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Introduction This book, “G-Dog and the Homeboys” a former newspaper writer of Los Angel Times focusing on Greg Boyle a priest who founded the Home Boys in the 1980s, during a time when Los Angel was filled violence, criminal upheaval and riots. The priest had worked with gangs in Los Angels and was to serve six years in jail and he is praised for his tremendous efforts to assist so many people from jail in getting jobs and education.
The Jesuit father ended up being shadowed by Celeste Fremon who is seen as social activist that creates phenomena that enable the readers to see the forces within criminal gangs which impact on the gangsters helping some to come out of the system and also highlighting why some have difficulty coming out of organized crimes. This story captured great attention in the sociological world especially in criminology because her ideas was that before we jump to conclusions that gangsters are monsters, we ought to analyze what goes on within these gangs, that is, the forces within them, public opinion and the condition.
Therefore, the books best gives the society a clear picture of maybe what it had been doing wrong to rehabilitate out of jail criminal and even perhaps what really motivate people to engage in criminal activities and the best ways to tackles criminals. Greg advocates that jobs for gang members are what can best stop their engagement in criminal activities hence his famous motto. The book advocates that the best way to help a gang member quit it becomes very essential to appropriately provide some of their social needs. The book gives.
Six of these needs are given which include: “factors that build resiliency: caring and support, high expectation for success, opportunities for meaningful participation, positive bonds, clear and consistent boundaries, and good life skills” (Fremon & Brokaw, 2004). Literature Review Theories are tentative statements, ideas or facts are supposedly true as they await verification. There are different schools of theories in criminology all of which try to explain various aspects of crime and delinquent behavior in the society.
These include classical theories, the positivist school and Chicago school. Classical theories are based more of free will, that is, people act being aware of the consequences and it is therefore based on legal laws. Examples include those cesare Beccara and Bentham Jeramy. Positivists differ with classical theories in that they attempt to explain criminal and delinquent behavior scientifically. Data collection and deductive reasoning are included in the attempt. Examples of such theories include that of Cesare Lombroso.
The Chicago School on the hand study’s delinquent and criminal behavior in the context of the environment factors having in mind that the society at large also contributes to the existence of criminal and delinquent behavior. For the purpose of this paper, the work of Celeste Fremon can be analyzed using either of the above school although some may seem more appropriate. The Strain theory forwarded by Robert K. Merton, in as much as it received different levels of criticism seem to capture the picture postulated by Celeste Fremon in her explanation of crime and criminal reformation.
Merton K Robert was in Philadelphia in the year 1910. He lectured in Harvard as a professor in sociology department. He was a student of Tulcott Persons. He received many accolades the most notable ones including being elected as the only ferigner in Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and also the national academy of Sciences, national philosophical society (Adler, 1985). Merton his theory seemed to have borrowed from the concept of anomie in Durkheim’s theory. He argues that behavior in the society is dependant on the social structure of the community in question.
This theory postulates that every society sets certain goals and aspiration all of which its member strive to achieve, or conform to for purposes of prestige, social satisfaction, recognition and a times even for survival among other things. For example, in many countries, it becomes paramount to reach a certain level of education in order to be employed. Mostly college education is mostly over emphasizing of making every individual in the society strive towards such levels (Featherstone, Richard and Mathieu Deflem 2003).
In certain instance, being uneducated may translate to a life of public ridicule and rejection thereby creating despair to many of the societal members that for one reason or another are unable to achieve the various set standards of education. Education plus many other societal set of standards of living especially in a capitalistic set-up are expected to be achieved by all members of the society. According to Merton, the problems of crime and delinquent behavior come up in situations whereby all members are expected to live in a certain way but not all are given equal opportunities to achieve those standards.
The prescribed goals also require a follow up of set pathways that are legal while others are made illegitimate and if this pathways are unrealistic to many, some compromise them according to their abilities. Like in the case of Education, it happens that many members in that society may not even afford the basic form education. In other instance the expected levels are too high like in India that happens to have a saturation of graduates, the expected educational levels are too high.
Therefore, people strain too much to afford even the most basic standard of living translating to a descent meal, descent clothes and descent houses. Such social situations amongst other things always tend to lead some to create short-cuts to the top. Not all these short-cuts are legitimate, some may find an escape route to social problem through joining organized crimes such as drug cartels as means to obtain quick riches. The society therefore contributes to making criminals out of people especially when such standards are unrealistic.
