Australian Institute of Criminology

Having to face constant discrimination as a result of labelling is sure to have negative effects on the offender's self identity and self conceptualization. These are important factors that have been linked with desistance from crime. Developing a pro social identity for offenders is of utmost importance; this can be encouraged and developed within my current practice. In a study conducted by Rex (1999: 375) reinforcing pro-social behaviour was another prominent feature of probationer's accounts of positive supervision.

I find that within my practice I often use motivational interviewing and pro-social modelling with my offenders this is because research indicates that engaging in interviewing this way encourages higher levels of compliance with supervision and may also lower re-offending rates. In engaging in pro-social modelling it is important that I identify the behaviour which needs to be learned and practiced. I encourage mutual respect, being punctual, reliable, courteous, friendly, open and honest. These characteristics are of high value and may encourage individuals to begin a process of change.

Farrall (2002) does challenge this to some degree. He found that desistance could be attributed to specific interventions by the probation officer only in few cases; he did acknowledge however the importance of Probation with regards to finding work and addressing family relationships. He felt that desistance seemed to relate more clearly to the probationers' motivations and to the social and personal contexts in which various obstacles to desistance were addressed. The labelling theory is important in that it begins with the assumption that no act is intrinsically criminal.

However labelling theorists neglect the process that lead to acts defined as deviant. For labelling certain activities as defiant is not completely arbitrary; differences in socialization, attitudes and opportunities influence how far people engage in behaviour likely to be labelled as deviant. It is also not clear whether labelling actually does have the effect of increasing deviant conduct. Delinquent behaviour tends to increase following a conviction, but is this the result of the labelling itself?

Giddens (2001: 210-211). It must also be acknowledged that this theory also portrays the offenders as victims and neglects the needs of the real victims. When crime is viewed in its full complexity, crime prevention programs can address prevention at a general level, with programs aimed at everyone. It can address prevention in more vulnerable contexts by reducing the attractiveness of crime or the generators of crime in those contexts; or address the immediate needs of extant crime problems by reducing reoccurrence.

These three categories are usually called primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention Brantingham and Faust (1976); Primary prevention is concerned with reducing the opportunities to offend it also consists of three theories which include the rational choice theory, the routine activities theory and the lifestyle theory. The rational choice theory as stated earlier is based on the assumption that offenders weigh up the costs of committing the crime against the benefits, and then come to a rational decision whether to commit the crime or not.

Therefore in order to prevent rational choice offences we need to increase the costs of committing a crime and reduce the benefits Pease (1997. ) The routine activities theory originally only covered predatory crime but since has been altered to include other types of crime. This theory states that three key factors have to be present at the same time for a crime to be committed. These being 'a motivated offender, a suitable victim and the absence of a capable guardian' Pease (1997).

Unfortunately modern day life means that targets have increased, and an individual's routine activities means guardianship of targets has been decreased. The lifestyle theory looks at the variation in rates of victimization according to factors such as age, sex and occupation. It concludes that the risk of being a victim of crime is directly influenced by the lifestyle of the victim Pease (1997). Situational crime prevention is very much the same as primary prevention; Poyner (1983) described it as 'attempts to prevent crime by changing the situations in which crime occurs.

' Clarke (1997) looked at 12 techniques of situational crime prevention which are effective. They include a wide diversity of methods including steering column locks, CCTV, vehicle licensing and drinking age laws. However it is important to realise that not all methods of crime prevention prove to be successful. Primary crime prevention is directed at stopping the problem before it happens. This could involve reducing opportunities for crime and strengthening community and social structures. Primary prevention focuses on social and situational factors.

Social crime prevention addresses factors that influence an individual's likelihood of committing a crime, such as poverty, unemployment and low educational performance. Examples of prevention include school-based programs (for example, truancy initiatives) Situational prevention addresses the environment (for example, the design of buildings and landscapes, and the products we purchase). Farrington (2001:182) suggests that logically, it must be better to prevent offending by intervening early in life than to wait until someone has committed many offences and then intervene – many victims will be spared.

And yet most crime reduction resources are devoted to the police, court, prison and probation services and very few to prevention. Secondary crime prevention seeks to change people, typically those at high risk of embarking on a criminal career. The focus can be on rapid and effective early interventions for example, youth programs or it can focus on high-risk neighbourhoods for example neighbourhood dispute centers. Tertiary crime prevention focuses on the operation of the criminal justice system and deals with offending after it has happened.

The primary focus is on intervention in the lives of known offenders in an attempt to prevent them re-offending. Examples include community incapacitation, individual deterrence through community-based sanctions, and treatment interventions. AICrime Reduction Matters (2003). This essay has examined anomie/strain, labelling and rational choice theories with the aim of assessing how these theories offer effective strategies for intervention and crime reduction. Whilst using research aimed at desistance I also looked at its assistance and relevance to probation officers.

It is in my opinion that not all types of crime may be accounted for successfully with any one theory, and theories tend to be pitched at different 'Levels of Explanation' (e. g. , McGuire et al. , 2000). What is important to bear in mind is that no one theory is necessarily better than another when simply compared. Each may be better suited to explaining crime at a certain level, be that the inherited biological aspects of certain individuals, the social groupings that people mix with, aspects of rational choice which everybody is said to share, or structural relations within society that may encourage certain forms of crime.

I feel that the way forward within this area and what needs to be addressed is the inequalities and discrimination that many offenders still have to face. Within my practice there is often lack of resources to help address offenders' needs that are not classed as 'high risk'. If this was addressed and more funding could be focussed on areas such as housing for offenders, I feel this would help the reduction of crime.

Although difficult I also feel that new research should be conducted with regards to crime prevention and effective interventions so that it is more recent and up to date.


Australian Institute of Criminology. (2003) Crime Prevention. (Online) Available at http://www. aic. gov. au/publications/crm/crm001t. html (Accessed 12th March 2008) Baldock, J. , Manning, N. & Vickerstaff, S. (2003) Social policy. (2nd edn). United States: Oxford University Press. Becker, H. S. (1963) Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. New York: Free Press