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Core Assessment Paper - Accurate Essays

Core Assessment Paper

Core Assessment Paper

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Core Assessment Paper


Concerns exist regarding the existence of gangs in the U.S. some of which are related to criminal activities. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that more than 31,000 gangs exist in the U.S. These gangs bring together street groups and prison or motorcycles gangs. Some of these gangs bring together people from diverse backgrounds but in many instances the criminal groups are composed along racial groups and limit membership to people from specific racial or ethnic groups. Most of these gangs are in urban settings. In many instances, it is common to find gangs in cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and New York. The study focuses on some of the theories that provide more information about criminal activities. Specifically, the study examines the labeling or shaming theory, which asserts that a criminal would be reprimanded for their mistake by the society before being reaccepted. It also examines the social structure theory, which holds that crime emanates from economic constraints and other complications in how the society is organized and from other related constraints. The study compares and contrasts both frameworks as well as discusses their strengths and weaknesses, which helps to understand their applicability in addressing criminal behavior and conduct.

Labeling/Shaming Theory


Shaming or labelling theory is a criminology concept emanating from a sociological ideology called symbolic interactionism. Various theories were responsible for its introduction, including Hebert Blumer, George Herbert, John Dewey, John Braithwaite, and Howard Becker. The question that most of these proponents asked is what lead people and acts engage in criminal behavior or defiantly (Murphy & Nathan, 2007). During this period, scholars attempted to divert the attention of criminology towards the activities of individuals in reacting to behaviors in the society in an unpleasant manner, which led proponents to be called social reaction or labeling theorists (Murphy & Nathan, 2007). The theory examines the variations between stigmatization of a person and reintegrated shaming or compulsion to halt the behavior without subjecting an offender to stigmatization or deconstructive labelling. The theory primarily holds that shaming will minimize crime, contrary to stigmatization, which according to the theory, significantly escalates it by promoting defiant practices in future (Murphy & Nathan, 2007). The key tenet behind the theory is that a person, after engaging in criminal actions, will encounter shame in the society for the unacceptable act and then readmitted or reaccepted back into the society without being labelled further as an offender.

For example, when a person is jailed for an offense such as gang raping or gang robbery, they usually reenter their societies where people view them as transformed persons. The need to embrace those who leave prison for different reasons including indulging in gang-related crimes has led government agencies to initiate reentry programs across the country. The United States Department of Justice has established reentry programs that are formed to assist returning citizens adequately reenter their communities and societies after their serving their sentence, thus minimizing recidivism, saving money, and enhancing public confidence and safety (United States Department of Justice, 2021). The primary goal of reentry initiatives is to minimize or eradicate obstacles to prosperous reentry, so that motivated persons – who have completed their term and reformed – have an opportunity to compete for job opportunities, get decent housing, support their loved ones, and impact on their communities (United States Department of Justice, 2021). Existing reentry initiatives is a perfect illustration of how the shaming theory works; the society shames the offender and ultimately embraces them as a good and changed person.

Social Structure Theory


Social structure theory in the field of criminology shows the connection between criminal behavior and social structure, holding that less privileged economic situations are major influential elements in criminal behavior and activities. Proponents assert that people’s positions in their socioeconomic settings impact their likelihood of becoming an offender (Hartinger-Saunders, 2011). The theory asserts that poor people are likely to indulge in crimes because they are not able to realize their social or financial goals through other means. The school of thought that traces its origins from French theorist and sociologist Emile Durkheim relies on three key tenets, cultural deviance, strain, and social disorganization. Strain theories perceive crime as emanating from anger people undergo over their incapacity to realize appropriate economic and social objectives (Hartinger-Saunders, 2011). Social disorganization theory that originated from the researches of Shaw and McKay on the other hand, holds that disorganized places characterized by divergent features and transitional groups generate criminal behavior. Cultural deviance asserts that a unique value structure builds up in lower class places. Cultural deviance holds that people in low class places tend to advocate for actions such as never demonstrating fear, being tough, and contradicting directives. Proponents of cultural deviance assert that crime emerges from the perception of lower class people that their chances for prosperity are restricted (Hartinger-Saunders, 2011). For example, a person may from a poor background may be tempted to join a gang with the hope of generating stable income for their family. Unfortunately, such a person may end up being caught and spending a significant time of their life in jail.

