Chapter summary imageDiscussing a link between race and crime is controversial due to the long history of racism in the U.S.

What is Crime?

a violation of norms that have been written into law.

Why Does Crime Exist?


people are social and are not prone to act criminally unless some biological, psychological, or social factor is involved.


people make rational choices to commit crimes based on pleasure/pain calculations.

How do we Deal with Crime?

through a three-part criminal justice system: police, courts, and corrections.



  • crime is a response to some social factor
  • Durkheim’s three functions of crime and deviance: they mark the boundaries of morality, promote social solidarity, and bring about needed change
  • theory of anomie: social instability caused by a wearing away of standards and ethics
  • Merton: crime results because the pursuit of the American dream is blocked for some people•capitalism teaches people to be selfish and competitive, resulting in inequality

Conflict Theory

  • capitalism teaches people to be selfish and competitive, resulting in inequality
  • the wealthy create the laws that punish the poor, while many illegal acts committed by the wealthy are often not considered crimes
  • “the rich get rich, the poor get prison”

Symbolic Interactionism

  • labeling theory
  • people react to how others view them
  • people learn criminality through social interactions

Key Terms


is the violation of norms that a society agrees upon.


is the violation of norms that have been written into law.


is the scientific study of crime, deviance, and social policies that the criminal justice system applies.

Street Crime

refers to many different types of criminal acts, such as burglary, rape, and assault.

Uniform Crime Reports (UCRs)

are official police statistics of reported crimes gathered from police reports and paperwork.

National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)

is the measurement of crime victimization based on contact with a representative sample of over 70,000 households in the United crime indexis made up of eight offenses used to measure crime: homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

Consensus Model of Law

suggests that laws arise because people see a behavior they do not like, and they agree to make it illegal.

Conflict Model of Law

proposes that powerful people write laws to protect their own interests while punishing the actions of those they wish to control.


is a deliberate effort to attach a negative meaning to a behavior.

Stigmatized Shame

is a permanent label given to an offender, which could actually increase the chances of reoffending because the guilty person is forever labeled.

Reintegrative Shaming

is an effort to bring an offender back into the community after punishment.


is a measure that prevents a per- son from doing something because of fear of the consequences.

General Deterrence

is a measure that ensures individuals will not commit a crime because they see the negative consequences applied to others, and they fear experiencing these consequences.

Specific Deterrence

is a measure that changes the attitude of individuals, who have already violated the law and have been punished, by causing them never to commit crime again.


is the tendency for inmates released from prison to return to prison.

Differential Association Theory

emphasizes that criminal and deviant behavior is learned.

Containment Theory

argues that criminals cannot resist the temptations that surround them.


is the social bond that refers to our relationship to others.


is the social bond that refers to our dedication to live a socially accept ablelife.


is the social bond that refers to the level of activity in conventional things.


is the social bond that refers to a person’s conviction of truth.

Primary Deviance

is the initial deviant act itself.

Secondary Deviance

refers to the psychological reorientation that occurs when the system catches a person and labels him or her as a deviant.discretionis the ability to make decisions.

Plea Bargain

is an out-of-court agreement between the prosecutor and the defense attorney to some concession, usually a reduced sentence.

Mandatory Minimums

are fixed sentences for specific crimes.


1. How are police shows different than real-life police work?

2. Do the poor commit more crimes than other members of society?

3. Why is it difficult to make international comparisons about crime statistics?

4. Why are only certain things illegal?

5. What is wrong with the U.S. prison system?

Where to Start Your Research Paper