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Restorative Justice: The Effects from Disorganization Theory

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Criminologists seek to understand not only why people commit crimes, but also criminals’ activities that occur more in certain areas. Chicago is an area most commonly used to study, primarily to “highlight the demographic and neighborhoods sources of variation in tolerance of deviance (including violence) and attitudes about the legitimacy of the law” (Sampson & Bartusch, 1998). According to the Uniform Crime report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation of 2017-2018, the population sits at almost three million people, giving a variety of demographics and backgrounds to study. In Chicago in the time frame of January 2017 to o June 2018, there was approximately 27,057 violent crimes, 584 murders, 1,698 rapes, 81,712 property crimes, etc. The list goes on and the numbers are cringing. With more research is could be determined where most of the crimes are located and the background of those who commit these crimes or are victims. There are various reasonings behind why these may occur, but social disorganization theory is often used to examine the cause of crime in an area. 

This paper will first outline the social disorganization theory, including studies that have supported the use of this theory to better understand concentrated crime. Outlined next will be the policy implication of this theory (I.e. what can be done to prevent crimes). Finally, programs that fit into these implications will be examined, including their usefulness. 

Social Disorganization Theory 

Social disorganization theory was created in 1942 by Shaw and McKay of the University of Chicago. Shaw and McKay connected the crime to urban areas of Chicago. At a time of increased industrialization, immigration, and urbanization. The factors were affecting human ecology in the existing neighborhoods, meaning there is no stability in the neighborhoods creating chaos. Human Ecology means the “interrelationships between humans and their economic, social, and political organization” (Marriam-Webster, 2019). 

Shaw and McKay identified a pattern between the inner-city and outer-city residents. In their research, they identified that inner-city residents were prone to more crimes in their neighborhoods than the outer-city residents. Inner city residents live more closely together and have a much bigger population than the outer-city residents. Those who live in the outer-city had more distance between their neighbors and more privacy. In order to find this pattern, Shaw and McKay used the centric zone method created by Ernest Burgess. Ernest Burgess created the method in 1925 to distinguish the expansion of Chicago in nine different zones. Each of the zones specifies the type of environment and those who may live there.

Shaw and McKay identify three structural factors that cause social disorganization in urban areas: “economic status, ethnic heterogeneity, and residential mobility” (Sampson & Bartusch, 1998). Shaw and McKay examined variables such as ethnicity, income, and mobility of crime in an attempt to better understand the causes of crime. Although those three factors are important to social disorganization, there are informal and formal ways of being interactive in communities. The informal interaction in the community would be the residents themselves. The formal interaction in the community is public officials. The lack of interest on both sides of the spectrum place a significant role in trying to repair the environment. There are not enough people that want to put in the amount of effort it takes to run a community smoothly and strongly.

Social disorganization has impacted urban communities in a way that make it difficult for residents to come together and achieve common goals that they may have due to poverty and other negative factors that increase violence. There is a social separation with people of color and whites across different levels such as “economic, social and political resources” (Krivo & Peterson, 2009). Krivo and Peterson have written literature that analyzes the different treatments that these two social groups receive (2009). Social disorganization affects people of color neighborhoods much more detrimental and increases segregation between the two. Analyzing these findings is found to be unjust. Communities are forced to live the lifestyles they do due to the lack of involvements and lack of resources available to them. Segregating communities do no good for anyone. Crime continues, mortality rates stay the same or increase, and the cycles continue in families. Still affecting the way that citizens within communities engage with each other, if at all. Communities are unable to receive important services that could help assist the citizens within to succeed, “such as education, healthcare, housing, etc.” This mostly effects families or persons who are unemployed, single-parent families, and families who need extra assistance from the government to survive. This created the term social disorganization, the last or social interaction with in-need communities creating a disorganized atmosphere and system. Not only does this create a disorganized community, but also a strained and stressful environment. This became a contributing factor for citizens in communities to commit crimes in order to survive.

Solution

Restorative justice programs are an alternative and a punitive way to deter and prevent further crimes. This can vary from middle school programs to diversion to offender-victim mediation. Preventative programs are educational to inform people of what could happen if they commit crimes or begin to have addictions or mentorships to bring more positive influences in youths’ lives. While other programs exist to help those, who have committed petty crimes and deter them without giving harsh punishments. These programs essential focus on three concepts: reconciliation, reparations, and integration. Examples of these programs would as the following: community re-entry, adult restorative programs, and offender-victim mediation. Restorative justice programs are not often used as people do not believe the punitive punishments work. Instead, they seek harsher punishments in the courts to make sure that criminals can pay for their crimes and suffer in the prison systems. Although this may be true for certain individuals this does not mean we should not attempt to save those from anymore wrong doings with this way of deterrence.

So, who do we begin with? Easy, communities begin with children, as they are the future of America. From the age of nine years old is when children may begin to commit crimes, whether this is small petty crimes or more severe. The only a child gets the more severe their crimes may be and the closer they get to being charged as adults rather than a juvenile. There are programs that school systems use in order to educate on the effects of committing crimes or what addiction to drugs and alcohol can lead to. There are also communities’ programs also in use that uses community services and mentorships to help guide the juveniles to more positive influences and actions. The more positive roles and positive results that are seen due to the decreased interest in being involved in criminal activities, the more positive goals a child may have. For the solutions, we will focus on mentorships and victim-offender mediation.

