“Social control refers to the methods used by members of a society to maintain order and promote predictability of behavior” (Vago 2009, p. ). There are formal and informal social control processes the society can resort to namely: criminal sanctions, death penalty, white-collar crime and licensing just to mention a few (Vago 2009, p. 203). It is worthwhile to note social control can be achieved through internalization or through external pressure (Vago 2009, p. 203). Internalization occurs when a group of people maintain law and order as an end in itself.
A group of young people, for instance, will stop taking bhang not because the government has put stiff measures, but because they see the value to keep off from drugs. Their resolution to change their lives becomes an internalized value. On the contrary, appropriate authorities may result to the use of external pressure if the members of the society fail to adhere to the laws in place. Such external pressures can take the form of fines or can be rewarded through bonuses and awards. On the same note, the sanctions used can be formal or official and they can be informal or unofficial (Vago 2009, p. 204).
Criminals who persistently destabilize social order can be dealt with through imprisonment. Prisons, therefore, serve as a means to promote law and order. Punishment accorded under the criminal justice system should be formative in nature and have a deterrent effect. Death penalty is a social control that has the most deterrent effect. On the other hand, it is one of those that put human dignity at stake. Its rationale is valid since it punishes a culprit who takes away another person’s life. This study believes that the there should be tougher laws to deal with crimes like murder although exercised with abundant caution.
Inasmuch as many states abolished capital punishment the law should never compromise with acts that violate human dignity. It is believed that criminal sanctions are not the only way to control deviant behavior; civil commitment can help to achieve this end through medicalization of deviance (Conrad, 1996 cited in. Vago 2009, p. 224). Here, criminal behavior is approached from a medical point of view. To a large extent, this approach brings out the state as a caring nation but it has got disadvantages as well.
Not all deviant behavior can be cured medically, for instance, stealing; where can one get medicine for stealing, it is absurd. But, it can apply to other situations like drug addiction, alcoholism et cetera. If all laws sung the tune of civil commitment then most criminals would walk scot-free because of little due process of the law. Everything on deviant behavior would be attributed to sickness which should not be the case. Defiant behavior like prostitution, gambling, alcoholism, and drug addiction fall under crimes without victims.
Such crimes only harm the participating individuals as such (Schur, 1965 cited in. Vago 2009, p. 227). There is a tendency to think that such misconduct should not be punishable by law since it is of no consequence to the society. This perception is wrong since it contradicts the aim of law as a rule of conduct enacted for the sake of the common good and to make men good. Therefore, the state should ensure that laws form their people in virtue. This anticipates the next section which will look at the role of law as an instrument for change.
Although majority of people overlook crimes committed by people of high caliber, they happen to be the gravest crimes ever. These crimes, more than often, go unpunished and yet they pose more dangers to the society, for instance, when a government official robs the ministry money that could be used in helping the poor. Licensing, inasmuch as it seeks to permit engagement in certain activities, it should never contradict the ideals of a good and just society. This means that the state issues licenses only for the well being of all and not for the licensee.
The state has a duty to safeguard the public from sub-standard services through revocation of such licenses. This extends to the idea of inspection in that the state should ensure that everything in the service of the public is fit. This covers the health sector, transport sector and education among others. It aims to ascertain that the public get only quality products and services. The government should have a provision to safeguard whistleblowers that expose wrongdoings in the society. This spirit should be encouraged since it can help uncover defiant behavior that may never be dealt with.