Applying Strain Theory as explained by Merton, social and environmental factors are the biggest predictors of antisocial behavior. Literally using the word “strain”, when it is placed on the development of an apprehended offender of a crime, Merton stated that this is very much a product of the social norms and values the person acquired throughout their lives. On the whole, it is generally not possible for a person to change dramatically before sentencing; there is simply not enough time for a sincere change to be apparent.
There is a grey area in this idea, however. A clear dichotomy should be established between violent and nonviolent offenders when Mertonian theory is applied. A perfect example would be a person apprehended, and awaiting sentencing for a crime such as theft, or drug possession. If the crime is drug related, and the person is awaiting trial for an extended period of time, it is very possible that through drug rehabilitation programs that the behavior can be corrected. In this example, an appropriate punishment would be court-mandated drug rehabilitation programs, as well as documented proof of either group therapy or a psychotherapist. These are the people that. according to Merton’s model, are doing nothing besides “adapting” to their environments. When the environment is changed, the person is more likely to “conform”.
On the other hand, violent offenders are infinitely more likely to be repeat offenders. This does nothing besides drain the resources of the court that should be placed into reforming non-violent offenders. Most violent offenders will not reform, and even if improvement is seen before sentencing, it should not be taken into consideration if violence was the root of the crime committed.