Discuss the view that criminals in the Caribbean are products of the police and courts and not products of their social backgrounds. Support your position with reference to one the sociological perspectives. 25marks Criminals in the Caribbean are products of the police and courts and not products of their social backgrounds. The writer agrees with this statement and the sociological perspective to which reference would be made is the Conflict. This emerged on the heels of the labelling theory and focuses on the political nature of crime and it examines the creation and application of criminal law.
The essence of conflict theories is that societies are more appropriately characterized by conflict, rather than by consensus. Conflict theorists argue that consensus is temporary and would either return to a state of conflict or will have to be maintained at great expense. Conflict theorists are not concerned with the behaviour of the offender but with the making and enforcement of the law. This means they focus on the police and courts since they are the people who make and enforce the law.
The law represents a resource and those groups that have values which oppose those of the winners find themselves in the position of being the most likely targets with the enforcement agents. Since the law embodies the values of those who create it, law is more likely to criminalise the actions of those outside the power groups. Therefore the people making the law will make it to suit them and their values, people outside their values are likely to be seen as criminals or deviant.
To further examine this is Conflict theorist George Vold who produced a theory that emphasises the group nature of society and the various competing interests of those groups. These groups come into conflict because they interests overlap, encroach on one of other and become competitive. Vold argues that, ‘ The whole process of law making, law breaking and law enforcement directly reflects deep seated and fundamental conflicts between group interests and the more general struggles among groups for control of the police power of the state. Vold further argues that since minority groups lack the ability to strongly influence the legislative process, their behaviour would most often is legislated as criminal. This criminalisation legitimates the use of the authorities on behalf of the more powerful group. This is seen in the Caribbean known as white collar crime, where authorities or person of the upper class commit a crime and is not punished for it but a person of the lower class steals a loaf of bread and is plaster all over the newspaper as a thief.
Richard Quinney built a theory of the social reality of crime in six propositions definition of crime, Formulation of criminal definitions, Application of criminal definitions, Development of behaviour patterns in relation to the criminal definitions , The construction of criminal conceptions and Social reality of crime. Quinney argued that crime is the product of legal definitions, constructive through the exercise of political power. He argues that non crime behaviour is socially constructed and that actions which are quite similar to criminal acts are allowed through the political definitions as being desirable.
Definitions of both crime and non-crime are spread via the media and for this reason; people do not think that these definitions have been constructed for them. E. g. televised athletic events sponsored by alcoholic beverages versus news programmes with decry drunk drivers. Quinney further argues that unemployment makes necessary various actions of survival by the unemployed surplus populations and requires the state to control that population in some way.
To keep control of the unemployed, control is given to the criminal justice system and prisons are used to warehouse the most threatening to social order. Autin Turk saw social order as a product of powerful groups attempting to control society. This control is exerted by putting values into law and by having authorities enforce that law. He argued that crime is a status given to non-resisters whose perception of social norms and reality is inadequate to anticipate the results of their actions.
David Gordon argues that selective enforcement of the law maintains the power of the ruling class and reinforces the ideology of the ruling class because: This selective application of the law diverts attention from upper class crime because it gives the impression that criminals are mainly located in the working class. It also allows the members of the working class to ignore their oppression and exploitation. This creates division within the subject class because they consider their enemies to be the criminals in the working class.
It acts a safety valve for the ruling class because without crime the aggression of the working class would be directed to the ruling class. Instead this frustration is directed to the criminals. In conclusion, examining all the conflict theories above we can then understand how criminals are products of the police and courts system. These are seen as the agents of social control which authorities or ruling class put in place to enforce the rules. As said above the rules are made to benefit the ruling class therefore it is more likely to criminalise the actions of those outside the power group.