Another example of how the social structure works is that a person who experience certain stressors due to poverty in their place may be compelled to form a gang that terrorizes local residents with the objective of depriving them of their personal belongings. Such a person may not be naturally inclined to criminal behavior, but may be forced into forming the group because they feel that they do not have any other chance to generate the revenue they need to sustain their requirements and of those who depend on them. On the note, others from the same locality may find the gang as a suitable opportunity to sustain their needs. Thus, social structure theory identifies lack of economic and social opportunities as a possible factor that contributes to criminal behavior.



Shaming or labelling theory and social structure theory have similarities that contribute towards their explanation of how criminal behavior occur. A common feature between the two theories is that they give information that helps to understand criminal behavior. Labelling theory, for example, implies that a person is likely to be reprimanded for engaging in inappropriate behavior such as taking part in unlawful gang practices. Another common feature between the two theories is that they are based on key tenets that define their properties. Social structure theory, for example, holds that factors such as subcultural perceptions, lack of marketable competence and knowledge, lack of education, and poverty as some of the leading causes of criminal activity (Hartinger-Saunders, 2011). Social structure theory provides further directives on how it occurs through affiliated theories such as culture conflict, strain, and social disorganization theories. Specifically, social disorganization theory purports that a person’s residential place is more influential than a person’s qualities and characteristics when determining or predicting criminal behaviors and activities (Hartinger-Saunders, 2011). Strain theory implies that particular stressors or strains heighten the probability of engaging in criminal behavior. These strains result in unpleasant emotions such as anger and frustrations.


A common difference between the two theories is that whereas shaming theory focuses on what happens to offenders when they join the society following reincarnation, social structure theory seeks to explain why people enter into criminal behavior and activities. Shaming theory describes how a person who serves a jail term or any other form of punishment for criminal behavior finally becomes part of the society and everyone embraces them without considering their past (Murphy & Nathan, 2007). On the other hand, social structure theory explains how people from low class areas are likely to indulge in criminal behavior and practices (Krieken, 2008). Thus, the shaming theory tend to focus on the outcomes of criminal behavior while social structure theory examines the possible origin of crime. Despite the variations, both theories serve essential functions in their own capacities in explaining criminal behavior. Effective application of each concept may help to view crime in an elevated perspective thus making it easier to find long-lasting remedies to problematic issues. Culture conflict theory implies that a person may indulge in crime because of contradiction of values that emanates when social groups have conflicting perceptions of good behavior. Shame theory, on the other hand, is pegged on cultural deviance, strain, and social disorganization.


It is possible to identify certain strengths in both labelling and social structure theories of crime. The evident strength in the two theories is that they have served as guidelines for learning criminal conduct and behavior for many years, which make them reliable. The other strength in both theories is that it is possible to deduce some practical examples from the key tenets of each framework.


However, both theories of crime also have weaknesses that may impact on their application. An evident limitation is that both structures are only proposals by people but are not based on empirical research findings. The fact that both theories are the proposal of other people means that they do not give full surety. Thus, what the theories of crime suggest may not be the case at all times. For example, it is not usually the case that the society or community will welcome ex-convicts. In some scenarios it is common to witness scenarios where people who finish their jail term find it difficult to fit into the society forcing them to seek interventions particularly from reentry programs and well-wishers. Furthermore, it is also not the case in all instances for people from low class areas to indulge in criminal behavior, thus disregarding certain aspects of the social structure, which asserts that coming from underprivileged areas could lead one to enter into criminal practice. The social structure theory does not seem to acknowledge that people may participate in other forms of crimes such as hacking, which require advanced knowledge and the offender must not necessarily come from a poor background.


The study examines labelling and social structure theories that have significant impact in the field of criminology. Labelling theory asserts that the society welcomes those who commit offenses after undergoing necessary punishment. Once a person goes to jail and transforms, people view them as good and harmless people. Social structure theory, on the other hand, explains how a person may enter into criminal behavior because of their inability to achieve their inability to achieve their social and economic goals.


Hartinger-Saunders, R. (2011). The intersection of social process and social structure theories to address juvenile crime: Toward a collaborative intervention model. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 21(8), 909-925. doi:10.1080/10911359.2011.588533

Krieken, R. (2008). Crime and social theory. In Anthony, T., & Cuneen, C, (Eds.). The critical criminology comparison (pp. 68-79). New York, NY: Hawkins Press.

Murphy, K., & Nathan, H. (2007). Shaming, shame and recidivism: A test of reintegrative shaming theory in the white-collar crime context. British Journal of Criminology, 47(6), 900-917. doi:10.1093/bjc/azm037

United States Department of Justice. (2021). Reentry program. Retrieved November 14, 2021, from

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