American InterContinental University
Criminological Theory is the backbone of criminal policy. What is understood through the study of criminals can accurately be used to enhance the criminal system. This paper looks at three criminal policies (Expungement of Records, DARE, and Rehabilition Prorams) through the lens of criminological theory. The focus of the paper is primarily on Juvenile offenders, as I hope to work in the juvenile system upon graduation.
Turning Criminological Theory into Action
Criminological theories provide important information regarding the motives for crime and understanding the individual criminal. However, one of the most important applications of criminological theory is the development of policy from it. This paper looks at three policies: Expungement of Records, D.A.R.E, and Rehabilitation programs with the attempt at making theoretical connections to them. Expungement of Records
The expungement process includes the destroying or sealing of criminal records (Funk & Polsby, 1998). After a criminal is convicted of a crime, they may apply for expungement but is usually only granted if the criminal proves that they are rehabilitated or if they enter expungement as a bargain with the state for turning over evidence in a related or unrelated case. The most applicable form of expungement, however, occurs when a Juvenile’s records are sealed as they enter adulthood (Funk & Polsby, 1998). This is a controversial policy, as some professionals feel that expungement is a method of excusing crime that has an overall negative effect on recidivism (Funk & Polsby, 1998). The theoretical framework for expungement of records is Labeling Theory (Funk & Polsby, 1998). Born out of the humanistic movements of the 60’s and 70’s, labeling theory boldly states that society is to blame for delinquency (Funk & Polsby, 1998). However, the theory goes further to explain the repercussions of holding onto criminal records, particularly for youth (Funk & Polsby, 1998). Howard Becker (1963) described this effect beautifully when he stated “deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an ‘offender’. The deviant is one to whom the label has successfully been applied; deviant behavior is behavior that people so label” (Funk & Polsby, 1998). While it is clear that expungement is not a good choice for every juvenile or criminal with a record, one can definitely see, through the lens of labeling theory that it is necessary in some cases. Walking through life with the label ‘criminal’ will help the individual stay in that mindset and lead to future criminal activity. A lot of how an individual functions in society relies on the labels they carry. In certain cases, removing the criminal label may be the boost that juveniles, or other criminals may need to shed their criminal skin and move forward to more productive labels. D.A.R.E
D.A.R.E is one of the most recognizable programs for drug prevention among American youth. “Used in nearly 80% of the school districts in the United States, in 54 other countries around the world” (Hason, 2007), D.A.R.E intends to make children aware of the implications of drug and alcohol use. During these programs, drug culture is explained (so that the child knows what to look for in a drug user), the dangers of drug use is explained and drugs, alcohol and tobacco are all shown to the children in the classroom as associated imagery so that the child may report any drug use in the homes or know what they are facing when presented with peer pressure. Although generally viewed by society as a positive program, evidence stacks up to support the ineffectiveness of DARE programs (Hason, 2007). Proponents of the program argue this belief: “In Houston, Texas, where a study showed a shocking 29% increase in drug usage and a 34% increase in...