Professor Marshall

LESSON 6: Deviance


Criminology and those who study crime fall under the broader discipline of sociology. Generally speaking, there are several broad areas of study in the field of sociology:

With a specialization in criminology, sociologists usually work in the areas of "Social Disorganization" or "Applied Sociology." Reasons for working in the criminal justice field are varied, and there are many different career paths that can result in very rewarding work:

Careers in the field of criminology are increasing in American society. It might not shock you to know that in America we have the highest incarceration rate than any other country on earth — this is partly due to the high increase in misdemeanor incarceration rates associated with minor crimes and three strikes laws. Nevertheless, this means that if you choose to pursue a career in the field of criminology you essentially have a career for life. Using sociology in a criminology career means that you use sociological theory, tools, and methods to examine crime from a sociological point of view to try to understand it not only as an individual, but also as a social problem.

Sociologist examine crime by also examining the surrounding social, economic, and political issues that help to influence people's behaviors. People who specialize in careers in criminology, and particularly those who specialize in criminology with an emphasis on the sociological perspectives, want to know not only why people commit crime but also how society influences crime to occur. Therefore, for these types of criminologist, the focus is not only on the individual but also on the structural components of society that influence behavior. As a student of sociology you should already be aware that the structural elements that influence behavior are myriad.

As an academic discipline, criminology focuses on the causes and prevention of crime and deviance in society. It also serves to apply appropriate corrections. Along with this general application, a sociologist would also apply theory to try to figure out why a person offends. To do so a sociologist would research all aspects of the social environment that a person — meaning and offender or a victim — comes in contact with. These variables help a sociologist to understand how crimes occur.

Within the field of criminology and all of the careers which that entails a sociological approach has become very influential. While in the past it has been the domain of psychologists to try to figure out what the mental defects of a person may be which are driving their deviant behavior, today most professionals who work with criminals or delinquents understand that while individuals cannot be excused for breaking the law there is also a structural component that needs to be acknowledged. This is where sociology can be a tremendous help to a person who chooses a career in the field.