Criminal Acts and Choice Theories

In society, people always want to point a finger as to who did what and why. For centuries, theorists have come up with ideas to try to identify and explain why people commit crimes. What causes them the break the law, even when they know the repercussions for their actions. Many theories have been brought up, but only a few have surpassed time and are approved by society and law enforcement. These choice theories hypothesize on why how and why people commit crimes, they are also accepted through our society and they affect law enforcement as well as the government.

Criminal Acts and Choice Theory It is very easy, now a days with the media, to glamorize crimes and certain cases that have created a spectacle. Many of these famous criminal cases always question the motive of the crime. With this question, come many answers, some leading to theories as to why this particular person would commit the crime they did. Theories try to give an explanation to a cause and link and explain cause and effect. In Criminology, choice theories attempt to explain the reasons a person decided to engage in certain behaviors that caused they to break the law.

Some of these theories, such as the rationale theory and sociological theories have a great impact on society as well have affected the criminal justice system. According to Frank Schmalleger, “some theories of human behavior help us understand why certain people engage in acts that society defines as criminal or deviant, while others do not” (78). Once a theory is implemented it must be tested, with some of these trial an error tests come results thus either proving the theory or discrediting it due to the results.

Some theories that can be in today’s society and thinking are Classical and Neoclassical theories. Within these theories, the belief is that the offender that committed the crime did so out of his own free will. The offender willingly broke the law while being able to rationale right from wrong. One of these theories is the Rational Choice Theory. Rational Choice Theory, under the Neoclassical Perspective, emerged in the late 70s and early 80s, when the rehabilitative method had not shown promising results (Keel, 2005).

This theory shifted its attention to the act itself of deciding to participate in activities that may be deviant and even criminal. People are engaging in criminal behavior willingly and knowing the consequences, they still go through with these crimes. There is a lack of fear of the repercussions and a lack of deterrence of crime for these people. One theory which is very popular today and has only grown since the span of the media are the sociological theories.

Frank Schmalleger (2009) states that these theories deal with, “the structure of society and its relative degree of organization or disorganization (which) are important factors contributing to the prevalence or criminal behavior” (80). Such social theories include the broken windows thesis, subculture of violence, and the labeling theory. These theories can be seen today and are common debates that cause conflict in today’s society. The Broken window thesis basically states that the physical condition of an area and its structures can lead to higher crimes when the area is impoverished and deteriorating.

It also causes concern for safety within the community. The subculture of violence states that violent actions or violence itself is a commonly accepted form of resolving disputes. Finally, Schmalleger (2009) continues to explain the Labeling Theory by saying that it is, “a social process perspective that sees continued crime as a consequence of the limited opportunities for acceptable behavior that follow from the negative responses of society to those defined as offenders” (100). Media has made many of these social theories become a sort of lifestyle that glamorize violence, crime, and illegal lifestyle.

According to David Kidd-Hewitt and Richard Osborne (1995): “The sociological approach within criminology therefore is concern with revealing the attitudes that the media might generate or reinforce amongst its viewers or readers as a while, for example fear, anxiety, terror, hatred, admiration, prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, bias, racism. It is concerned to demystify the process of media selection and media presentation in order to expose the simplistic view that the media merely reports ‘the facts’, that they merely reflect society as it is. 118). With so much attention portrayed in today’s society to the media, it is easy for society to accept the labeling theory. Media is portrayed in a distorted manner and our society is quick to accept the information it receives. Not only does society accept these theories, but law enforcement is quick to follow the trend. People are also heavily influenced by the media, that glamorization of crime, violence, and illegal lifestyle is a desired trait or need that some people tend to value.

An example of the labeling theory is people who listen to certain music that glorifies certain lifestyles. Because a person listens to this type of music therefore they live or attempt to live this similar lifestyle, thus concluding that this person is deviant and or criminal. Because the rational theory is accepted throughout society and even in our government, it is essential to implement stricter laws that help deter crime or the opportunity for people to commit crimes.

Professor Robert Keel (2005) quotes Larry Siegel (1992) by saying that more strategies should be implemented to help target the gap that convinces people to commit crimes by enacting more neighborhood watch programs, self-defense skills, and deadbolts. He goes on to say that in the legal aspect, societies need more policing, mandatory sentences, “three strikes” law, and enact more of the death penalty depending on the severity of the crime. People are curious as to why people commit crimes, and to this day there is no one single answer as to why they decided to commit a crime.

Whether it be out of their own choice, their sociological construction, or even a biological factor, everyone is different and everyone had a particular motive for their crime or deviant behavior. All in all, due to some of these theories law enforcement is able to better understand certain patterns and the government can be able to enact certain laws to attempt to prevent a continuation of reoccurring crimes and motives used to justify their actions.

The government and law enforcement can work together to bring about more programs that deter crime in impoverished areas that experience high crime rates. The government could also better regulate the media or educate the youth about the subliminal messages that the media sends out. In conclusion, these theories help people better understand criminal behavior and why people do what they do.