People have many ideas and stereotype when they are asked what comes to mind when thinking about offenders. Many people would believe that they come from disadvantaged communities, are working-class young men, unemployed and from ethnic minorities. Disadvantaged communities can be explained as a community which lies below the average of income and above the average of unemployed individuals (Robertson, 2011). It is also important to understand the term 'young'. Young and juvenile were often seen as similar. The 1828 Select Committee on Criminal Commitments and Convictions defined juvenile between the ages of 0 to 17 (King, p.121). Trial procedures for young offenders were only established in the mid-nineteenth century and the minimum age for holding an individual responsible for committing a crime was raised from the age of 8 to 10 in 1964 (Farrington, 1986:191). As we are also looking at 'young' men, many individuals with a large range of differing backgrounds and experiences fall into this description. Gender, class and ethnicity are also factors which will influence this (Kirton, 2009:439). This essay will illustrate arguments for and against the statement of whether it really is only young men from disadvantaged backgrounds who commit crime.
It is mainly believed that young men commit all or most of the crimes (Messerschmidt, 1993:1). Many people directly assume this without looking at the actual statistics. There are two main reasons which help influence many people's beliefs about who commits crime. One of these is the labelling theory.
The labelling theory looks at the way social groups form and handle different explanations for deviant behaviour (http://knowledge.sagepub.com/view/socialtheory/n161.xml). Labelling theorist, Lemert (1967) gave two different types of deviances, primary and secondary, in order to understand criminal actions. Primary deviance are those actions everybody participates in and are not seen as important as it does not affect the person's self-image. For example, in the UK, jay-walking. Secondary deviance are those actions that are more important to the authorities and would clearly affect an individual's self-image such as burglaries. An individual can move from primary to secondary deviance very easily. If society would respond to an individual's primary deviance, i.e. through labelling them, the individual may eventually agree to being labelled as deviant and therefore conform to societies response by carrying out secondary deviation (Messerschmidt, 1993:2).
Another theory is the strain theory. This theory looks at the ambition and desire an individual has to commit a crime. Durkheim, a well-known sociologist, looks at the idea of anomie and described it as a 'state of normlessness' . He believed that anomie occurs when there is rapid social change, for example economic recession, which then leads to unhappiness, deviant behaviour and conflicts (Hale, 2009:367).
Robert Merton (1938) used anomie...