It is absolutely true that people who come into contact with the criminal justice system have many unmet needs. But make no mistake about the “services” offered in prisons and prisons as a reason to lock people up. Local prisons, in particular, are filled with people in need of medical care and social services, but prisons have repeatedly failed to provide these services. Many people cycle in and out of prison without ever getting the help they need. People with mental health issues are often placed in solitary confinement, have limited access to counselling, and are not monitored due to ongoing staff shortages. As a result, suicide is the leading cause of death in local prisons. Given this record, the construction of new “mental health prisons” to respond to decades of disinvestment in community services is particularly alarming. Symbolic interactionism is a theoretical approach that can be used to explain how societies and/or social groups view behaviors as deviant or conventional. The key element of this approach is to focus on the social processes by which deviant activities and identities are socially defined and then “experienced” as deviant. Social groups and authorities create deviance by first establishing the rules and then applying them to people, who are thus labeled as strangers (Becker, 1963). Deviance is not an intrinsic property of individuals, but arises from the social interactions of individuals and different authorities.

Deviance is something that can essentially be learned. Not surprisingly, Cicourel found that subsequent research on the social characteristics of accused teens and treated as juvenile offenders found that children from divorced families were more likely to be charged and treated. Divorced families are considered a cause of juvenile delinquency. This set off a vicious cycle in which research confirmed the biases of police and judges who continued to disproportionately label, arrest and convict children from divorced families. The labeling process seemed like a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the police figured out what to expect. Another 22,000 people are killed by the United States. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is held civilly, not for a felony, but simply because they risk deportation.23 ICE detainees are physically detained in federal or private immigration detention centers or local prisons under contract with ICE. That number is almost half of what it was before the pandemic, but it`s rising again from the record low of 13,500 people detained by ICE in early 2021.

As in the criminal justice system, these trends should not be interpreted as evidence of reform in the era of the pandemic.24 Indeed, ICE is rapidly expanding its overall surveillance and control over the non-criminal migrant population by expanding its “alternatives to detention” program based on electronic surveillance.25 What can we learn from Fallon`s example from a sociological perspective? First, psychopathy and sociopathy are recognized as problematic forms of deviance because the social fears of serial killers prevail as a type of criminal who “lives next door” or “interferes.” This is partly because we live in a society where we don`t know our neighbours well, and partly because we fear that their identifiable traits are otherwise hidden. Second, Fallon recognized that there is no purely biological or genetic explanation for psychopathy and sociopathy. In its report, Defining Violence, the Justice Policy Institute cites previous surveys that revealed similar preferences. These include the 1997 Iowa Criminal Victimization Survey, in which burglary victims expressed “stronger support for approaches that rely less on incarceration, such as community service (75.7%), regular probation (68.6%), treatment and rehabilitation (53.5%), and intensive probation (43.7%)” and the first 2013 survey of victims and survivors of crime in California. in which “seven in 10 victims requested that resources be devoted to crime prevention in comparison with imprisonment (a margin of five to one)”. In a 2019 update of this survey, 75% of victims support “reducing prison sentences by 20% for incarcerated individuals who pose a low risk to public safety and do not have life sentences” and use the savings to fund crime prevention and rehabilitation. ↩ For example, the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana cultivation is set out in the Safe Streets and Communities Act in response to the infiltration of organized crime in Canada. For years, newspapers have uncritically published police messages about grow operations and marijuana trafficking, characterizing activities as widespread, gang-related, and linked to cross-border trafficking of weapons and more serious drugs like heroin and cocaine. TV coverage often shows police officers dressed in white disposable hazardous waste removing marijuana plants from suburban homes and presents exaggerated estimates of the drug market value. However, a 2011 study by the Department of Justice found that out of a random sample of 500 grow operations, only 5% had ties to organized crime. In addition, a 2005 RCMP-funded study found that “firearms or other dangers” were detected in only 6% of marijuana grow cases studied (Boyd & Carter, 2014). While 76% of Canadians believe marijuana should be legally available (Stockwell et al., 2006) and several jurisdictions (Washington and Colorado and Uruguay) have legalized marijuana, the Safe Streets and Communities Act appears to be an attempt to revive the punitive message of a “war on drugs” based on misinformation and moral panic surrounding marijuana use and cultivation.

Organized crime is an ongoing criminal enterprise that works rationally to profit from illegal activities that are often in high demand by the public. Its survival is supported by the corruption of officials and the use of intimidation, threats or violence to protect its operations. But prisons rely on incarcerated people`s labor for food, laundry, and other operations, and they ruthlessly pay low-wage incarcerated workers: Our 2017 study found that incarcerated people earn on average between 86 cents and $3.45 a day for the most common prison jobs. In at least five states, these jobs pay nothing at all. In addition, prison work is compulsory, with little regulation or supervision, and incarcerated workers have few rights and protections. If they refuse to work, detainees may be subject to disciplinary action. For those who work, the paltry salaries they receive often go straight back to prison, which charges them for basic necessities such as doctor visits and hygiene items. Forcing people to work for little or no pay and no benefits while being charged for necessities allows prisons to shift the cost of incarceration to incarcerated people — and hide the true cost of running prisons from most Americans. Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) believed that deviance was a necessary part of a prosperous society. One way deviance is functional, he argued, is that it challenges people`s current views (1893). For example, when African-American students in the United States participated in “sit-in” demonstrations during the civil rights movement, they challenged notions of segregation in society.

In addition, Durkheim noted that when deviance is punished, it reinforces current social norms that also contribute to society (1893). Seeing a student jailed for skipping classes reminds other high school students that playing Hooky is not allowed and that they, too, could be jailed. As discussed later in this chapter, a central tenet of symbolic interactionist labeling theory is that individuals are criminalized through contact with the criminal justice system (Becker, 1963). The well-known problem with incarceration in response to offenders is that prison influences individual behaviour and self-understanding, but often not in the way intended. Prisons are agents of socialization. The act of imprisonment itself changes individual behaviour to make individuals more criminal. When we add to this perspective sociological research on the social characteristics of people arrested or controlled by the criminal justice system – variables such as gender, age, race, and class – it is clear that social variables and power structures are essential to understanding who chooses a criminal career path. Although the prison population is at its lowest level in decades, it is not because the authorities are releasing more people. In fact, they are laying off fewer people than they were before the pandemic.

Instead, the population changes are explained by a 40% drop in prison admissions, which was in turn the unintended consequence of pandemic-related court delays and the temporary suspension of transfers from local jails. The common theme in the various governmental arts proposed in the early modern period was the expansion of Christian monastic practices that involved detailed and continuous government and redemption of souls. The principles of monastic government have been applied to a variety of non-monastic areas. People had to be governed in every aspect of their lives. It was not until the 19th century, and with the invention of modern institutions such as the prison, the public school, the modern army, the institution, the hospital and the factory, that the means were developed to extend state and social control far over the population. This distortion creates the conditions for a moral panic around crime. As mentioned earlier, moral panic occurs when a relatively minor or atypical situation of deviation arises, amplified and distorted by the media, police, or the public. It is thus defined as a general threat to the politeness or moral fiber of society (Cohen, 1972).

As public attention is drawn to the situation, more cases are uncovered, dissidents are rebranded as “people devils,” and authorities respond with measures of social control disproportionate to the initial acts of deviance that began the cycle.