Sociological Criticism of Correctional Criminology

Society is exposed to criminal behavior through media, and tends to classify that behavior as deviant according to current societal beliefs and concerns; however, the processes that create crime do not receive significant attention. This neglect is characteristic of correctional criminology, which is a “correctional, social-problems-oriented approach to the study of crime” (Hester & Eglin, 1992, p.7). Correctional criminology has three major flaws that are problematic from a sociological point of view.

Correctional criminology concerns itself with the causes and cures of crime, treats humans as objects rather than conscious beings, and fails to take into account that crime is socially constructed. These flaws cause crime to be viewed from a perspective that is not sociologically sound. The first criticism of correctional criminology is that it focuses on how to alleviate crime. By focusing on alleviating crime, insufficient emphasis is placed on possible problematic social practices.

The history and evolution of gay rights in Canada illustrates an overemphasis on alleviating crime, rather than focusing on societal norms that are the actual problem. Until 1969, homosexuals were prosecuted for their sexual orientation and relations. Furthermore, before its removal from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1973, homosexuality was also classified as a mental disorder (Corriveau, 2011).

The preoccupation of society in classifying homosexuals as deviant and prosecuting them for their apparent transgressions, prevented society from realizing that their beliefs were inhumane and unjust. Currently, homosexual marriage is legal in Canada, which validates that society has realized its previous views on homosexuality were problematic. Thus, from a sociological point of view, correctional criminology’s focus on alleviating crime and neglecting the social factors that actually cause crime is flawed.

The second critique of correctional criminology is that it treats humans as objects, similar to the objects that are studied in the natural sciences (Hester & Eglin, 1992). Treating humans as objects is problematic from a sociological point of view, because humans are conscious beings capable of making decisions (Hester & Eglin, 1992). Correctional criminology utilizes non-sociological approaches to crime such as biological theories of criminal behavior. Biological theorists advocate that genetic factors and phenotypic characteristics are what causedeviant behavior. (Hester & Eglin, 1992). By establishing such a cause and effect relationship, professionals are then able to administer medicine and rehabilitative procedures to nullify the abnormal genetics and characteristics responsible for crime.

From an ameliorative perspective of crime this may be effective, but from a sociological perspective it is insufficient. When humans are viewed in such a positivistic manner, their subjective experiences and derived beliefs are ignored. This is unacceptable to sociologists, as these subjective experiences and beliefs are what rendereach individual unique.Due to the fact that each individual has their own unique experience, each individual will have their own conception of what is right and wrong, and thus their own reasons of behaving accordingly(Hester & Eglin, 1992).

The correctional criminology tendency to view humans as objects is therefore problematic for sociologists. The third critique of correctional criminology is its inaccurate perception of crime as an objective entity. If crime were in fact an objective entity, all crimes would have existed since mankind’s first society, which is clearly implausible. Crimes are socially constructed and depend heavily on the current concerns of society, which explains why crimes exist today that were non-existent in the past (Hester & Eglin, 1992). For example, until 1929 in Canada, women were not considered ‘persons’, but considered the property of a man. Consequently, violence against women was considered the norm and accepted by society (Price, 2005).

As a result of the persistence of second wave feminism;however, violence against women is now illegal(Price, 2005). Without the social construction of violence against women as deviant behavior, women would continue to be treated unfairly today. Nevertheless, there are present day societies in existence, such as Afghanistan, that still fail to condemn violence against women. Correctional criminology’s perception of crime as an objective entity must therefore be inaccurate. From a sociological point of view, there are three major flaws that are characteristic of correctional criminology.

The concern with alleviating crime causes detrimental social practices to be overlooked. Studying humans in a positivistic manner fails to acknowledge that humans have unique reasons for behaving in certain ways. The fact that crimes exist today, that did not exist in the past proves that crime is not objective. Nevertheless, t hese flaws determine that correctional criminology is of minimal use when viewing crime from a sociological point of view.


Corriveau, P. (2011). Judging Homosexuals.Vancouver, BC:UBC Press.

Hester, S., & Eglin, P. (1992). A Sociology of Crime.New York, NY: Routledge.

Price, L. (2005). Feminist Frameworks: Building Theory on Violence Against Women. Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood Publishing