Labeling Theory

Topics: Sociology, Criminology, Crime Pages: 5 (1928 words) Published: December 1, 2005
Labeling Theory
When an individual become labeled as a criminal it becomes their "master status." "…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 that label has successfully been applied; deviant behavior is behavior that people so label" Howard S. Becker, (1963) Outsiders, (p.9). If you are labeled as a criminal, people do not consider all the good things you have done; they just see that you committed some type of a felony and are now a criminal. Once a person is labeled and judged by society it is very hard to get back to what they once had and people often have an identity change. This is a social problem because labeling these people basically ruins their lives to the point where they have no choice but to for fill that label they were given.

The labeling theory poses the question if those who have previously been labeled as criminal are more likely to repeat criminal acts. If society continues to accept this criminological theory it will continue to cause social problems for both the "criminal" and community. Scholars stated that, the labeling of individuals can be "a stepping stone in the development of a delinquent career" (Bernburg). When some one commits a crime at a young age they are forever labeled and looked at as a criminal. This theory is saying that people can not change and that people are not allowed to make mistakes. When someone is labeled a criminal at a young age they will continue to commit criminal acts because they are already viewed as criminal and will never be seen different. Therefore they do not find a need to change people's impressions of them. By labeling people it destroys their self image and identity. Everything they are told is negative and feel they can do no right. They begin to think differently of themselves which my lead to later criminal acts. Not only is this labeling process destructive to the "criminals" view of themselves, but also the way the society views them. This is causing a social problem because societal views are destroying these labeled individuals; rather than assisting them in getting out of criminal behavior. From there the blame can be shifted to the government and local law enforcement for giving these "criminals" labels because it should be the governments responsibility to help people. The society is just following through with the given labels and continues treating these people as if the label fits the individuals' character.

The labeling theory is very useful in explaining the social problem of people and government not willing to help individuals in need of help. The government is so quick to turn on these people, instead of reaching out a leading hand of encouragement and support. The United States chooses to label and push people away; which hurts the country in the long run. By labeling people "criminal" and not helping them will hurt our economy in the long run because these people are in and out of prison. "The cost of the drug program is $3,000 per inmate, on top of the $21,000 a year for keeping an inmate behind bars. Program advocates like the wardens say the drug program actually saves money by keeping inmates from returning to prison" (Michels). Where as, helping with treatment and rehab would be more effect and less expensive. An example of criminal behavior, which is labeled and not treated, is drug abusers. We insist on labeling and incarcerating these individuals rather then getting them rehab. What this does is labels them as drug abuser, they seem themselves as drug abusers, and will continue to abuse drugs. Then when they are released they still have this drug addiction that could have been taking care of with some type of treatment or rehabilitation. "For example, his 1999 study involving 478 prisoners at a state prison near San Diego, California found that after three years, only 27 percent of the...
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