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Negatively Labeled

Essay by   •  May 10, 2011  •  Essay  •  535 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,756 Views

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Rey Hernandez

- Did you have a hard time adjusting to society after your incarceration?

- Do you feel that you were at any time treated differently while you were incarcerated? The males treated you differently compared to the female guards?

- What was your upbringing like? Did you have a good family system?

- Were there a lot of programs where you were incarcerated at? If so did you join any of them and did they influence you in any way?

- If you could go back in time to before you committed this crime, and you know what the real consequences of your actions would be; would you still commit the crime?

Labeling Theory, also known as social reaction theory, was brought up by a sociologist named Howard S. Becker who proclaimed that deviance, term used to describe behaviors that are out of the ordinary from cultural norms within our society, is not inherent to an act, but instead is acquired by the tendencies of becoming negatively labeled. The theory was exposed in the 1960's and 1970's when Howard S. Becker was doing a study on formation of marijuana smokers. As Howard S. Becker once written "deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an offender", in other words people put these labels up so that they can define their nature of intent.

In other words people do not start thinking that they should become a criminal but instead are labeled one due to media, appearance, or being out of the ordinary. The theory explains how the label influences their behavior, especially given a negative label in which to promote deviant behavior, and instead conforms to what society has labeled them as. As Siegel explains in his book the labeling process is important because once individuals stigmatized as troublemakers, adolescents begin to reassess their self-image in which they grow into thinking that society wants them to be that label that was given to them early on. Once adolescents have become negatively labeled they are more likely to join other individuals, who are also negatively labeled, whether it is within a gang or a group kids that are involve in criminal acts.

The theory can also give us an idea why people re-offend. For example if someone is put in jail from stealing something, they might think as themselves as a thief and nothing more. That individual is stuck with the notion that he/she is only good at doing that and nothing more because they have been labeled as a thief to society. Being labeled as a deviant is hard to get off due to people looking down on them or a society as a whole in which they have trouble overcoming whether it is finding a job, or getting a loan from a local bank. That is why the theory is supported by research showing that convicted criminals

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