There aremany different explanations of the causation of criminal behavior from the leftrealists, abolitionists and the new right to certain biological and socialfactors. The left realist approach to crime management is one that is similarto the British Labour Party. They are critical of perspectives that see longerprison sentences as the answer to crime, but they are also against the views ofwho they deem ‘left idealists’ such as Marxists, Neo-Marxists and radicalfeminists. This approach originated in Britain, but more recently has beenadopted and used by criminologists in other countries, such as Australia andCanada. Major supporters of this perspective include Jock Young, John Lea,Roger Matthews and Richard Kingsley.
One of the basic tenants of left realismis that crimes other than white collar crimes are serious and they need to beexplained and dealt with. Jock Young (1994) argues that since World War Twothere has been a significant rise in street crime and according this viewcriminology has undergone an aetiological crisis resulting from the rapidincrease in officially recorded street crime in most democratic, industrialsocieties. (Historylearningsite, 2017) Leaand Young conclude that they can explain this using the concepts of relative deprivationand marginalisation. They argue that crime has its roots in deprivation, butdeprivation itself is not the sole cause i.e.
living standards have risen inthe last 60-70 years so the level of deprivation has fallen, but in the last60-70 years crime has risen. Runciman’s (1966) concept of relative deprivationand crime refers to how someone feels in relation to others, or compared withtheir own expectations. This concept helps to explain the apparent paradox inincreasing crime because although people are better off today, media andadvertising give people false expectations for material possessions whichraises the level of deprivation. We have more but feel like we have less sothere is more pressure to get stuff, which generates more crime. (Lea, Young, 1984) Marginalisation iswhere a group or a concept is treated as insignificant or peripheral, and leftrealists see these people as having no clear goals and no organization torepresent them, for example workers have the goal of wanting better pay and arerepresented by trade unions but unemployed youth are marginalised becausenobody represents them and they have no clear sense goals which results infeelings of resentment and frustration. Having no access to legitimatepolitical means to pursue their goals, frustration can lead to violence. (Revisesociology, 2016)Next is theabolitionist approach, who believe that crime as a concept should be removed,and that with no concept of crime there can be no criminals. It is seen as away of thinking about social control, offering an alternative to the problem ofcrime and the punishment that would result.
They seek to not find the rightpunishment for the crime committed, but seek the right help to the needs forthe victim. According to the World Prison Population list of 2015 the worldprison population has grown by about 20 percent since 2000, which is slightlyabove the estimated 18 percent growth in the worlds general population in thattime. Abolitionists believe that prisons will not educate or improve theindividual, much less reintegrate them because subjecting them to prison wouldonly be feeding the cycle of violence, but they should remain in their comfortarea because removing them from their environment will only contribute to theirun-socialisation. (Mathiesen, 2016) InPortugal in 2001 they took an abolitionist approach and decriminalized the useof all drugs, weed, cocaine, heroin etc. They decided to treat possession anduse of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminalissue so if you are caught it will result in a small fine and maybe referral toa treatment program, not jail time. Among Portuguese adults, there are 3 deathsfrom overdoses for every 1,000,000 citizens compared to 10.2 per million in theNetherlands and 44.6 per million in the UK.
Also, the use of so-called ‘legalhighs’ such as synthetic marijuana and bath salts is lower in Portugal than inany other country where reliable data exists. (Ingraham, 2015) An abolitionist theory is that of ‘redress’, whichwas put forward by Williem de Hann (1990). He suggested ‘redress’ as analternative to crime and punishment and it means to set right, repair, rectifysomething suffered or complained of like a wrong. This meaning carries noimplications of what reaction would be appropriate, so it invites and opendiscussion about how an event should be viewed. It puts forth a claim forprocedure instead of seeking a specific result, redressing a crime opens it upto a rational debate and calls for ‘real dialogue’. Christie (1982) suggestedthat social systems should operate in a way that sees crime as an expression ofconflicting interests, therein opening the way for redress. The idea behindthis is that by allowing for a more complex interpretation of social behaviorthe simplistic view employed in criminal law and reproduced in criminal justicecould be avoided.
