Social and Genetic Factors to
A Philosophical Approach
I pose you a question: why do you think people commit crime? You may think of a number of reasons such as unemployment, low wages and low productivity. Alternatively, you may say a lack of education, that is, lack of training and coaching actuates it. No doubt, these are contributors to crime commission but to think that they are singular is to keep one in dark. This is because people lack the ability to differentiate between right and wrong due to acceptance of wrongful behaviour in a family. A person, who belongs to a family that has association with weapons, and uses them in a casual manner, is much likely to commit crime without guilt. The more a person sees delinquent acts not being criticized by his community, the greater the chance of such actions being repeated. On the other hand, unfavourable circumstances are also a trigger. What would you think if I told you that people today are likely to commit violent and criminal acts due to poor nutrition and environmental factors? For instance, a person whose family is poverty-stricken is likely to commit crime of theft, dacoity, robbery, etc. in order to provide his family with basic necessities of life. He may feel guilty of doing it, but, at the same time, he is powerless.
So, we can say that poverty is closely tied with crime; but does it really cause crime? There are some theories that also point to elements like pressure caused by cultural goals and social structures, as the reasons for criminal behaviour. Meanwhile, there is a continual debate on what is the role of social factors in explaining crime. Sociologists have proposed various theories by examining social and environmental factors that influence individuals to commit crime. They believed that crime is shaped by external factors: their experiences within the neighbourhood, the peer group and the family. So, can we say that their desire for material gain leads to property crimes such as theft, robbery and white-collar crimes? While the wish for lust, revenge and power leads to heinous crimes such as assault, murder and rape because it is difficult to isolate brain activity from social factors as well as the effects of parental relations, impaired education system, betrayal from spouse, and so on. Unfortunately, Lambroso fails to see this fact. He fails to see that the habits are derived from social environment rather than from individual biological conditions.
Primarily, sociologists analyze social phenomena at different levels and from different perspectives. Anomie is one theory of explaining why people commit crime. The French sociologist Emile Durkheim was the first to discuss the concept of anomie in his study ‘Suicide’. Anomie means conflict, confusion or an absence of the norms of a society. This leads to a feeling that one does not belong or connected to others. Hence, this is the reason one lacks purpose, and encourages deviance and crime. For example: a person who belongs to a society which places rich people at higher position while, on the other hand, a poor person must earn money to live a basic and better life because there is no proper structure which usually helps people in deciding what to do and how to do and what is right and what is wrong. By such means, if society does not provide its members with enough opportunities, many will turn to criminal methods to earn a living.
Some other theories in this domain are:
(I) Conflict theory: This theory states that tensions and conflicts arise when resources, status and power are unevenly distributed between groups in society and that these conflicts become the engine for social change. For example, crimes committed by members of wealthier classes, such as politicians or celebrities, often receive less punishment than similar crimes committed by people of lower socioeconomic status.
(ii). Social structure: It suggests that people’s place in the socioeconomic structure influences their chances of becoming a criminal. While, interactionists stress that crime results from our interaction with family members, peers, friends and other people, and from labelling by the criminal justice system.
In summary, we have learned that social factors like poverty, high rate of unemployment and inequality trigger criminal actions such as street crime, tribal traditions and parochial prejudices. We cannot prevent crime unless we address the root causes and factors behind crime; poverty, education, inequality, social factors and mental health, to name a few. Therefore, a criminal acquires his interest and ability to justify his vindictive acts of crime through his association with people, circumstances, resources and power that are unevenly distributed.
The conditions prevailing today in Pakistan affect every individual’s life. Right to life, liberty and security are basic human rights and the state is under obligation to provide those to its citizens. In order to tackle crime, the law must be implemented in letter and spirit to bring peace and safety to the nation. At the same time, it is the duty of every individual to stand up and prevent any violations and breaking of the law. For example:
(a) Parents: The home is the first school for children. Through bonding with their parents, children internalize the moral values that are likely to shape their future conduct and behaviour. Therefore, it is the duty of parents to have a good relationship with them; if you notice anything that concerns you, address the issue right away. You must ensure that your child develops in the healthiest way possible. Try to be your child’s friend so that whenever you feel something suspicious about your child, you can ask him right away comfortably.
(b) Educational institutions: School is considered a central area to prevent crime. Teachers should have important discussions with their students such as about violence, smoking, sex, drugs, drinking and death, to make their student understand that no topic is a taboo. Since Emile Durkheim – a world-famous French sociologist – considers education as a crucial agent of socialization; he was particularly interested in the teaching of morals, i.e. right and wrong, to children. During the process of teaching, teachers must learn the socio-cultural norms themselves. They can supply their student instruments by which they can realize their social goals. Thus, the school is considered a central area to prevent crime.
(c) Policymakers: They should require that each educational institution develops an anti-harassment policy as an aspect of prevention of heinous crime.
(d)Youth: The youth also play an essential role in adapting to, and possibly even reshaping, social norms. The youth’s role in society is to appreciate the works of those who have laboured tirelessly before them. They must participate in all issues of interest to their societies.
(e) Judiciary: They have to expedite the trials so that delay does not defeat justice and they should give sentences as per the sentencing guidelines, if available, so that their personal bias is minimized. In addition, we can say that rights and duties go hand in hand because people often use rights as a justification of their wrong acts which may be antisocial or illegal. Therefore, the difference between a student in a college and a boy in a reform school is, in no sense, organic, but is rather due to the accident of social environment.
On that account, we need responsible citizens to stop crime. On the other hand, economists tend to explain crime rates in terms of probabilities of conviction and arrest. For example, if a crime is unlikely to be solved, or if the punishment is worth the risk, the people will be more willing to try their luck.
Considering the whole of discussion made above, we can say that people commit crimes for a variety of different reasons. Maybe, they would like material gain or they find their life monotonous and need some excitement and adventure.
The writer is a student of LLB (Final Year) at Pakistan College of Law, Lahore.