In this paper I will examine the social structure theory, along with its definition and how the different types of theories make up the social structure theory. I will also attempt to discuss the strain, culture conflict, and social disorganization theory all of which make up the social conflict theory. I also wish to discuss the video “Tent City, Arizona” and answer the following questions, “How does the video you selected support a social structure theory? What is the primary subject or content of the video? What social issues are raised in the video? What major principles of sociological theory are addressed in the video? What might be some possible ramifications for social policy change?”
The social structure theory is comprised of statuses (social) inside of the individual structure that are considered the root causes deviation and/or crime; they consist of lack of education, little to no marketable skills and a life of poverty, and an increase in deviant subculture values. Poverty (considered the lowest level or class in our society today) is one of the many reasons people revert to deviant criminal behavior. The poverty class and/or level is comprised of high levels of drug use and addiction, low level of employment, high level of unemployment, crime, and the people with a lack of skills to find continuous and prosperous employment. These types of situations are found in the higher levels of our society but the levels are decreased in number when compared to the poorer class of people.
The serious lack of education in the poverty level seems to be blamed on the plight of students who do not succeed (by choice or otherwise) in our school systems. Some choose to drop out while others get “kicked out” due to continuous failures rather than strive to learn necessary skills required to graduate. The lack of marketable skills seems to derive from students who drop out of school before they have successfully completed the school’s curriculum who then turn to the streets to provide for their families with jobs (menial) that barely put food on the table. This is the same class level (poverty) of society in which a deviant subculture exists consisting of drug usage (sometimes addiction) and sales, and low income housing consisting of single to multiple family homes, and where there are little to no adult males found to guide and direct the children from a life of crime.
The social disorganization theory describes conflict (social), change (social), and the lack of consensus (social), as the main cause of deviance and crime. During the early 1900’s, some communities were looked at enclaves (functional) of larger prospering communities. It was not hard to discern that in the areas where displaced people dwelled crime was higher which led to a status of social disorganization. The inability of the immigrants to successfully instill values from their homeland to their new homes in America added to the social conflict.
The Strain Theory is defined as the strain and/or stress that people feel when trying to reach social goals in any class or level in society. Strain theory is also defined as delinquency in the form of adaptive problem solving behavior in response to undesirable social environments. The goals that are deemed acceptable in a functioning of society are personal happiness (within means), status (elevated), and wealth. These goals should be obtained through saving, hard work, and receiving a good education. When these goals cannot be met in a way acceptable by society (saving, hard work, good education, or inherited) is when crime and deviance increases, leading individuals to feel the strain and attempt to find other ways to be successful. People not equipped with the tools necessary to acquire or reach acceptable goals are the main people that end up possibly leading a life of deviant and/or criminal behavior. The “Tent City, Arizona” video represents the element of criminal behavior which is learned societal interaction.
An explanation of how the video represents the element of criminal behavior which is learned through societal interaction is to follow. People often wonder as to the reasons and motives for why criminals commit crimes. The social process theory provides an explanation for certain behaviors based upon environmental influences. The “Tent City, Arizona” video points to certain criminal behaviors being learned through social interaction. The third ingredient of the social structure theory is the Culture Conflict Theory. This theory is also known as the cultural deviance theory. This can be defined as the “social clash” between the different social groups when looking at what is described as acceptable and proper behavior. Two types of culture conflicts exists; the primary conflict and the secondary conflict.
The primary conflict is regarded as the clash between cultures while the secondary conflict takes place when values of smaller cultures belonging to a larger culture clash. The Sub-cultural Theory is in reference to a smaller group of people within a larger group. The larger group might be the poverty stricken lower class society, and a sub culture to the larger group might be a smaller group such as the gangs (manly delinquent) that plague or cities and streets. Another category of the Cultural Conflict Theory is the “delinquency and drift”. This category describes the whys and how delinquents and or criminals commit law breaking acts and their justification for the apparent lack of guilt for committing those crimes.
In this there are five types of justifications: (1) Denying responsibility, backgrounds as well as upbringings are said to be reasons for committing crime. (2) Denying Injury, criminals believe that the victim can afford it or they (the victim) won’t miss it. (3) Denying victims, is where the belief that because a person is rich they (the victim) should not be thought of as a victim. (4) Condemning the condemner; there are some that believe that society is the blame for their troubles and/or lack life altering goals, so they believe that they are a certain way because “society made me that way”. (5) Appealing to higher loyalties, an example would be because my uncle is a sheriff I should be excused from my criminal activities. In the video “Tent City, Arizona”, the jail is run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a man who believes he runs the toughest jail in America. The inmates are comprised of mixed career criminals and first time offenders who have committed crimes of shoplifting to murder with more offenders arriving every day.
