Contemporary society has developed patterns and behaviors that are frequently unjust towards minorities and less advantaged communities. In many cases, crime can be traced back to the socio-economic state of a person and their inability to break the circle of poverty. Therefore, sociology distinct several social structure theories that link the motives of crime to the unequal distribution of social stratification. Nevertheless, it is incorrect to blame all crimes on the weak pathologies within poor communities that must be explored and determined, which cases are wrong to place primary concern on social structure theories.
The Concept of Crime
Crime is a contested concept, that is universally related to illegal doings connected with violating the laws. Criminal behavior may be executed through minor actions, such as hooliganism, and major misconduct including murder. Race and social class play a major role in The United States imprisonment process, which leads to over-incarceration and a racist overview of particular cases (The Brownsen Project 2016). Therefore, crime and punishment determination directly relates to the person’s ethnicity and payment abilities.
Social Structure Theory
Newborns are immediately placed in certain social classes, depending on the families they are born within, creating an unequal distribution of wealth and power. According to (Brown 2017b), social class is a “segment of the population whose members are at a relatively similar economic level,” whereas they share common beliefs, and values and live a similar lifestyle. Similar economic levels relate to the payment abilities of an individual that define a household’s social class. Such a divide in economic advantages frequently influences children’s behavior, even in cases where they share intellectual values and thrive for a better living.
Based on the model that economically disadvantaged communities are more inclined to criminal behavior, sociology developed models that explain the causes of such liability. “Social structure theories are based on the foundation that disadvantaged economic-class position is a primary cause of crime” (Brown 2017b). In the prevalence of cases, lower-class neighborhoods, with high unemployment, lack of access to healthcare, and adequate education become the communities with the highest crime rates. Such societies are often unmotivated to stay in school and more likely to be depressed due to their assurance of deprived life.
To overview the different motives and roots of the increased criminal behavior among the lower-class communities, it is critical to review social structure theories. Social disorganization theory is mainly focused on the urban conditions affecting crime, specifically centering on the institutions such as family, academic facilities, and the workforce (Brown 2017b). The framework proposes that all these structures are unable to properly function, therefore causing the crime rates to rise.
Another approach relies on the fact that upper-class individuals have more access to success, whereas the poor population can either accept their condition and live responsibly or resort to crime. Strain theory argues that people of the lower class are unable to achieve their goals due to a lack of means and assets, therefore feeling resentment and anger (Brown 2017b). As a combination of the two aforementioned concepts, Cultural Deviance Theory includes elements of both Social disorganization and Strain models. The thesis proposes that strain develops disorganization in lower-class communities that create norms contradicting conventional values (Brown 2017b). Therefore criminal behavior is evidence of how these neighborhoods conform to established standards, confirming the theory.
The economic disparity in the generations influences children to follow the footsteps of their parents, unable to find an acceptable solution to level up their social class. Such a culture of apathy and helplessness passed from one generation to another can be characterized as a culture of poverty, which was first outlined by Oscar Lewis (Brown 2017b). The roots of the tendency lie within the community’s mistrust of the authorities and their ability to help and rule justice in their favor. As a result of low education, depression, and unemployment, citizens of slums turn to drug dealing, stealing, and assaults as a way of earning a living.
Unjust punishment of low-class communities
Police brutality towards economically disadvantaged and indigenous communities has been a topic of controversy for many years. The mistrust that disadvantaged citizens feel towards the authorities prevents them from taking advantage of opportunities for a better living (Michelle 2010, 58–94). Rules of law such as “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” or “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion” are rarely applicable in the courtrooms, especially to people that relate to lower social classes.
Although there is a significant amount of crimes performed by middle-class citizens, their punishment is much less harsh compared to those from disadvantaged neighborhoods. Less-privileged is deprived of the ability to mobilize to better communities, therefore re trapped in a racial prejudice (Wilson and Kelling 1982). Such disparity presents the most unjust views of the criminal justice systems, whereas white-collar crimes are treated with less seriousness and danger to the public.
The most prominent example of such disparity is the American drug war that started in the 1970s, referring to the most dangerous enemy of the nation. Since that time, the war on drugs has cost over $1 trillion and has put over 45 million citizens behind bars (The Brownsen Project 2016). Despite such statistics, the count of drug users and the variety of addictive substances across the nation has not fallen but rather increased. Such statistics demonstrate the apparent ineffectiveness of means that the government is using to end the decades of battles against drugs.
The War on Drugs is designed in a way that lacks any restrictions for police and subjects the individuals to complete vulnerability, passing laws that impose citizens to objectively unfair sentences. Millions of Americans are being incarcerated for years for nonviolent drug offenses, which validates the absence of significant constraints on the exercise of police discretion (Michelle 2010, 58–94). Due to such a lack of discretion America remains one of the countries with the most immense rate of prisoners.
