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Social Reaction-Labeling Perspective

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The development of the theory of Social Reaction-Labeling perspective was an important milestone in criminology. This theory became instrumental in integrating the view of sociology in the context of criminology. According to Agnew, 2014: 253, “labeling theory proposes that we focus our attention not on the behavior of offenders but on the behavior of those who label, react to, and otherwise seek to control offenders”. Better still, theory argues that it is these factors at societal control that ultimately trigger the processes that trap individuals in criminal career. It is very significant to note that this societal reaction thus has ironic and unanticipated effects and also creates the very thing it is intended to stop-criminal behavior.

However, a friend of mine Ani suffered the consequences of societal labeling of homosexuality as a criminal behavior and this eventually cost his precious life. In the words of Tannenbaum, my friend had passed through the process of making a criminal –“ the process is a process of tagging , identifying , segregating , describing , emphasizing , making conscious and self-conscious; it becomes a way of stimulating , suggesting , emphasizing , and evoking the very traits that are complained of” Like any other homosexuals in society where is almost conventional norms or sometime legally recognized as criminal offense, she had been affected in four stages identified by Cronin, 2015 and Tannenbaum as well as Lemert. (Cronin, 2014)

In the first place, she had experienced circumstances around her which indicated her primary conceptualization of crime. Lamert posited that the primary deviations occur for a wide range of reasons; some individual and others are situational. These deviations are seen by individuals as peripheral to their identity and to the conventional social roles they typically perform on a daily basis. For example , Ani was masculine built and she competed in very sporting activities with men and she always showed her prowler and agility as well as strength in tag of war , wrestling ,grappling and brawling with men and constantly vocal with her stand. She was eventually nick-named “ugly man-woman”, ‘homo’, ‘tag of war’ and she aggressively responded and bullied anyone who called her by these derogatory names-labeling. Therefore, it came to a time where she no longer dissociates herself from her deviations and in bullying others .She rather organized herself and her identity around the facts of deviance. (Cronin, 2015, Agnew, et al, 2014)

Also, the societal reaction to crime cannot be underrated in social construction of crime. For example; Matsueda argued that the person’s identity or self-conception is shaped by the messages other people deliver as to “who the person is.” Although, the process is not rigidly deterministic –identities can be resisted or can be manipulated. The societal perception of crime is reflected in the constant appraisals of others and also the delinquent behavior is determined by her own behaviors as well which make people to call her names.

Furthermore, the stage in her development was her role engulfment and master status as a homosexual in a society that perceived it as a crime. As asserted by Cronin, 2014 that, labels affect a person’s behavior because a label becomes a new “master status” for that person. In simple terms the person begins to adopt the label as part her identity. He would call me on occasions that both the parents, other peers , neighbors and teachers are castigating her and saying, “it is what it is” , I am ugly already and I was not meant to be nice because nobody is nice to me even my parents”. Therefore, the adoption of these labels then paves the way for her behavioral changes that seek to live up to or meet the new identity. Ani has several records on files for fighting peers both in school and in her neighborhood.

Finally, her behaviors fit the labeling and her self-image. For example, Ani had several accusations from her colleague females of sexual harassments and finally she was dropped out of the “Boarding House”-(Students are kept in schools until vacation or summer break). The parents came and complained about her aggressiveness and she was dropped from the school and eventually imprisoned for assaulting a female neighbor for 15 years with hard labor.(Cronin, 2014). Therefore, the central argument here is that label influences behavior, because people behave in ways that reflect how they think others see them. For example, “if you see me as ‘thug’, then that’s what I am and that’s what I’ll give you”. (See Cronin, 2015)

Another area of this discussion is whether this punishment has some quality to correct the societal perception of crime in this neighborhood. I will emphatically say NO because the punishment still focuses on the victims

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