This is the situation in most African nations where people from traditional culture are forced to penetrate through rigid bureaucratic cultures without a penny for a start-off and making many of these who may have migrated to urban areas in search for jobs to killer criminal in search for just little money for food. That can explain why many criminal especially pick-pockets go to the extreme ends of murder and only manages to pick meager items such as phones, a few dollars from their victims.
Criminals therefore, according to Celeste Fremon, undergo certain transformational aspects that shape their behavior which according to Merton come about from the pressure within the society being to the individual. An analysis and study of such forces becomes paramount if at all one is to understand crimes and delinquent activities in the society. To transform a criminal would require such an understanding in order to provide alternative or substitute activities to satisfy their ego or material needs.
Unlike Lombroso’s concept of born criminal or people naturally attached to crime, there exist a big group of criminal that hate their occupation but for want of a breakthrough persist in delinquent and criminal activities until they achieve certain expectation levels. Merton theory does not mostly focus on criminal activities in the society but rather on the strong values or expectation that held by the society. He proceeds to highlight how different people in the society react or embrace these standards.
He gives the first group who are the conformists. This consists of people whose attitudes and behavior show that they both accept the means and the goals set by his society. There acceptance comes due to various reasons. It could be that they don’t have other ways, believe that’s the direction the society should follow, are law abiding citizens and therefore obey the law irrespective they achieve there goals or not. The second group is the innovators who accept the goal but because of their reasons devise other ways of achieving the goals.
For example, they accept people aught to have money to own things but they devise other ways of getting that money e. g. stealing or creating fake currencies as away contrary to set societal standards (Washington, 2000). The ritualizes are the third group, and this group accept that the society means of achieving those goals are okay but somewhere may after realizing that they are not able to achieve them, they abandoned them all together and many may result to just being law-abiding citizens living a normal life.
The forth is a special group that both rejects the goals set and the means set and are mostly just “ there” ling indifferently as if they these goals and the means do not exist or don’t matter anymore. This group is called the retreatists and a huge number of drug addicts, alcoholics, mad people, morons and even some physically handicapped belong here. This group many a times transform to a group of rebels which is the last group. These reject both the goals and the means but proceed to devise their own different goals and heir own means.
Suicide bombers best fit here since the reject the goals and devise their own goals and means of achieving them, which is suicide. This theory especially dominated the field of criminology especially in the 1960s but has so far faced tremendous criticism to an extend that it was at one time put off. In the year1992, Agnes Robert pioneered the general strain theory which unlike that of Merton’s theory stresses on personal relationships such that poor relationship between an individual and the society can propel them to engage into criminal activities.
A good example is case of a law abiding citizen who finds his wife with another man in his own house (Washington, 2000). Such extreme cases of anger have been known to result to up in murder even by individuals who would never been thought could engage in such acts. So Agnes explains crime and deviance shifting from forces within the social structure to poor relationship of individuals within the society.
In which case people become poor managers of the strenuous experiences either psychological, emotional or physical characterizing their lives. Merton’s however paved way for many other theories and research projects. Some claim that his theories have been unfairly discredited which he is much to blame for this especially due to his inconsistency and not clearly explaining some of his terms. It is also argued that he did not finish his writings and also fails to clearly distinguish his theory of anomie and strain theory (Merton’s, 1995).
I have chosen this theory particularly because unlike so many theories in criminology, Merton is able to capture and give a logical explanation as why some people reject the specified means of achieving the goals set in the society that drive men towards their destinies and yet still stick to the goals. He offers a simple straight forward explanation that clearly lays the foundation for grasping the roots, the means and the expected results of people attitudes towards goals and standards set in the society.
In the world today Merton capture the actual scenario in most countries explaining much of the increasing riots and upheavals characterizing many nations today. His theory also captures the areas of uniformity within the society that usually lead to escalation of organized crimes which are areas that must be addressed to be able to correctly reform and rehabilitate jail birds and stop the young from gang membership. In short, his views coincides with the ideas that Greg Boyle stressed of getting to understand the mind of the criminal first and what makes him so, before judging him ( Cummins, 2007).
References Fremon, C. & Brokaw, T. (2004). G-Dog and the Homeboys: Father Greg Boyle and the Gangs of East Los Angeles. East Los Angeles: University of New Mexico Press. Cummins, G. (2007). Theory Application Paper, COM 4480: Seminar in Communication Theory. Westport, CT: Greenwood. Merton’s, K. (1995). “Dream Machine” Social Structure and Anomie. Danbury, CT: Grolier. Adler, M. (1985). Ten philosophical mistakes. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. Washington, D. C. (2000). We are grateful to Michael Leiber, Sanjay Marwah, and Caryl Lynn Segal for helpful comments. New York: Pocket Books.