Crime And The Criminal Justice System Essay

Crime And The Criminal Justice System Essay

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Criminality is any act that is deemed criminal by a society. There are two types of crime, mala in se and mala prohibita; the former being crimes that are bad in and of themselves, whereas the latter are crimes that are criminal because they have been prohibited by a society. The social construction orientation is more aligned with the mala prohibita section of criminality (Kraska 162). In the words of criminologist Howard Becker, “social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance,” (162). The media and the criminal justice system play a role in creating the definition of criminality in the social construction orientation.
The criminal justice system has played a large role in the social construction orientation. “Critical criminology contributed to constructionism primarily by analyzing the influence of social class on criminal justice” (Kraska 165). It saw crime and crime control as instruments of class struggle that encourage inequities in wealth and power (165). According to Nicole Rafter, law is largely the creature of the most powerful class or classes, used as a means of social control that has both symbolic and instrumental effects (165). One of the most obvious class influences on constructionism is gender hierarchy. In fact, until the 1970s, rape was exclusively defined “as a crime committed by a man against a woman other than his spouse and against her will” (166). During the 1970s there was a feminist movement to change the law to allow both sexes to seek justice for rape (167).
Social construction is also influenced by the term “criminal justice.” According to Victor Kappeler, “criminal justice invokes powerful images and understandings” (185). This term conjures images of uni...


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... and ideology. These myths encourage the maintaining of the status quo and work to reconcile social contradictions. This need to keep things on an even keel encourages the definition of criminality to remain the same and for social groups to see any out-of-the-ordinary behavior as deviant and potentially dangerous.
Social construction is one of many ways to define criminality. Due to many myths, the public has a view of the criminal justice system that is different from what the system actually does and how it runs. These myths are created to maintain the status quo and keep society from falling into chaos. If the public decided to change how its defined criminality, there would be a lot of changes that would have to be made to change the laws and their enforcement. According to social construction, it is easier to leave things the way they are to keep things simple.

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