “the proper management of the crime and criminals required individualized corrective measures adapted to the specific case or a problem” (2020, p. 5). Customization of the corrective measures has proved quite effective, as criminals cannot anticipate their trials and start committing more crimes that are heinous. Thus, community policing and customized corrective measures are social policies regarding crimes that are effective in controlling crimes in the society.
The need to control crime in the society has called for the concerted efforts of criminal justice system and members of the public. This has prompted criminal justice system to formulate policies that gather for the public to participate in combating crime.
The social policies derive their rationale from the varied criminological theories that guide their role in prevention of criminal activities in the society. The empirical measures due to the formulation of social policies are community policing and the use customized corrective measures, which has proved very effective in combating crimes in the society.
Akers, R., & Sellers, C. (2004). Criminological Theories: Introduction, Evaluation, and
Applications. Roxbury Publishing Company. 1-43.
Blakemore, K., & Griggs, E. (2007). Social Policy: An Introduction. New York: Open University Press.
Costa, A. (2010). Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Issues. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 1-10.
Cullen, F., & Agnew, R. (1999). Criminological Theory. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury.
Garland, D., & Sparks, R. (2009). Criminology, Social Theory and the Challenge Of Our Times. Criminology. 1-22
Knepper, C. (2007). Criminological Theory and Social Policy. Criminology and Social Policy Journal, 2(1): 19-35.