Explain the concept of social control and how the criminal justice system deals with crime and deviance

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Explain the concept of social control and how the criminal justice system deals with crime and deviance.

Many theorists study social control in relation to crime and deviance. Some of the prominent theorists include David Getza, Hirschi, and Ross. However surprising it may seem Jones (2004) recognized that it is only recently that social control has been studied in its own right (262). However, the root cause of this is not specific but could be put down to the fact that many regarded social control as a phenomenon with little importance. Academics have their own different definitions in relation to the concept social control. In general terms social control refers to the tactics and procedures carried out in order to help control the behaviours of individuals and groups, in terms of greater sanctions and rewards. Cohen (1985) puts this simply in his explanation of social control as he defines:

‘Social control as a term which as been used to describe all means through which conformity can be achieved from infant socialisation to incarceration’ (Cited in Muncie, 2001; 310).

Some form of social control exists in all societies. The significance of Social control within society has being recognised for many years. Philosophers have identified many needs for social control, one reason being that it assists in the upholding of law and order.

However the means of social control have revolutionized as times have changed. Traditionally social control was managed by the Parliament, Churches, and Kings. However in the present day the most common form of social control is managed by the government in the form of Laws. Social control is managed by two different means, these being informal and formal processes. In order for social control to be effective the structure of the control must be managed by those with authority and control. At present the Criminal Justice System deals with the majority of formal social control. The rest of this paper will endeavour to look at the concept of social control in more detail and go on to explain how the criminal justice system deals with crime and deviance.

Williams (2004) describes social control as ‘the ability of social groups or institutions to make norms or rules effective’ (330). Basically saying that social control is the things that citizens do or have done in order to help preserve or amend ones behaviour. Social control is also frequently perceived as wide-ranging, basically indicating any occurrence which leads to conformity.  Whilst others regard it as a symbol of the procedures which are carried out within society in order to keep law and order. Whichever way it is perceived social control recognises deviant behaviour as infringements upon the law. Social control attempts to prevent or minimize such deviancy via the use of formal and informal processes. The processes implemented can include the use of laws, norms, traditions, and many other methods that aim to control ones behaviour. Such forms of regulated social control assist in the maintenance of society, without these societies would be total anarchy. Muncie (1999) argues that an ‘Absence of social control allows ever present criminal inclinations to be realized’ (154).  

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One of the primary agents for social control is the socialisation process. This process is present from birth and consists of the way in which a child develops. Durkheim considers the socialisation process as influential, he argues that:

‘Human beings are born with the freedom to break law and will only be stopped from doing so either by preventing any opportunities arising… or by controlling their behaviour’ (cited in Williams, 2004; 335).

The socialisation process consists of what one decides to adopt as their particular norms. This can be formed by ones background, upbringing, or ...

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