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Structural Strain Theory Essay

If 100 people are released from prison, and 75 of them relapse back into their previous criminal behavior, is the prison system sufficient? (Page 10. No Place For Kids- The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration. ) Based off of Robert Merton’s structural strain theory, Kohlberg’s morality scale, tragedy of the commons, and Walter Mischel’s theory of delayed gratification, it can be proved that the United States Criminal Justice system is flawed.

In the theory of structural strain, there two overall categories: institutionalised means and cultural goals, and five smaller ategories: conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, and rebellion. (Structural Strain Theory, 06-14-16). Structural strain is the pressure of society negatively impacting those who don’t fit into the categories. (Structural Strain Theory, 06-14-16). In the U. S. , there are two main socially acceptable goals; education and work. These resources are not available to many people.

Since in the U. S. citizens need money to purchase necessities such as food and clothes, people have to have a job and education, therefore, people who don’t have access are more prone to commit crimes in an attempt to gain the resources hey need to survive. CITE After being released from prison, a citizen has no job or money which causes them to be more likely to commit a crime. (Understanding Structural Strain Theory) This occurrence is a huge contributor to recidivism. The offender has no resources and they are not provided with anything to help get them on their feet, so in order to survive, they commit crimes.

A way the criminal justice system can prevent this is by ensuring each convicted criminal is provided with their basic needs (ie. food, clothes, shelter, and water) until they can provide for themselves. There are already rehabilitation centers (Reentry Programs For Ex-Offenders, 06-14-16), but they aren’t appropriately accessible and some cost money. By having a mandated, free rehabilitation center, offenders will have what they need and can focus on tasks such as finding a job or a new home.

The thought that if someone commits a crime and is punished and believing it won’t happen again, would be considered level one thinking on Kohlberg’s moral scale. Based on the rate of recidivism in the U. S. from 2000-2008 (65%), this technique of punishment in the U. S. prison system isn’t sufficient. Most people who are ARRESTED have a higher moral level, even if their crime would be considered level one thinking, their overall thinking is higher. (Level 3/4 on the moral scale) “… Most people end up here. (Morality PowerPoint, 06-09-16)

lf they have a moral level of 3 or 4, punishment wouldn’t prevent them from committing another crime after they are released. To prevent criminals from relapsing in illegal behavior they would need to _going back to what I wrote about structural strain and the stages of morality, level 3 thinkers are focused on conformity and social acceptance. To prevent a stage 3 criminal from relapsing, it would be important to teach them the social norms of OUR society. Teaching them with peers that they look up to would also be helpful.

As shown in Asch’s conformity experiment, 37% of the subjects agreed to an incorrect answer in order to conform with the group. (Asch’s Conformity Experiment, 06-16-16). This shows that people would go against what they believe in order to conform with others. This means that when TEACHING criminals the “correct” way to hold themselves, if their peers act in a certain way they are more likely to portray their peer’s behavior. My assumption is the other 60 or so % of the people in Asch’s experiment were level 4 thinkers.

So for this technique to work with level 4 thinkers, it is important the the other people in the group are authority figures, or are respected by the PATIENT. As stated in Mr. Batzel’s PowerPoint on the Stages of Morality, level 4 thinkers find that abiding by laws and authority figures as much as possible is very important. Now, a thought may come to mind, ‘how can someone be a level 4 thinker and have committed a crime? ‘ In actuality, many of the people committing a crime don’t REALLY want to do it, hey are just trying to survive. For example, imagine a young girl the age of 12.

Her father abandoned the family and her mother is struggling to find a way to make money for her three young children. The girl and her mother have both done unnerving things to GET money. The three children are malnourished and famished. The girl finds herself at a nearby 7/11. A hesitant look on her face, she sneaks a CupNoodlesTM and three toothbrushes into her pocket. “Hey! ” The man behind the counter runs over and grabs the girl by her hoodie before she could escape. A few moments later, the girl is huttled away in a police car, tears streaming down her face. The girl didn’t want to steal.

She was trying to fulfill the needs of her family and didn’t have the resources to do so legally. The majority of people in prison come from poverty (mom). CONSIDERING 10 out of 30 total crimes could be considered crimes involving money/poverty, and 8 out of 30 crimes could be considered CAUSED by mental illness, that only leaves 12 out of 30 crimes that were driven by desire. (FBI Table 43, 06-14-16) More than half of people released from prison end up committing crimes after they are RELEASED. Page 10. No Place For Kids- The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration. ) Tragedy of the commons is the misuse of a common resource.

Having that many people return to jail after being RELEASED is an example of tragedy of the commons. It’s not the that prisoners are wasting resources but that the criminal justice system is wasting them. “… An average cost of $66,000 to $88,000 to incarcerate a young person in a juvenile correction facility for 9-12 months. ” If the average recidivism rate for youth is 70-80% with in two or three years, spending $66,000 to $88,000 for 9-12 onths is an example of tragedy of the commons. Spending that much money, just to have the offender return back to jail is a waste of common resources.

The purpose of jail is to prevent crime from reoccurring. If more than half of the prisoners end up returning back to jail, the resources aren’t being used properly. _ % of people who are incarcerated had a life of poverty. A way WE can fix the tragedy of the commons is by providing education in the prisons about non-violent communication and the education needed to earn a job, live efficiently, and abide by the law. Walter Mischel tested if children could delay the gratification of eating a marshmallow in order to be rewarded a second.

On average, those who waited and didn’t eat the marshmallow ended up more being more successful. They scored higher on the S. A. T’s, had less risk of addiction, and are even healthier as adults. (Mischel’s Marshmallows 06-14-16) Providing the education of delayed gratification in both schools and prisons could majorly reduce the amount of recidivism, let alone crime rate in general. If people were taught from their youth that if they wait/work for what they want, their gratification will be uch greater than if they don’t.

Some may disagree, “It’s their fault that they ended up back in jail. They were the one who committed the crime. ” Partly this is true of course, but it is mainly the criminal justice system that is at fault (an exception of course to the mentally ill). If the system provided a rehabilitation center, free of charge, and the survival resources each offender needed, the rate of crime could decrease immensely. Being provided with these things, the offender would have time to pull themselves together and slide back into society.

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