Through contextualization, the dichotomized character ofcriminal justice could be replaced with a continuum. People would be forced toconfront the notions of responsibility and guilt rather than reducing them tomanageable proportions using the binary view of criminal justice. (De Haan, 1990)The NewRight approach or right realism is associated with the neoliberal government ofMargaret Thatcher and they reject the ideas put forward by Marxists that crimehas a structural or economic cause such as poverty, but that it is the soleresponsibility of the individual. They do accept that high levels of socialdisorder and low levels of social control are associated to higher levels of crimebut that we need to be tough on criminals to reduce crime. Although they aren’tinterested in the causes of crime, they still have some theories of what causescrime; Rational Choice Theory, Broken Windows Theory and Charles Murrays UnderclassTheory.
The Rational Choice Theory is that crime is a matter of individualchoice, individuals choose to commit crime. If a person rationally decides thatthe risk of committing crime is low or that the punishment will not be severethey are more likely to commit crime, assuming the reward for doing that crimeis high enough. They are rational in that they weigh up the cost and benefitsto decide whether committing a crime is worth it. The Rational Choice Theorypredicts that crime will increase if crime brings higher rewards such asmaterial possessions or higher status relative to working within the rules ofsociety, there is no risk of committing a crime or there is no punishment. Cohenand Felson (1979) developed this theory in their Routine Activities Theory whenthey argued that crime needed three conditions to take place; individuals whoare motivated to offend, opportunity and available targets and the lack ofparents or police who may prevent crime from occurring. (Revisesociology, 2016) The Broken Window Theory is based off JamesWilson and George Kelling’s (1982) article ‘Broken Windows’. It refers to thefact that untended property becomes fair game for criminals or even ordinarypeople who are normally law-abiding. A piece of property is abandoned, weedsgrow, windows are smashed, Adults stop controlling children’s behavior, thesechildren then emboldened become rowdier.
Families move out, unattached adultsmove in, teenagers begin to gather in gangs, they refuse to listen to peopleand fights occur, litter accumulates, people start drinking on the streets, intime and inebriated person is allowed to sleep it off on the street thenpedestrians are accosted by beggars. At this point it is inevitable thatserious crime will flourish and residents knowing that this is happening willadjust their behavior. They will use the streets less often, and when on thestreets will stay away from other people and this will most likely lead todrugs being sold on the corners and prostitutes on the street, then theircustomers get mugged by people who do it purposefully or even violently.Eventually drug dens appear and murders begin to happen and this escalation beingsto make citizens feel that the police can’t do anything, so they don’t callthem. As a result, this neighborhood is left unchecked and becomes a hotbed forviolence and drugs. (Wilson &Kelling, 1982) The last theory is of Charles Murray and the ‘underclass’,in which he argues that the changes in family structure largely contributed toincreased crime rate in the 70’s and 80’s. He contributed this growth in thegrowing underclass or new rabble who are people defined by their deviantbehavior and failure to control their children.
The underclass has increased becauseof welfare dependency , and Murray argues that increasingly generous welfarebenefits since the 60’s have led to more people being dependent on the state.This has led to the decline in marriage and the growth of lone parent families.According to Murray lone mother are ineffective agents of socialization,especially for boys. Absent fathers mean lack of discipline and as a resultyoung male turn to other role models on the street. (Murray, 1996) There have also been studies of biologicalcauses of crime, one being Cesare Lombroso (1876) who conducted research on theItalian prison system. He compared anatomical evidence of prisoners to that of ‘ordinary’Italian citizens. According to Lombroso, criminals possessed certain physical characteristicssuch as long arms and fingers, large noses, abnormal amounts of body hair, thatdistinguished them from the norm.
He argued that criminals were atavists, biologicalthrowbacks to earlier human evolution. He stated that these atavists engaged incriminal activity, including violence because it was natural for them to do so.(Children.gov, 2017) The MAOA geneor warrior gene has also been associated with the causation of crime.
This geneis responsible for controlling serotonin and dopamine which is linked to aggression,so low levels of the MAOA gene mean lower levels of serotonin which means more aggression.Studies performed on extremely violent offenders showed that they all carried alow activity version of this gene. (BBC,2014)