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Why Peter did it?
What was going on in his mind and his life that might have influenced his actions?
We can look at theories from a psychological perspective and a sociological perspective to try to understand why someone commits a crime.
Taking a “Psychological Approach”, for example, we might consider:
- Peter is simply undisciplined; prison is an appropriate way to instil discipline in Peter. To prevent behaviour like Peters’ society needs more police with greater social control. Punishment should be severe to act as a deterrent to others.
- Peter made a choice to steal some food, and perhaps he gets a 'buzz' by breaking the law. Society needs to protect itself from this type of behaviour, ‘crime can’t pay’. Punishment must be strict, while being consistent. Prison is for punishment not rehabilitation.
- Peter lacks 'socialization' (he doesn’t know how to ‘behave’ properly in society) and education; this needs to be corrected through rehabilitation programmes inside or outside prison. Emphasis should be on educating Peter about right and wrong, only when he is rehabilitated should he be released.
Other theories focus on society, that is to say, they look to the social positions which people occupy. These positions may place conflicting demands on people which they have no legitimate way of meeting. These are from a “Sociological Approach”. For example:
- Peter has been in trouble from an early age and has been 'labelled' as deviant (trouble maker) by society. Peter has internalised this labelling (he himself believes that he is a trouble maker), and believes himself to be 'bad'. The important thing is to try to undo the effect of this labelling, and to deal with the issue outside the criminal system. Putting Peter into prison is not the answer as will re-enforce the notion that Peter is deviant.
- Peter has missed out on the chances that most children in society get, and to be alienated from a society that puts a whole lot of goals (cars, big houses, etc.) beyond his reach. Peter can’t afford the things society espouses as being important, so he steals. What Peter needs is training in employable skills, and a 'leg up' into a job. Punishment is not what’s needed, but education and training.
- Peter is a victim of a 'system', where society needs to exclude failed outsiders in order to define successful insiders. Crime is a meaningful response to a lack of hope. What is needed is social reform and opportunities for Peter to succeed such as education and employment. There is no point in punishing Peter, but to teach him skills that will be useful in seeking employment.
Next: "Who goes to Prison?"