Crime and criminal justice

Taken from a sociological positivist approach, crime is a consequence of social upheaval. According to Emile Durkheim, the concept of anomie is descriptive of a state of social indiscipline which affects the way in which individuals in the society seek to achieve a set of personal goals. Analyzed with reference to a society’s transition from one of being mechanical to one that is organic, the transitional periods marked duration where a diversity of socially wrong behavior is tolerated and the punishment meted out is relatively not severe.

In an organic society going through rapid social change or rather social disintegration, the legal structure predictably failed to maintain social cohesion (Durkheim, 1963). Durkheim identified deviance as vital to the societal wellbeing and proposed that challenges to establish moral and legal laws acted to integrate the law abiding. Identification and punishment for crimes is the very reaffirmation of the boundaries of societal laws and morals. The members of a society uphold the existence of laws and its strength when violations are identified, discussed and handled either by legal punishment and social punishment.

According to Durkheim, crime establishes social solidarity rather than weaken it. Within small communities, whenever laws are violated, everyone talks about it. With any breakage of a norm, meetings are sometimes held, the media publishes the news, and generally, the social community bristles with activity. A violation often incites the non-violators to hold together in opposition to the violation, confirming the society’s bond and its adherence to certain norms. Durkheim also held that crime and deviance promotes social change.

While the majority of violations of norms are met with opposition by the masses, others are sometimes not and these violations that achieve support are often re-examined by that society. In most cases, those activities that were once considered deviant are reconsidered and become part of the norms simply because the achieved support by a large proportion of the society. For instance, homosexuality was considered deviant but today it has gained acceptance in many societies.

In other words, deviance can help a society to redefine its boundaries and move toward social change for the greater benefit of the society (Quinney & Trevino 2001, p. 94). According to Durkheim, every society is confronted with the problem of criminality. However, its form changes and therefore the featured acts are not similar. He holds that there is no phenomenon that represents more indisputably all symptoms of normality since it appear closely connected with the conditions of all collective life (Durkheim, 1963).

Durkheim also holds that it must not be said an action shocks the collective consciousness because it is criminal but rather it is criminal because it shocks the collective conscious. The society cannot tolerate offenses against the most basic collective sentiments without its disintegration and thus it is necessary to combat them with the help of the specific energy reaction which attaches to moral rules. It can therefore be said, according to Durkheim, that the characteristics of moral rules are that they articulate the basic conditions of social solidarity.

Law and morality are therefore the totality of links which integrate every individual to the society, which makes an integrated, coherent aggregate of the mass of individuals QUESTION II The purposes of criminal punishment are a center of controversy. However, it boils town to four distinct purposes of punishment; retribution, deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation. Retribution is a natural impulse and it is simply summed up as an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, a fracture for a fracture. These words drawn from the Old Testament form the basis sun up the very purpose of retribution.

While the Old Testament philosophy held an eye for an eye form of punishment, the nineteenth century came with a position that it was morally right to hate and hurt offenders. The current ideas of “lock ‘them up and throw away the keys” and the “three strikes and you are out” are simply a modern development of the historical basis the retributive stance. Deterrence as a purpose of punishment is designed to deliberately inflict pain with the understanding that such an infliction may serve to deter future criminal acts in the society (Quinney & Trevino 2001, p. 94).

The retributive objective of punishment has a long tradition that is strongly supported by religious underpinnings. Its tradition has always been used as proof that it is effective. Moreover, it is validated by tenacity. Its tradition is a consequence of its appealing ideas: free will and culpability. On the basis of culpability, offenders are fully responsible for their actions and therefore such individuals must be made to suffer the consequences of their actions. Under the assumption that all individuals have free will, their actions are supposed to be responsible.

However, the real difficulty with retribution lies in the translation of abstract justice into very specific penalties (Durkheim, 1963). Deterrence is mainly based on the philosophy of utility and utility is based on the assumption that people generally seek pleasure and avoid pain, and that all individuals have a free will to act morally right. The basic idea behind rehabilitation is always to transform convicted criminals into individuals who can conform to the laid down rules of the society. QUESTION IV Vagrancy is a crime in almost all the states in the United States.

The Law of Vagrancy has its heritage in English law in which the term vagrant and its meaning thereof is implied or stated in the statute. A vagrant simply means a beggar, an idle person, vagabond, itinerants, homeless, indigents, tramps, mendicants or any other person who is wandering and cannot be able to convincingly give an account of him. The law is directed to the very nature of the person. For instance, “Vagrancy is the principal crime in which the offense consists of being a certain kind of person rather than in having done or failed to do certain tasks” (Quinney & Trevino 2001, p.

94). This statute targets individuals based on a state of being, a personal condition and the socioeconomic status. Any individual who meets these characteristics are liable to arrest since the law makes no distinction of whether an action or inaction is illegal. The selectivity of application nonetheless describes a state that is communally undesirable and therefore legally punishable, even though the laws fail to take into account the concept of voluntary unemployment and the freedom of mobility.

The very nature of the law therefore attest to the fact that Laws of Vagrancy are essentially determined by and are functions of, or reflections of, the imperatives of specific aspects of the social world. This is the position taken by William Chambliss article, “A Sociological Analysis of the Law of Vagrancy. ” References Durkheim, E. (1963). Rules of Sociological Method. SAGE: London. Quinney, R. , & Trevino, A. (2001). The social reality of crime. Transaction Publishers, 95-97