The lawmakers have made drug sentences highly unfair to the citizens, which were extremely harsh up to 2012. A prominent example is the ratio of offenses between powder cocaine and cracks cocaine, which was 100:1 for years (The Brownsen Project 2016). Thus, users of crack cocaine were punished much more strictly and received longer sentencing compared to the powder cocaine distributors, despite the fact that it is an identical drug created in various forms. To a large extent, such regulations can be connected to the racist intentions of exterminating African-Americans, who were the primary users of crack cocaine.
Racial disparity in the Drug War has been evident from the beginning and is still an ongoing issue that affects millions of African-Americans living in low-class communities. Social structure theories are highly applicable in this case because the American justice structure has a considerable problem with racial disparity in jails that continues to be ignored. Among two million people in prisons around the country, a million of them are African-Americans (The Brownsen Project 2016). Such statistics prove that the War on Drugs is a highly inadequate and racist initiative that destines millions of children to grow up without parents and repeat the cycle of criminal behavior.
Social disorganization theory may be the most applicable to the current state of the War on Drugs. Over 2.7 million children have at least one parent behind bars, which makes them more predisposed to being incarcerated during their lifetime compared to other children (The Brownsen Project 2016). The kids are automatically assumed to be less valuable and prospects due to their parents’ history, whether it was just or not. Poverty among ghettos creates a culture of hopelessness that, as a result, makes people turn to drug-using or selling, as they see no future for themselves or their families.
Despite the multiple protests and lawmakers’ fights for racial equality, the criminal statistic is always more prevalent among the African-American communities. The fact has been confirmed by respected scholars, stating that in the 21st-century society, “racism has become a source of accomplishing ideological normality through dehumanization and simultaneous creation of racial categories” (Gilmore 2007, 241–248.). One of the ways to rationalize such deviance is through the deterrence theory. According to the framework, the lawmaker must stop the mass arrests after realizing that the “increased likelihood of punishment outweighs any benefits they perceive from committing a crime” (Brown 2017a). Such theory proposes for settlement of justice between crime and punishment, which is long to be achieved, in the racially unequal America.
Desmond Cole Incident
Desmond Cole – a resident of Toronto, arrived in Vancouver and was carded by the local police within 24 hours of his arrival. In the live session on Twitter, the activist explained to the public that at the time of his walk around the park Cole was standing on the sidewalk smoking. During this activity, the police approached him, asking for his identification, claiming he could not smoke in the park.
In the video posted on Twitter, the man appears to become a subject of street checking, which involves officers stopping a person and recording their information, regardless of whether an offense has been committed (Cole 2018). Desmond Cole was significantly offended by such a “carding” incident, claiming on the video that it was because of his race. When asked for identification, the activist refused to provide it to the officer, which initiated a conflict between him and the police officer.
Ironically Cole was supposed to meet with the BC Civil Liberties Association to give a speech about “carding,” which he promised to report to the organization in his Twitter video. Initially, the victim was invited to Vancouver by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to enlighten people on racist practices, which he allegedly immediately stumbled across on his first day (Cole 2018). The incident ended in the statement of the police that no record of it was taken, claiming that Cole did not accurately portray the events and rejecting the racist claims of Cole.
Social structure theories offer a clear framework of how a crime gets initiated, which can be applied to specific examples of contemporary communities. The racial injustice in The War on Drugs, ongoing for 50 years now, has put millions of people behind bars for noticeable unjust sentences. The moral dimension of the legal system that must be the primary theme of solidarity and an imperative part of territorial control is obviously not maintained (Crank 2015). There is considerable destruction of human life that is class-based, which has to be acknowledged. Based on the empirical evidence of the racial prejudice in the process of criminal arrests, there is a growing concern about the effectiveness of drug laws and their harmful impact on lower-class societies.
Cole, Desmond. Twitter Post. 2018. 8:15 PM. Web.
Brown, Gregory P. 2017b. “Social Structure Theory.” In Introduction to Criminology. 3 Rd Ed., 128–47. Nelson.
Brown, Gregory P. 2017a. “Chapter 4 Sections L03-05: General Deterrence; Specific Deterrence; Incapacitation.” In. 87-96.
Crank, John. 2015. “Angels and Assholes: The Construction of Police Morality.” In Understanding Police Culture. 2nd Ed., 201–12. London: Routledge.
Gilmore, Ruth Wilson. 2007. What Is to Be Done?” Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Michelle, Alexander. 2010. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Login.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca. New York: New Press..
The Brownsen Project. 2016. “The House I Live in (2012) HD – War on Drugs in the United States.” YouTube Video. YouTube. Web.
Wilson, George L., and James Q. Kelling. 1982. “Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety.” The Atlantic, 1982.