Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Injustice Surrounds Us - A Sociological Look

I really started to read my sociology textbook and find that I quite enjoy it though it is most unsettling.  Right now I am reading about crimes and how deviant behavior, though very subjective and relative, is defined within our society and punished in ways that put up a facade of fairness but often lack much common sense in judgment.  While I understand that it is a tough line to draw between what is a major offense and what is minor, the current definitions are clearly unsatisfactory.

For instance, who is one to say that the crimes of a poor man stealing a pizza any worse than the crimes of a white-collar worker toying with stock prices that cause the decline of companies and the loss of thousands of jobs?  While the pizza stealer was sentenced to 25 years in prison (qtd. in Henslin 160, from Cloud 1998 study "For Better or Worse"), most corporate offenders receive only token fines to pay.  In addition, legislatures further enacted the "three strikes and you're out" law which states if an offender receives three strikes, s/he receives an automatic mandatory sentence.  There were no clauses, however, that limited this judgment to violent crimes.  Instead, unanticipated consequences resulted from what I see as an unjust (in that it really lacks common sense) law: a Tiger Woods impersonator was sentenced to 200 years in prison (Reuters 2001) just to he could go on a $17,000 shopping spree; a thief of nine videotapes received a 50 year sentence with parole (Greenhouse 2003); a 25 year-old was given 55 years in prison for selling small bags of marijuana (Madigan 2004).

Laws are created to protect us, guide us and prevent us from hurting others and yet how can we so unjustly judge one group over another simply due to their social class?  Why does the white-collar fraudulent embezzler pay just a fine that makes no dent on his wallet while the poor man stealing pizza from hunger get a prison sentence?  Recidivism is too high and our laws, practices, and prejudices aren't helping.  Greenland has it right when their goal is to try to integrate offenders back into society in a productive manner.  It is a vicious cycle that these inmates have to endure as most try to do what they can to get by, sadly having to resort to illegitimate means, which then puts them back behind bars and further prevents them from evading their fate because we do little to teach them to earn their way legitimately and discourage them further through discrimination.

Maybe I should get into sociological work...


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