CJ511 - Nature of Crime

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Course Modules

Assignments are organized in 10 modules. Links to these modules are found below. Each module includes reading assignments and internet links related to the readings. Brief descriptions of each module are found below. We will go through the modules in the order listed.

1 -Why Theory?

In this module we will look and the why and how of theory. We will examine the importance of theory and define major paradigms that are active within criminology. We will also review various methodologies used in our efforts to test and expand theories of crime and deviance.

2 - Social Construction

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it fall, does it make a sound? If you clean the house in the nude, with the shades open, are you a deviant? Should we consider whether you live in the middle of the desert or in a crowded neighborhood? Why is marijuana use illegal? Which is worse - murder or child abuse? 

3 - Deterrence and Opportunity

Is crime the result of a "rational choice" made by the offender? What policy choices can be made if we assume that potential offenders can be deterred from making these choices? What is the relationship of social controls and deterrence? Are some settings more likely to result in crime?

4 - Born to be Bad?

In this module we will look at the contribution of theories that refer to moral, biological, psychological, and intelligence factors.

5 - Psychology and Crime

Are "causes" and "cures" of crime found in psychology? What is the role of IQ? If criminals are not born, perhaps they are made? Is the process of "learning to be a criminal" different from other, more socially valued, learning experiences?

6 -Social Organization

What impact does social structure, especially in times of change, have on criminal behavior? How do normative controls impact deviance and crime? What role do subcultures play? How does a behavior become defined as a crime. Imagine a continuum of disvalued behavior. Place the worst possible crime at one end (Jeffery Dahmer) and place behavior that is weird, odd, or otherwise "deviant" at the other end (Cliff Claven). Do some behaviors exist very close to the line that separates criminal and deviant behavior. Do behaviors move along this continuum due to social, political, demographic, or other factors?

7 - Social Process

How do social factors influence the behavior of individuals? Does society provide people with reasons to commit crime or are these "reasons" just after-the-fact justifications? How is crime "learned?"

8 - Labeling and Conflict

If I tell you that you are a great student, will you work harder? What if I tell you that you are an idiot? What if a 12-year-old is told that he is a "delinquent?" How do these labels alter an individuals sense of self and how does this altered self-image impact behavior? How do "power," gender, status, age, and other factors interact in our system of justice?

9 - Critical Criminology

What relationships are found when we examine the roles of power, privilege, social class, and oppression? Do the powerful use their power to maintain power? If so, what role does the justice system play in this effort? Can crime and criminals be better understood through an open -minded examination of the interaction of power, property, and status? If we wage a "war on crime," who is the enemy?

10 - Deviant or Criminal?

In this module we will examine a range of behaviors that have been defined as "deviant." How was this definition reached? Is drug use automatically criminal, or did it become criminal by definition? Why are we so concerned with sex? Does mental illness exist? How and why are are behaviors defined as "criminal." How do "criminals" behave? Why do we focus on "street" crime rather than "white-collar" crime?



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Page last modified August 2003
Copyright 2003 - Kenneth W. Mentor, J.D., Ph.D.