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- During the U.S. colonial period, it was customary to publicly punish common criminals and disobedient
children. Why children are treated differently today? Should there be a modern-day equivalent?
- What is your thought about the idea of holding parents responsible for the behavior of their adolescents and
Critical criminology has gained traction in recent years, with its devotion to questioning the definitions of crime and measurements of official statistics, its critical view of agents, systems, and institutions of social control, and the connections with social justice and policy change (Carrington & Hogg, 2002). Theories of critical criminology are rooted in the structure of society, focusing on power systems and inequality. This paper will focus on labeling theory and crimes of the powerful, as they have a certain dichotomy regarding public vs. private criminality. With labeling theory, those in power have the authority to decide what is the “norm” and what is the “other,” ostracizing the “other” from the rest of society. The stigmatization of public shaming for the common citizen is carried out in all aspects of public life – the labeled individual is looked down on by family, peers, community, and employers, and it is very hard for them to shake the label (Denver et al., 2017; Kroska et al., 2016). Regarding crimes of the powerful, those in power have the privilege to escape stigmatization and consequences of illegal actions. Those in power protect their own through deciding what is illegal or not, and deciding the consequences for illegal actions. These crimes occur in private and are often underreported and under prosecuted, allowing the powerful to escape consequences. Critical analysis will address these dichotomies, challenging theoretical assumptions and criminal justice practices to advocate for structural change. Labeling Theory Background Labeling theory discusses the structural inequalities within society that explain criminality. It can be traced back to Mead’s theory of symbolic interactionism in 1934, which discusses the importance of language regarding informing social action through processes of constructing, interpreting, and transmitting meaning (Denver et al., 2017, p. 666). From there, labeling theory was further developed with Lemert’s distinction between primary and secondary deviance in 1951, which explained how deviance of an individual begins and continues (Thompson, 2014). Finally, and perhaps most influentially, we have Becker’s labeling theory of deviance in 1963, which is the version of the theory that will be guiding this discussion in the essay (Paternoster & Bachman, 2017). In Becker’s labeling theory, he describes crime as a social construct:
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