Tag Archives: deviance

The Road From Crime (Film)

We recommend this great documentary, The Road From Crime, about desistance from crime to show in any crim or intro class. The documentary follows Allan Weaver, a Scottish ex-offender turned probation officer as he explores how individuals like himself get caught up in the criminal justice system, and how some are eventually able to leave a life of crime behind. He discovers that “the system” actually leads to more re-offending, because it encourages labeling and stigmatization of ex-offenders.

The film references the research of American criminologists John Laub and Robert J. Sampson and interviews John Laub and Faye Taxman. Overall, it is a compelling and passionate discussion about what offenders need to become ex-offenders.

Make sure to show the one with English subtitles! The accents are hard to understand with American English ears :)

To listen to an interview with two criminologists who worked on the film (and its parent project, Discovering Desistance), please visit our Office Hours section.

Punishing Addiction: Celebrity Edition

Lindsay Lohan

Rebecca Tiger’s culture review “They Tried to Make Her Go to Rehab” (about the reaction to Lindsay Lohan’s struggles with drugs and alcohol) would be useful in any deviancy course or for organizing a discussion on addiction discourses or media/online interaction.

We recommend having the students read the article and then conducting their own review of comments about celebrity addiction that they can find online (like Rebecca Tiger’s review of Perez Hilton’s coverage). Have them bring examples of what they find to class to get a discussion going on how celebrity addiction is portrayed and how these discourses relates to drug policy and rehabilitation for the rest of us.

 

You could also bring up Amy Winehouse, whose recent death reinvigorated the public discussion of the causes, cures, and consequences of addiction.

Turf War

Below is an activity written by Amy Alsup, a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota.  The activity utilizes a clip from The Wire to teach about crime and deviance.

Turf WarThe Wire: Season 2, Episode 8 “Duck & Cover” (10 minutes 13 seconds)

Location: YouTube: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HmPZyrGGdk&feature=related)

Scene Description:

“At the Towers, Bodie organizes his crew to arrive at the disputed corner at 7 a.m., in order to beat their rivals to the spot. They bring guns and bats and when the other dealer finally shows, he threatens Bodie: “You gon’ see me in your sleep.” The other gang leaves, but Bodie knows they’ll be back.”

From: http://www.hbo.com/thewire/episode/season2/episode21.shtml

This scene illustrates a turf war that occurs between two rival gangs in Baltimore.  Members of the Barksdale crew, featured at the beginning of the scene, find rival gang members dealing drugs on the block that they normally occupy.  After a brief confrontation, a gunfight ensues.  A shot is fired through the window of an apartment building, where a mother finds her son dead on his bedroom floor.  Stringer Bell, who is running operations while gang leader Avon Barksdale is in jail, is angered by the carelessness of his crew and orders Bodie to take a time-out.  Bodie and his crew dispose of the guns by dumping them in the water.

This clip could be used to discuss crime, police surveillance, drug wars, gangs and general difficulties and hardships of life in impoverished communities.  The rival gang scene could be shown to introduce the politics of the underground drug economy.  It would provide an excellent introduction to a lecture, discussion or active learning exercise about social conditions which lead to criminal activity and the consequences of crime on the wider community.

Active Learning Exercise Idea:

Begin class with a brief lecture on theories of crime and deviance and social conditions in impoverished communities that lead to criminal activity.  Show the clip and have students break up into small groups to discuss what actions they would take to improve conditions in this community.

Ask students to (1) identify and list five problems in the Baltimore community (ie: drug dealing, gun violence, poverty, dangerous conditions for children, etc).  (2) Discuss 5 ways in which these problems could be prevented.

Then, have the full class congregate once again.  Have one representative from each group write the problematic conditions in the community on the board and then return to their seats.  Go through the list of problematic conditions in the community.  Ask students:

  • Are these personal troubles or sociological issues?  (For students who are unfamiliar with C. Wright Mills, this can be rephrased as: “Are these problems in the community psychological?  social?  local?  global?”)
  • What caused these problematic conditions in the community?  Do you think problems arise due to cultural factors, social inequalities, or individual decisions?  Why?

Then, ask students to identify the solutions they provided.  Challenge students to use theories about crime and deviance to rationalize their choices.

 

‘what is deviance?’ in-class activity

The handout posted here has a great in-class activity designed and used by sociology professor Ann Meier at the University of Minnesota. The activity encourages student to identify and categorize deviant acts (such as breaking a window) or deviant attributes (such as working as a prostitute) using the following scale:

Not deviant at all = 1
Not so deviant = 2
Neutral = 3
Somewhat deviant = 4
Very deviant = 5

Then, students are encouraged to discuss why they chose to label certain acts and attributes the way that they did. This exercise is a great way to get students thinking about sociological concepts of deviance, conformity, social control, folkways and mores, as well as crime… plus it can get them up out of their chairs!