Lecture 10: Crime and Deviance


  • Happens quite frequently; Fairly routine
  • Reminder of Norms:
  • Folkways
  • Mores
  • Taboos


  • Occurs when someone departs from a norm and evokes a negative reaction from others


  • Norm has been violated is a law
  • Law is a type of norm - legislated by government bodies and norms
  • Subset of deviance

When talking about norms, norms may vary across time and place or culture. Culture-to-culture you will find different norms. It is important to consider because our ideas of what and who are deviant (criminal) is likely to subject to change as our definition around these things tend to change. 

Sociology, Deviance, and Crime

  • Deviance and crime are socially-defined
  • Depend on the context (historical, location)
  • Deviance and crime are NOT characteristics of individuals or actions
  • Sociological point - it is not a particular act that is a deviant, it is the fact that we have a norm around certain behaviour and there is a reaction to it

Example: Marijuana

Early 1900s

  • Weed was not widely used
  • In USA, it was tended to be used by hispanic-americans in the west
  • During times of economic scarcity, there were many issues on job scarcity
  • Hispanic-americans were subject to a lot of discrimination (as a predominant group)
  • Laws were created that took hispanic-americans out of jobs (they were taking jobs away from "white men")
  • ○ In Canada, it was popping up here and there in communities
  • Exaggerated concerns and racists overtones in discussions of weed
  • Claimed to be "(weed suppliers) out to control and debase the white race"and "closely tied to segmentations of the populations"


  • Time of drug experimentation
  • Seen as less harmful than other drugs
  • Concern was about youth (youth smoking marijuana)
  • US and Canadian government increase penalties for breaking drug laws


  • Legalization of marijuana
  • 59% of Canadians wanted to legalize it

Not much has changed on marijuana between 1990s to today. It is the change of norms that makes it look like it has changed.


Informal Punishments When Norm Violations Have Taken Place

  • Mainly: Folkways and Mores
  • Mild sanction
  • Imposed face-to-face
  • Ex. Inviting yourself to a friend's house

Formal Punishment

  • Judicial system
  • Penalty for law-breaking

Strain Theory

  • Structural Functionalism (Merton)
  • Means → Goals
  • Crime: Means → Goals

Culturally we value material success. (Finding a job, gaining wealth, purchase expensive things) and culturally, we have goals using legitimate means for achieving those goals.

Conformist: Someone who buys into cultural goals, acquire them and taking the legitimate steps to arrive at that goal.

Legitimate Means → Goals

  • Times where the legitimate means cannot be met in order to achieve goals
  • Straining: Gap between goals and resources to achieve goals
  • If you are experiencing strain, you may return to criminality to achieve those goals
  • Innovator: People who want material success and innovates to get there
  • Innovator can be a positive word but in this case, it is valued with a negative meaning
  • These are people who are buying into material success and must innovate a "different" way to get there

Control Theory

  • The rich and powerful can impose labels and punishment on others
  • Ex. Conflict theories will say a lot of our laws protect private properties of those who are wealthy/privilege. Easily able to label others who are deviant or criminal
  • The rich and powerful have the means to escape those labels, and punishment

White-Collar Crime: Crime committed by middle and upper class individuals. Associated with much shorter prison sentences than suggested or street crimes. Not detected as frequently.

Control Theory: The power of control and punishment.

  • We are potentially criminal
  • The more attachments you have (systems, people, in general etc.), the less likely you will
  • be a criminal

Punishment and Prisons

Goals of incarceration


  • Idea that someone can be improved
  • Give them the time and resources to improve themselves


  • Deter people
  • Setting up facilities or things that has a strongly negative image that no person would want to be in


  • Taking revenge on someone because of the crime they committed


  • Prevent another person to commit another crime
  • Remove that problem element from the community

In Canada, we use to have a rehabilitation model. In the last few years, we have had the deterrence model. The idea of hefty fines, jail time, conditions etc. Make the prison system a deterrent. Runs under all criminal information of incapacitation.

Cost-Effective Alternatives

How else can we reduce recidivism?

  • Rehabilitation
  • Giving opportunities for training, counselling
  • Helping members to improve in society


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