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The Impact of the Conflict Theory on Criminal Behavior, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1449

Essay

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that “Sociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions, and processes that people develop.” In relation to this, Sociologists extract fundamental concepts from these studies. This is how they develop sociological frameworks for understanding specific aspects of society, and these frameworks are based on theoretical perspectives of sociological theories.

Sociological theories offer insight into the intricacies of human behavior and how it relates to social influences, especially when it deals with shared issues in society such as crime. One of these sociological theories is called the Conflict Theory. This essay evaluates the impact of conflict on criminal behavior in society and its influence on social human behavior.

Social human behavior is largely attributed to social norms in society and how different people relate to them. Social order is maintained by the existence of social norms which discourage deviance in society. To enforce social order, sanctions are imposed with the intent of negative sanctions encouraging people who violate social norms to change their behavior patterns, and the intent of positive sanctions to serve as rewards for those who conform to social norms. Any violation of social norms is characterized by Sociologists as deviant behavior. However, the definition of deviant behavior differs from person to person, from group to group and from culture to culture. Deviant behavior is something that is society’s reaction to acts that violate certain social norms, and this causes stigma in society for those committing such acts. These stigmas discredit people and this causes them to be seen as socially unacceptable. Additionally, there can be different types of stigmas such as those based on violations of norms on people’s ability, their appearance or their involvement in certain groups.

In society, two prominent groups are the middle to upper class (the ruling class) and the lower class (the working class) groups, and sometimes clashes or conflicts between the two groups cause social division and stigmas. This is indicative of what Sociologists relate to the Conflict Theory.

As it relates to controlling social order and crime in society, conflict theorists argue that societies often use force and coercion as means of controlling society, and the criminal justice system is designed in favor of the ruling class to protect them from the working class.

According to the Conflict Theory, it is perceived that economic inequality is proportionally related to criminal behavioral tendencies in people. It is also perceived that laws are created based on what the ruling class wants and how they feel criminals of society should be dealt with, and the more wealth and power an individual has equates to how well they are treated in the criminal justice system. The Conflict Theory imposes the view that laws are tools put in place by the ruling class to oppress the working class in society. Conflict theorists also state that, in society, the upper class groups dominate the lower class groups and places emphasis on analyzing them. The upper class view believes that people, as individuals, are not so much to blame for their criminal behavioral tendencies, but whole groups of people are to blame. For instance, it may be that just because a person comes from a lower class family does not necessarily mean that same person will be one to commit crimes. However, as a whole, conflict theorists argue that the lower class population may have a higher percentage of people who have criminal behavioral tendencies.

As it relates to criminal behavioral tendencies, the conflict theory perspective suggests that society is held together by force and the intimidation of one group over another. This creates a deficit in societal cohesion because people in society may not necessarily share the same values. This discrepancy in values is what actually creates conflict in society, because it causes societal power struggles between the haves and the have-nots of society. This means that conflicts in society occur when people react to the perception that laws are only put in place to protect the haves from the have-nots (or those who may have more deviant-oriented tendencies).

Society reacts to deviant behavior by imposing negative sanctions, as mentioned earlier in this paper. The best known negative sanctions imposed in society are imprisonment and capital punishment, which are forms of retribution; however, these sanctions are also seen as means of deterrence and, aside from capital punishment, rehabilitation. It is important to note, however, that capital punishment in the United States has generally failed as a deterrent from crimes committed which qualify for it. Additionally, the United States has the highest percentage of its population in prisons than any other nation, with the majority of prisoners matching the profile of a single or divorced, 18 to 44 year old black male with little to no high school education. There is also a high percentage of rearrests among this group and two-thirds of these prisoners are arrested again after they are released and half of them are imprisoned again within three years of release.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the sociological theory of conflict and how it relates to a social issue that directly affects my life, and that issue is crime. Also it relates to the criminal mentality of certain individuals and the problem of criminal behavior in society, as a whole.

I have a brother-in-law who is currently serving time in the Federal Penitentiary. He is serving out the second half of a 15-year sentence for various trumped up charges related to trafficking in a controlled substance – cocaine. His main charge, however, was conspiracy to traffic in a controlled substance of cocaine in the amount of 33 kilos. This amount of the drug has a street value of millions of dollars. Keep in mind that they never found him in possession of any of the drug, but ongoing surveillance, testimony from informants, and an elaborate sting operation led to his arrest, conviction and imprisonment.

This relates to the issues in the Conflict Theory in various ways. First of all, he is the exact profile mentioned above. He is a divorced, black, male with very little high school education, and he was 44 years of age at the time of his imprisonment. He had also been previously incarcerated for four years, two years prior to his sentencing to the Federal Penitentiary, so like in the profile above, he was arrested and imprisoned again after his release within three years. This suggests that the Conflict Theory concept of coercion and imprisonment being forms of gaining and maintaining control of society is real, because in cases like this, it shows that society is intolerant of deviant behavior and is quick to cut the deviants away from society and punish them.

Another way this particular case relates to the Conflict Theory is related to the have and have-not concept perspective of the theory. My brother-in-law is part of the lower class of society and he had no private attorney, so he did not exactly get a lot of fair and equitable treatment in the criminal justice system relating to his conviction. This is part of the economic inequality position of power as it relates to the Conflict Theory’s concept of the more wealth someone has the better they are treated in the criminal justice system. As this relates to my brother-in-law, he was initially given a life sentence for his crime. Now this seems highly unfair given the fact that no cocaine was ever found in his possession and he did not murder or physically harm anyone as part of this crime. The argument was that he had so many other charges on the table, along with two other subsequent offenses, that it put him in the “three strikes” category, and made him eligible for a life sentence prison term. Fortunately, the Public Defense team representing him somehow persuaded the prosecution to agree to a plea bargain of 15 years without parole.

As it relates to my brother-in-law and the Conflict Theory’s stance on deviant behavioral tendencies, I feel it is accurate. My brother-in-law was a repeat offender who did not want to get a job and earn a respectable living. He thought he could get rich by selling drugs, and maybe he could have if he had a business mindset instead of a deviant one, but the point is he just kept migrating back to the same behavior every time he got caught and not charged severely until one day his luck ran out.

Our text states that deviance is inevitable in society and the real issue is how to protect non-deviant people from the deviant people, but also to find ways to develop treatment systems which are fairer for these people who are different.

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