Kimmel and Aronson outline the 4 major theories of crime. They also consider the explanations of why the United States has such a high crime rate. Crime is an act that it illegal and that breaks a group norm. An example would be homicide. However, not all crimes break group norms, such as smoking marijuana, but are bad because they are illegal. There are two categories of crime: violent crime and property crime.
The first theory that Kimmel and Aronson discuss is “Robert K. Merton’s strain theory” (KIMMEL AND ARONSON, pg. 164). The theory was developed in 1957 and suggests that society has made it unachievable for some people to achieve specific goals because there are inequalities. This then results in “anomie.” According to Merton there are five potential reaction to the tensions between accepted norms and social reality: “conformists, innovators, ritualists, rebels, and retreatists” (KIMMEL AND ARONSON, pg. 164). “Conformists accept both the means and values, whether they achieve the goal or not. Innovators accept the values but reject the means, they seek out new financial success. Ritualists accept the means but reject the values, they will work hard but have no strive for financial success. Rebels reject both the means and values, they seek to achieve other goals before the goal of financial success. Retreatists reject both the means and values but do not replace these goals with anything” (KIMMEL AND ARONSON, pg. 164). Examples of strain theory are those who sell drugs or become involved in prostitution, to gain financial security. The problem with strain theory is that not everyone shares the same goals. Also, strain theory does not effectively explain crimes that lack financial motive. A crime of passion could not be explained by strain theory. Some people commit crime because they have the sudden impulse too. They could be mentally ill or have rage. This type of crime has no financial motive, thus not a part of strain theory.
The second theory is “Zimbardo’s broken windows theory.” The broken windows theory proposes that when social controls lose power, little act of deviance start to occur leading to larger acts of deviance. Zimbardo placed one car in a wealthy community and another in a poor community. In both communities, the cars were damaged. It was concluded that once one person committed a crime another person believed it was justifiable to also commit the same crime.
The third theory is Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin’s “opportunity theory’. This theory proposes that the more opportunities a person has to commit a crime the more likely they will. “Opportunity Theory” also puts importance on learning. People must have the opportunity to commit the crime as well as learn to commit the crime. According to Cloward and Ohlin there are three “deviant subcultures: stable neighborhoods, unstable neighborhoods, and neighborhoods too disorganized for either crime or violent to succeed” (KIMMEL AND ARONSON, pg. 167).
The last theory is “conflict theory” that proposes that laws are an instrument of oppression.
The United States has an extremely high rate of crime compared to other countries. Sociologists have considered that American culture, the income gap, and easy access to guns are the reasons why crime is a problem in the US. Woman are significantly less likely to be arrested and convicted than men Also, African Americans are arrested at rate five time greater than statistical probability. Latinos too are overrepresented in the Unites States criminal justice system.
Jeffery H. Reiman gives an examination of how the poor in the United States are very likely to be arrested, charged or convicted. The wealthy usually get away with their crimes. than the wealthy. There are prejudices against the lower class within the criminal justice system. A wealthy and poor person can commit the same crime but the poor person will be convicted or given a longer sentence than the wealthy person. A poor person cannot likely pay bail prior to trial and does not have the money for private legal counsel. The lack of money affects the individual’s outcome. Many poor people often take plea bargains, which saves the individual from having to go to trial but they still are agreeing to being labeled as guilty, The same inequalities are seen in the criminal justice system when comparing African Americans and whites. African Americans are more likely to be in a lower class because of the social structures that have been set in place. The police will probably arrest a poor black man before arresting a rich white man. There is crime among the upper and middle class, however they are rarely arrested.
Conflict theory best describes crime. Richard Quinney’s “conflict theory,” developed in 1977, discuss how large social structure have created inequalities and this is the explanation for why crime occurs. He argued that the dominant social group produces crimes by making and administering laws that oppress the lower class. The laws are made so that the rich can maintain being rich. Conflict theory helps explain the bigger system of how subcultures are formed. Blacks are more likely than whites to live in disorganized inner-city areas. They are also more likely to be unemployed because of difference in education opportunities. An example of a crime that conflict theory can explain is stealing. A poor person might not have the money to afford food, so they steal a loaf of bread. They will be arrested because the law says stealing is a crime, even though the person was poor and hungry. If the person who stole the bread is young black male, statistically they will more likely be arrested and convicted. If the person who stole the bread is a young white male, it is seen as a joke and given a warning. Laws are unfair to minority groups and social classes.