Monday, May 01, 2006

Soc Abstract on Deviance

Inequality is a major issue and can be found in any stage within the criminal justice system. A major form of inequality is seen regarding who even gets arrested for a crime. For example, as Chambliss () notes, two different groups of people, in this case the “Roughnecks” and the “Saints”, can commit basically the same types of crimes, at the about the same rates, and have completely different arrest rates. Chambliss () finds that because of their higher status within the community, the deviance of the “Saints” although equal to that of the “Roughnecks” went almost unnoticed. The fact that the “Saints” were involved in numerous school organizations, had high GPA’s and were known to come from families who were financially stable, they were not seen as deviant, rather they were seen as simply kids who were “having a good time” (Chambliss). This idea of class inequality can also be seen in terms of race. Many people of color are of a lower class and therefore are many times punished differently from the white middle and upper class. As seen in Seigal (), there are what are considered to be “race-specific” crimes. These crimes, such as drug crimes for example, are punished more harshly when they are committed by people of color rather than when they are committed by whites. This fact can almost certainly be related to the idea that deviance is related to social norms ().
People of a lower socioeconomic status are more closely watched because they are assumed to be the ones most likely to go against the norms of society due to their lack of resources. Even if this is not necessarily the case, due to inequality and bias, the criminal justice system is more likely to single out such people, as did the police in regard to the “Roughnecks” (Chambliss), because of their lower status. Inequality is also a major concern in the administration of the death penalty. For example, many people who are in fear of receiving the death penalty will claim insanity. If a person is deemed insane, or it is found that the person was not mentally stable at the time he or she committed a crime, they are more likely to be put into rehabilitation than they are to receive the death sentence. This is a cause for concern because as Rosenhan () points out, it is almost impossible to detect a truly sane person from an insane person. This causes problems in that almost anyone can plead to insanity as a way to avoid the death penalty. On the other end of the spectrum, simply because anyone can plead to being insane as a reason for why they should not be put to death for their crime, does not mean that each person will be judged fairly and be thoroughly examined for signs of mental instability. Because of the way our social structure is set up, and because of the inequality among races in the criminal justice system, it is presumably more likely for a white middle class person to be able to successfully use this defense than for a lower class person of color. This creates an issue because the main reason most people oppose the death penalty, according to Bedau (), is because it is inhumane. This supports the fact that people of color are more likely to receive a harsher sentence for the same crime that a white person commits.
This is a major issue regarding the inequality of the criminal justice system because the death penalty is the one form of punishment which is irrevocable (Bedau). The reason this is such a big issue in terms of inequality is because people are judged unfairly, there have been numerous cases where people are put to death, then years after the person’s execution, new evidence surfaces which concludes that the person was actually innocent. Unlike incarceration, where the person can simply be released, the death penalty can not be taken back. It is the ultimate form of punishment for which there is no retribution if it is found to be administrated unjustly.

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