Running Head:| Labeling Theory | Labeling Theory Stacie O’Reilly Miller-Motte Lisa Bruno October 20, 2012 Abstract According to the works of Frank Tannenbaum, Howard Becker, Edwin Lemert and the Labeling Theory, career criminals are often created by our juvenile justice system and by our society and their labeling of juveniles who have been convicted of committing a deviant act. These youngsters are often labeled as ‘juvenile delinquents’. The Labeling, not the juvenile’s characteristics, can create a habitual offender. Labeling Theory
Frank Tannenbaum, also known as the “Grandfather of the Labeling Theory”, in 1938, wrote against popular beliefs that juvenile delinquents were different in many ways than non-delinquents and that they were people who fit into where they were placed by society and the juvenile justice system. This concept is the beginning of the Labeling Theory in criminology and sociology, known as “Dramatizing Evil”. Tannenbaum’s argument was that: 0 When they first break the law, the juvenile is a little or no different in characteristics than his peers. Youths who are labeled “bad” will be treated differently than their peers who are not labeled as “bad”. 2 They may believe their label and behave as they believe they should. As the youths are labeled, they may no longer be accepted by their peers but will gladly be accepted by other outcasts. This is the beginnings of the labeling theory. Edwin Lemert, sociologist, contributed to the Labeling Theory by arguing that all people conduct deviant behavior occasionally and if caught any person could, by reaction of society and the criminal justice system, be abeled as a delinquent. Lemert studied and recorded the series of events that can result from the one incident. To better explain the labeling process he uses Primary and Secondary deviation. Primary Deviation is the first delinquent act the person gets caught performing. Secondary Deviance is described by Lemert as any deviant act committed as a result of the labeling of the person due to the Primary Deviance. Howard Becker in the 1960’s championed the Labeling Theory, explaining: “… ocial groups create deviance by making rules whose infraction creates deviance, and by applying those roles to particular people and labeling them as outsiders. From this point of view, deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by other of rules and sanctions to an ‘offender. ‘ The deviant is one to whom that label has been successfully applied; deviant behavior is behavior that people so label. “[Becker] In today’s society, labeling can be as harmful as ever and can happen to a juvenile who has not even been convicted of any wrong doing.
Before a defendant has a chance to face his accuser, society is developing a label for him/her. In our criminal justice system, a person can be arrested if it is thought, by the authorities, that the accused had committed a crime. The accused is taken into custody, finger printed and a photo taken as part of the arrest process. Today’s media and technology help the labeling process along, often pre-maturely. There are safeguards to protect juveniles from the exposure, but these protections stop at the tender age of 18, just as these young people are trying to find their way.
Once someone is arrested, his/her mug shot, along with the crime they are charged with becomes public, often in the local newspaper and on the internet. This information also becomes part of the accused’s background check. I have surveyed average citizens and businesses to understand what effects this exposure can have on young people applying for work and in general, in other words, the effects of labeling on decisions of people interacting with the persons who are labeled, which will affect the way the labeled person will begin to view himself/herself.
In the mug shot survey, the labeled are not labeled officially and not even convicted of a crime, however they are viewed by strangers by the photos of themselves posted in the crime sections of newspapers and websites. The answers to the survey questions are harsher than expected: 0 Would you hire someone you recently saw in the local mug shots? The answers were in multiple choice formats and are as follows- no, probably not, probably, or yes. Of the persons surveyed, 26. 7% responded ‘no’, 53. 3% responded ‘probably not’, 20% responded ‘probably’ and no one responded ‘yes’. Would you allow your teenager to date someone you recently saw in your local mug shots? With the same four choices for answers, 60% answered ‘no’. 26. 7% responded ‘probably not’, 20% responded ‘probably’, and no one answered ‘yes’. 0 Would you feel comfortable walking next to someone you recently seen in the local mug shots? Having the same answering options as the above questions, 6. 7% answered ‘no’, 13. 3% answered ‘probably not’, 66. 7% responded with ‘probably’ and 13. 3% answered ‘yes’. The above numbers show how negatively people are thought of after an encounter with the law, regardless of guilt or innocence.
