Crime and Society
The diversity of subject matter is the very thing that makes criminal law enforcement such a perplexing question. No other function attempted by organized society covers a wider variety of scientific knowledge and none is more in need of new scientific exploration. In contrast with the occasional flares of public indignation over criminal outbreaks the smoldering light of knowledge illuminates only feebly the field of human relations. The most difficult aspect of the question is the fact that cause and result react so immediately upon each other. The effort to prevent crime may, when unwisely directed, cause new crime. And often the very process of crime prevention itself may be deeply tainted with crime. In the face of our ignorance as to what makes and what prevents criminal behavior we have on many subjects, such as prohibition and similar restrictive efforts, two opposing schools of thought. One says that the process of enforcement makes for crime, the other that it prevents crime. Society is composed of heterogeneous groupings. Individuals who are products of a normal criminal environment are behaving normally when they commit crime. The social mores, standards and codes of the "underworld" determine and call for patterns of behavior which other members of society label criminal. The violations of the criminal code of honor may with equal validity be asocial or abnormal. Others, again, might with equal force consider the rampage of Wall Street bulls and bears a most reprehensible form of asocial behavior; in fact, some of these antics have been made criminal. Individuals are members of society. Their behavior affects other members of society. The antecedent causes of crime have no bearing upon the social consequences of the act. Society justifiably acquires control over what one does apart from why one acts. The control over the individual may be rational, utilizing whatever knowledge is at hand, or it...
References: • Gottfredson, Michael R., and Hirschi, Travis (1990) A General Theory of Crime. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press
• Sheldon, G. (1929) "Principles of a Rational Penal Code", Mental Hygiene, Vol. 13, pp. 1-32
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