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Environmental factors that affect offenders and victims.

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Introduction

Environmental factors that affect offenders and victims include the physical, social, family, community, economic, cultural and political environments in which individuals live. Impoverished physical, social and family environments have long been considered to be primary determinants of the development of criminal behaviour. Living in poverty, isolation from social support and being raised in a violent family are examples of these types of environmental risk factors. A lack of community cohesion in one's neighbourhood, poor economic conditions in society and conflict-ridden cultural and political environments are also potential risk factors for crime - both for offending and victimisation. The rate of unemployment, extent of use of the welfare system and the varying levels of education in society can all influence the prevalence and nature of crime. For example, higher rates of unemployment can have an impact on levels of crime. An important environmental element relates to geographical location. The profile of crime varies across geographical areas at both the macro and micro level. These differences in crime can be linked with regional differences in social, demographic and economic conditions. Understanding the nature of these links is important because it can shed light on how to manage and prevent crime. Robert Park and Ernest Burgess introduced an ecological analysis of crime causation. ...read more.

Middle

They maintain that at times delinquents participate in conventional activities and shun such activity while engaging in criminal acts. Such a theory proposes that delinquents disregard controlling influences of rules and values and use these techniques of neutralisation to weaken the hold society places over them. In other words, these techniques act as defence mechanisms that release the delinquent from the constraints associated with moral order. Howard Becker makes the point that deviance is not a quality inherent in an act but rather society's label or reaction to the act defines it. No action is criminal or deviant in itself, it only becomes so if society defines it as such. Therefore labelling is where certain groups or individuals categorise particular behaviour or individuals. A deviant or deviant act is one that has been labelled as such. This raises the issue of who has the power to impose their norms and values (their definitions of right and wrong) on others. Giddens states that the labels applied express the power structure of society - they tend to applied by the wealthy for the poor, men for women, and ethnic majorities for minorities. The labelling of an individual as a criminal or a deviant tends to reinforce that view on themselves and they act accordingly. ...read more.

Conclusion

There are two schools of thought on how women are viewed: women who commit crimes as poor, benighted creatures who are victims of male oppression; women as being more cunning and craftier than men. The influence of the women's movement in the 1960s changed many attitudes towards female crime. The major focus of their research and criticism involved men's oppression of women. As a result, many laws were introduced and changed to allow for the role of women's victimisation. However, there are different schools of thought amongst feminists today. Some continue to focus on women's oppression and victimisation. However, feminist criminologists like Hilary Allen and Patricia Pearson claim that women's crimes have been medicalised. They claim that women's crimes should be taken as seriously as men's crimes. Defenses given for male and female crime should be equal, if possible and that females should be held responsible for their crimes and punished appropriately. Feminist critiques note that women are usually absent from crime theories, which are normally based on studies conducted by men. These theories have been offered as a generalisation, which, as only one sex is taken into account simply cannot be taken as a sound view. Feminists working within criminology are also keen to expose women's experiences of victimisation in such situations as domestic abuse and in doing so have also exposed the extent of such hidden crimes. ...read more.

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