The inmates live in a culture where their allegiance is to their race as well as to each other. The inmate code makes it impossible for any nationality to associate with another from another type or form of nationality or culture, one example would be that the African Americans are not allowed to interact with the other cultures or races in the jail. After viewing the video I realized the jail is packed with people who do not or choose not to conform to the standards set forth by society outside the prison walls. All the inmates believe they have a reason or a purpose for committing the criminal acts they are incarcerated for or they deny committing the crime at all. Some (inmates) are awaiting sentence and some (inmates) will deny doing what they have been accused of and incarcerated for. How does the video you selected support a social structure theory?
The video points out the fact that there are over 10,000 inmates in a structure (jail or prison) that is so overcrowded due to people committing criminal acts that they had to build a tent city to accommodate the massive amount of criminals . This video depicts the vast amount of disillusioned people who think that crime pays. They (disillusioned people) believe that getting ahead through crime is better than attempting to gain willful employment through legitimate means.
What is the primary subject or content of the video? The primary subject of the video was the tent city jail is full of inmates that live life according to the beliefs, acts, and values of their subcultures (within the prison) as well as their own rules due to the fact that they had trouble abiding by the laws set forth by society. These inmates committed or attempted to commit crimes knowing that their acts were against the in a law. Instead of abiding they (inmates) went against society and were apprehended and now are serving time for their transgressions. Are the inmate justified in the commission of their crimes? That is not for me to decide only the courts should judge, which makes the inmates have to await their fate in the “tent city” described as a powder keg by some.
What social issues are raised in the video? The social issues raised in the video are the sheer overcrowded conditions and the almost daily conflict that arises between the inmates and the correctional officers (CO’s) that are paid to keep the inmates them “in line”. Is it a smooth process? More than likely not, the large capacity of inmates along with the conditions in which they are now forced to live (due to the crime committed) cooperate to the fan the flames that make being incarcerated as demeaning and unpleasant as possible. And, with the continuous arrival of offenders on an everyday basis it would seem the tension would rise like the heat in the desert.
What major principles of sociological theory are addressed in the video? The sociological theory in the video is the sheer number of inmates (10,000 men) who reside in an institution with different values, from different nationalities, and who have to live together while seeking not to offend each other. The men (inmates) are from all social backgrounds depicting all walks of life from the middle class, lower poverty stricken class, to the common criminal on the street.
The crimes that led to the incarceration of these men to this could have possibly come from frustration with their place in society such as unemployment, attempting to provide for one’s family, or values (sub-cultural) that are in apparent conflict with the values deemed “the norm” by society. Crime can sometimes be viewed as a last option or a disconnect (social) that the inmate reached while living in society. On the other hand, a lack of self control could be the cause of the inmate reasoning for stepping outside of the law and committing crimes.
What might be some possible ramifications for social policy change? If social policy were to change there could be an increase in population which could cause an explosion (population) with a massive number of people being incarcerated in the tent city leading to overcrowding with thousands of inmates instead of hundreds. The social policy could also go in another direction by placing more inmates on probation and parole (decreasing the incarcerated population to manageable numbers) which could possibly lead to a decrease in conflicts between the correctional officers and inmates. This (decreasing the population through probation or parole) would be like taking a boiling pot off the heat of the stove. Although the inmates and officers would still be at odds (probably) there would be less bouts of violence due to the lessening number of inmates the officer would have to oversee.
In conclusion, we have discussed the social structure theory and the factors that each is comprised of. We have touched on how these theories came about and the people affected by each. This theory gives us a quick peek at the how the crime and criminals became and remained a part of society. We discerned how some inmates have a tendency to blame society for their problems and their reasons for disregarding the rules and laws set forth by society to govern all people. For example, an offender may take the fact that he/she cannot find gainful employment as a reason for robbing a bank. He/she may attempt to use the excuse that “this is how we survive in the projects where I am from,” which is basically an excuse for committing crimes against society instead of continuing to look for a job. Criminals may attempt to do or say anything to keep from obeying the rules/laws and becoming a functioning member of society.
Our discussion is based on the video of the tent city in Maricopa County, Arizona. This is a tent city prison that is overflowing with tension, stress and conflict. Inside the walls of this “city” there are constant fights and struggles to survive all the complications that may arise due the massive number of inmates incarcerated. Inmates struggle in conflict with the correctional officers that run the jail for control as well as the other inmates who are incarcerated in the same dwelling. An officer’s safety is always a concern when coming to work at a place of incarceration that holds as many as this “city”, but they still have a job to do. In this jail, threat of a riot is another aspect that an officer has to worry about to look out for (from the officers as well as the inmates). All is that is needed a wrong word or action to spark a up an ember that can cause a riot within this type of confinement.
The question is not whether or not it will erupt but what will cause this overcrowded, melting pot of criminal activity to erupt in violence.
Courtney from Study Moose
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