Mentorship

Mentorships are one of the most highly used social intervention (Rhodes & DuBois, 2008). Longitudinal studies have been conducted and states that those who have associated themselves in mentorship programs have essentially had successful outcomes when it comes to education, work, mental health, health, and behavioral issues. According to Rhodes and Dubois, there is recorded to be an estimate of three million youths in mentoring programs (2008). As previously stated, this is highly important for those who do not have positive role models to be interactive with mentorships. It allows less fortunate youths to grow into more than where they may live who they are told they may be. Not only do they have someone that could be and positive figure in their lives but can learn cognitive developmental processes. An example of a mentorship program that has been an ongoing success is Big Brother Big Sister

Big Brother Big Sister

Big brother and big sister (BBBS) are a mentorship program. It is an effective and fast-growing use of a positive way to deter young youths from crimes. In some cases, children from urban areas do not have many positive influences in their life. More commonly, maybe parents to nurture them and shape them into a more successful person. The lack of interaction from family members or close neighbors can affect how youth may continue their lives. If there is no interaction it may seem that nobody cares for the individual. They may feel that they can do as they please, or even worse that they are not good enough or worthy to successful.

The mentorship programs allow qualified volunteers to become a “big brother” or “big sister” to the individual. This gives the youth an opportunity to be surrounded by a person who truly cares for their well-being and willfulness to be successful. It only takes one person to change a person’s life. The BB or BS spends time with the youth to help them with any problem they may come in contact with, they may also help them with their school work. Essentially, the goal is to make sure that youths have adult support and guidance.

Mediation

Although youths are highly important to focus on, so are young adults and up as well. Some people believe that if you commit a crime, you must pay the time. The criminal justice field and many individuals focus on the idea that people can only learn from their mistakes if they are in prison systems. Time is changing and so are the ideologies of how offenders should be punished. “es. Correctional approaches have shown significant progress as they transition from “get tough,” punishment-oriented approach to offender rehabilitation, risk reduction, and evidence-based approaches to controlling crime” (Brzezinska, 2018). Not all punishments given by the courts are suitable for the crime and will be effective. So, more methods are created for the person to take responsibility for their actions.

People are subject to community service, house arrest, probation or parole, but what about the victim? Many people fail to also focus on the fact that in order for a crime to be committed a victim is also involved. To get s better understanding of why offenders commit crimes you must have a basis to why. What has influenced them to make the choices they make. In order to move forward, it would be wise to more personal and discuss these reasons in the mediation. Mediation consists of both the victim and offender as a neutral third party to this reasoning and comes to a form of agreement for restitution. In personal opinions, it would be more productive for an offender to face his actions by facing their victim or those who have had a hand to why they commit the crimes they do.

Victim-Offender Mediation

Victim-offender mediation is an attempt to bring together both the victim and the offender in order to repair the damages that have occurred (Bergseth & Bouffard, 2013). They exist for both juveniles and adults. This is a positive way to get an understanding from both sides of the people involved in the mediation and to agree to how the issue could be prevented and help both parties move forward. Accountability is highly important as offenders only see with victims on a court setting and do not resolve any underlining issues that appear after the crime.

Conclusion

Social disorganization is alive and still affecting urban areas. People hear about the dangers of Chicago and wonder why there is so much violence in an area. Social disorganization is the cause, there may be more cities just like Chicago that seems to struggle due to the lack of social interaction through the informal and formal groups who reside there. Perspectives find different methods in order to restore these communities, but how? There are several different options, but one important type is restorative justice programs. People tend to focus on putting those away for the crimes they commit without listening to the actual reasoning behind their wrongdoings. As there are studies that show putting those in prisons may not be effective. Restorative justice programs are a punitive way to better help restore those who can be helped without prison systems. They also focus on preventative methods in order to reduce crimes and save those from a downhill lifestyle. Not only does this help the offender or potential offender, but this also helps lower recidivism in prison systems. Mentorships and victim-offender mediations are a way to start. They focus on the most important aspects in communities and that is communication.

References

  • Bergseth, K. J., & Bouffard, J. A. (2013). Examining the effectiveness of a restorative justice program for various types of juvenile offenders. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology, 57(9), 1054-1075.
  • Brzezinska, D. (2018). An examination of risk assessments in community supervision sentencing, an evidence-based practice of effective correctional intervention.
  • DuBois, D.L., & Silverthorn, N. (2005). Natural mentoring relationships and adolescent health: Evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 95, 518–524.
  • Grossman, J., & Tierney, J., (1998) Does Mentoring Work? An Impact Study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program Sage Journals, 22(3), pgs. 402-426.
  • Human Ecology. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/human ecology
  • Krivo, L. J., Peterson, R. D., & Kuhl, D. C. (2009). Segregation, racial structure, and neighborhood violent crime. American Journal of Sociology, 114(6), 1765-1802.
  • Kubrin, C. E. (2009). Social disorganization theory: Then, now, and in the future. In Handbook on crime and deviance (pp. 225-236).
  • Menkel-Meadow, C. (2007). Restorative justice: What is it and does it work? The Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 3(1), 161-187.
  • Morris, A., & Maxwell, G. (Eds.). (2001). Restorative justice for juveniles: Conferencing, mediation and circles. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • Offenses Reported to Law Enforcement (Rep.). (n.d.). Retrieved https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/preliminary-report/tables/table-4/state-cuts/table-4-illinois-through-missouri.xls
  • Pan, W., & Bai, H. (2009). A multivariate approach to a meta-analytic review of the effectiveness of the DARE program. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(1), 267-277.
  • Rhodes, J. E., & DuBois, D. L. (2008). Mentoring relationships and programs for youth. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(4), 254-258.
  • Sampson, R. J., & Bartusch, D. J. (1998). Legal cynicism and (subcultural) tolerance of deviance: the neighborhood context of racial difference. Law & Soc’y Rev., 32, 777.
  • Sampson, R., & Groves, W. (1989). Community Structure and Crimes: Testing Social-Disorganization Theory. American Journal of Sociology, 94(4), 774-802
  • Siegel, L. J. (2017). Criminology: The core (6th ed.). Australia: Cengage. 164-168

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