Working with the Criminal Offender: Criminal Justice Theories

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• Theories of Criminal Behavior An Overview Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes Executive Director, AllCEUs.com
• 2. Psychological Theories (?) of Crime  Cognitive theory suggests that an individual’s perception and how it is manifested (Jacoby, 2004) affect his or her potential to commit crime.  Good or Bad Attributions of Self and Society  Stable or changeable  Internal or external  Global or specific  Definitions: Firmly held concepts that may make a behavior or outcome rewarding or punishing
• 4. Psychological Theories of Crime  Neurotransmitters  Norepinephrine, which is associated with the body’s fight-or-flight response  Dopamine, which plays a role in thinking and learning, motivation, sleep, attention, and feelings of pleasure and reward  Serotonin, which impacts many functions, such as sleep, sex drive, anger, aggression, appetite, and metabolism
• 5. Critical Theory  The elite of the society, decide laws and the definition of crime  Those who commit crimes disagree with the laws that were created to keep control of them.  Crime is a product of oppression of workers and less advantaged groups within society, i.e. lower socioeconomic status, sexism and racism.
• 6. Conflict Theory  Crime results from the conflicts among the different social classes  Laws arise from necessity as a result of conflict, rather than a general consensus. (Drug laws)  The fundamental causes of crime are the social and economic forces operating within society. • 7. Conflict Theory  Focus is on separating the powerful from the have-nots protecting themselves from crime.  In the process, the legal rights of the poor are ignored.  The middle class are also co-opted, siding with the elites rather the poor, thinking they might themselves rise to the top by supporting the status quo. 
• 8. Deterrence and Rational Choice Theory  Behavior, is NOT determined by biological, psychological, or environmental factors acting on the person, compelling him or her to commit crimes (Cornish & Clarke, 1986; Kubrin et al., 2009). 
• 9. Labeling Theory  Labeling is an intrinsic feature of all human interaction.  A complete picture of crime or deviance can be attained by examining • Offenders and their characteristics • Societal reactions to incidents of rule-breaking 
• 12. Self-Control Theory  At the heart of criminal events and criminals was one stable construct: low self-control.  Self-control is “the tendency of people to avoid criminal acts whatever the circumstances in which they find themselves” Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990)  Low self-control is a lack of that tendency. …
• 21. Summary  Reducing relapse/recidivism requires both the clinician and the client to understand the benefits and drawbacks to prosocial and criminal behavior.  Some of these “benefits” may come in the form of achieving firmly held beliefs and definitions about concepts such as “success,” “loyalty,” and “being a man”  Most theories of criminal behavior boil down making the more rewarding choice.  Part of reducing recidivism means making the criminal behaviors less rewarding to the person Part of the rehabilitation process may involve …

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