CC- 101 Introduction to Criminology
Monday January 7, 2013
What is a crime?
There are many aspects of what a crime is or what one can perceive or focusing on. Criminology is essentially the study of crime.
Must distinguish between two types of Criminologists: the key element in making this distinction centers around who is a theorist and who is not. “While theory informs everything that a criminologist do, not every criminologist is a theorist” P.2, course text There are those who take a vocation to criminology, they focus on generally on making the system better or improving the current system. There are also those who take a critical or analytical approach to determine what is valid or physically sound as opposed to fixing particular problems. The latter strand of criminology distanced itself away from policy decisions and the sort in order to get a better holistic view; they are involved in development as opposed to fixing particular problems in the system.
There are three main areas to focus in criminology
1. The sociology of law-which assesses the social dimensions and institutions of law. 2. Theories on the causal factors of crime (also known as criminologeneisis) 3. Social responses to crime (critically assessing institutions of justice, e.g., the police, courts, and corrections)
So, what is a crime?
Academically speaking, it is actually not simple to say.
To say the least, crime is socially defined.
There is then also competing definitions of crime across time and geography Some broad definitions of a crime
1. A formal legal definition
2. A social harm conception
3. A cross-cultural universal norm perspective
4. A labeling approach to defining crime
5. A human rights approach to defining a crime
6. A human diversity approach to defining crime
Formal legal definition is – a crime is that which the state has outlined in a law as a crime Social harm; thus crime involves criminal as well as civil offences.
Human rights approach is the violation of one’s human rights constitute a crime, irrespective of whether the action is legal or not.
Human diversity approach- see’s deviance as something normal to oppressive or unequal circumstances; it focuses on disproportionate power of others.
In sum, crime is defined in various ways and according to different theories, experiences and ideologies.
“Crime is not inherited…to specific social processes” p.5., course text.
At the end of the da, it is the legal definition that prevails in that determines how we act in our everyday lives (because it defines punishment for not acting in certain ways)
Suffice it to say, legal definitions change over time
Law is not fixed and eternal; it is part and parceled with morality (this does not mean that law=morality)
For example, prior to 1929, women in Canada were seen as property as their father’s or husband’s and as such not as legal persons. (see p.6); this implied a particular application of the concept of rape’
In the European context, crime was a while (particularly between 1400s to 1600s) defined by religious bodies. The church had control of the justice system.
Crime was later defined as transgressions against the state instead of God. Historical evolution and moral shifts in relation to crimes and punishment are also influenced by the media.
“According to the media…is seen as central.” p.8, text book
Shows like CSI Miami and Law and Order give a distorted depiction of crime.
“These shows, for the most part…everyone is a victim” p.8 textbook
Such depictions have preoccupied theorist George Gerbner and taken up in his ‘cultivation theory’ According to the theory, too much exposure to media may give people a false sense of reality. Such shows then also portray a decline of morality, and heroism in police; that is to maintain law and order and moral rectitude, the police risks his or her life every day to combat...
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