Pelican Bay State Prison

Social process theories view deviant and criminal behaviors as evolving mechanisms learned through societal interaction. Social development theories view deviant and criminal behaviors as part of a maturational process. The process involves numerous perspectives including biological, psychological, and social, that all occur simultaneously as the individual progresses through life. In this paper the author will examine what different social process’s there are and how they support Pelican Bay State Prison: War Zone.

The author will also provide different social issues associated with this prison system. In addition, the author will provide, if any, possible ramifications for social policy change? Pelican Bay State Prison is located on 275 acres on the North Coast of California, 13 miles from the Oregon/California Border. It is designed to house California’s most serious criminal offenders in a secure, safe, and disciplined institutional setting. One half of the prison houses maximum security inmates in a general population setting.

The other half houses inmates in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) designed for inmates presenting serious management concerns. The SHU is a modern design for inmates who are difficult management cases, prison gang members, and violent maximum security inmates (http://www. cdcr. ca. gov/Facilities_Locator/PBSP. html). At Pelican Bay State Prison applying the social process theory (or interactionsit perspectives) would best be applied; as this theory depends on the process of interaction between individuals and society for their explanatory power.

Social process theories of crime causation assume that everyone has the potential to violate the law and that criminality is not an innate human characteristic; instead, criminal behavior is learned in interaction with others, and the socialization process occurring as the result of group membership (such as gang affiliations within Pelican Bay and outside of it) is seen as the primary route through which learning occurs (book). Within the social process theories there are three major classes: social learning theory, social control theory, and social reaction theory.

Each of these theories seeks to explain criminality and the perpetration of criminal acts through the viewpoint of criminality as a social process. The differential reinforcement theory is one of the various theories under the social learning theory was created by Ronald Akers and Robert Burgess in 1966. The differential reinforcement theory states that the process of learning deviant behavior and the process of learning conventional behavior is the exact same process.

Neither criminals nor typical members of society are raised to be completely good or completely bad, either completely deviant, or completely conforming. Instead, there is a balance between these that is revised and reevaluated as time goes on, and as a social group is adopted (yahoo). Essentially, a person’s behavior is conditioned through reinforcement, either positive or negative. Negative reinforcement discourages the behavior while positive reinforcement encourages the behavior’s continuation. These reinforcements come from rewards offered by the act, and by those around them.

If peers and/or family shun the behavior, it often dies off; however, if peers or family encourage the behavior, the behavior continues and may even become stronger. Behavior is also learned by these people through modeling. Thus, a child who grows up with an older brother who steals and might interpret the stealing as rewarding, leading the child to feel encouraged to steal. “Deviant behavior can be expected to the extent that it has been differentially reinforced over alternative behavior… and is defined as desirable or justified” (yahoo).

Hirschi’s social bond theory is a member of the social control theory, and asserts that criminality is a result of weakened ties to society. Essentially, all individuals have the ability and mentality to commit a crime; however, they are attached to society through friends, family, and peers, and the fear of what these people will think of them should they commit a crime. This theory refutes the idea that there are competing subcultures in the community, but instead there are four elements that govern their choice of behavior: attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief (yahoo).

Attachment is the connection that people have with their family, friends, and community. From these attachments respect for authority and the acceptance of social norms. This also leads to the development of a social conscious, which otherwise develops independent of society and the community, resulting in antisocial traits and behaviors. Commitment describes efforts one must go through, and the time and energy that it takes to fulfill future needs and desires.

A lack of commitment to conventional society creates a situation in which criminality and criminal behavior may take place. Similarly, a strong commitment to conventional society encourages people to seek out legitimate means of meeting their future desires. Involvement describes activities that encourage community ties and discourage illegal and unconventional behaviors. Lastly, belief states that people there are common social beliefs that are shared among those of similar communities (yahoo).

Evaluating this theory from an empirical standpoint, Hirsch himself conducted a self-report survey that came up with considerably encouraging results. Among other things, he found that deviant individuals and non-deviant individuals share similar beliefs, that youths that held strong attachments to their parents were less likely to commit crimes, and that youths that held distant relationships to parents and peers were those that were more inclined and tended toward delinquency (yahoo).

The social reaction theory or the labeling theory suggests that criminal behavior and attitudes are created by negative social interactions. Through the symbols used in interaction and people’s interpretation of them, individual’s behaviors are shaped. The social reaction theory uses this belief in explaining that the labels society gives to individuals stigmatize the individuals who receive them and serve to reduce their self-image.

The theory stresses that when people accept the labels that society gives them, they become more prone to deviant behavior, than their counterpart who have not been negatively labeled (Siegel, 2006, p. 215). The labeling process begins with a criminal act. When a person is caught they are put in the public light and then labeled. From this label, identity is created. At some point, the individual accepts the label society gives them and this acceptance leads to amplification of deviant behavior.

Essentially labeling leads to damage, even in the psychological community there is a great deal of criticism attached to labeling a patient. More often than not, a patient is not told their exact diagnosis as a means of deterring them and those around them from stigmatizing them based on a label. For example, we may perceive a schizophrenic individual as being a risk to society, when in reality they are harmless. While some individuals may be a risk to society, this label should not be put on all individuals with the disorder.