This must be apparent to the person being labeled silently by those in his/her community, the treatment received may have a major impact on his/her self-image and they may accept this view as true and will be accepted by others in the same situation. Felons, by definition, are those people who have been convicted of a “serious crime”. These convictions can be of many things from conspiracy to rape, yet are grouped together with a stigma that can turn the labeled person into the monster he/she is often viewed as by others. Once labeled a “felon”, a person may lose hope of overcoming a delinquent past; one event can lead to this negative label. A person who is labeled a felon is treated differently by society, they are labeled by an event and any achievements and good behavior up to that point is disregarded, many rights are taken away from felons and restrictions applied. With the exception of Vermont and Maine, Felons and ex-Felons are restricted from voting in the United States. 0 Federal Law prohibits those labeled ‘Felons’ to ‘bear arms’.
These two basic rights that felon’s do not enjoy are clear signs of the way that society views them as dangerous and not worthy. This is reinforced with every job application that they fill out, repeatedly, they must acknowledge that they are a felon, and felons can be anyone convicted of drug possession to murder, all grouped together. Young people who are labeled as Felon’s are ostracized and have a hard time finding employment, which can lead to them thinking they are not worthy, accepting the label, and turning to a life of crime for survival.
I created a survey to get a quick view from people who would potentially interact with felons to see how they would respond to a felon in different circumstances. The way the felon is responded to by society can help the felon view himself as he is viewed others. The answers to the survey questions are as expected: 0 Would you hire a convicted felon? The answers were in multiple choice formats and are as follows- no, probably not, probably, or yes. Of the persons surveyed, 20% responded ‘no’, 60% responded ‘probably not’, 20% responded ‘probably’ and no one responded ‘yes’. 0 Would you allow your teenager to date a convicted felon?
With the same four choices for answers, 100% answered ‘no’. 0 Would you feel comfortable working closely with a convicted felon? Having the same answering options as the above questions, 0% answered ‘no’, and 80% answered ‘probably not’, 20% responded with ‘probably’ and no one answered ‘yes’. The results show the difficulty a felon will have being rehabilitated while being feared and unwanted by fellow citizens. The label is devastating to a convicted felon with little chance of employment which is a major part of gaining self-esteem and confidence to overcome such a harsh stigma.
Without even knowing what the felon was convicted of and any circumstances involved, the community’s children are off limits to those unfortunate enough to have earned this label. Society still labels young people sometimes by one incident which shows only the possibility that the person broke the law and this is not official, it is indirect, through the media. When an official label like ‘felon’ is used, it is even more detrimental to the person inflicted, because the laws directed to them go hand in hand with how strangers and acquaintances seem to be viewing Would you hire someone you recently saw in the local mug shots?
Would you hire someone you recently saw in the local mug shots? them. Would you allow your teenager to date someone you recently saw in the local mug shots? Would you allow your teenager to date someone you recently saw in the local mug shots? Would you feel comfortable walking next to someone you recently saw in the local mug shots? Would you feel comfortable walking next to someone you recently saw in the local mug shots? Would you allow your teenager to date a convicted felon? Would you allow your teenager to date a convicted felon? Would you hire a convicted felon?
Would you hire a convicted felon? Would you feel comfortable working closely with a convicted felon? Would you feel comfortable working closely with a convicted felon? References OReilly, S. (n. d. ). Felons Survey. SurveyMonkey: Free online survey software & questionnaire tool. Retrieved November 9, 2012, from http://www. surveymonkey. com/s/K3MZSKJ OReilly, S. (n. d. ). Mug shots Survey. SurveyMonkey: Free online survey software & questionnaire tool. Retrieved November 9, 2012, from http://www. surveymonkey. com/s/5T8MQYL Parmelee, M. (1918).
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