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Aspects of Culture in Criminal Justice

Criminal justice professionals should take into account race, class and national origin of defendants and victims. Various national factors are recognized by criminologists as contributing to and prompting the decision to commit a crime. Some suggest that the choice is influenced by the behavior, opinions, and attitudes of people who are important to the individual. If a person’s family or friends are criminal, it is more likely that a criminal lifestyle will be chosen, while a person not exposed to such behavioral patterns will be much less likely to choose such a lifestyle. Other experts argue that the lack of legitimate opportunities may increase a person’s chances of engaging in criminal behavior (Davies et al 1998). Factors related to the individual’s socialization and environmental circumstances are also thought to contribute to the decision. In each case the offender is perceived as having choice; alternatives may be limited, and in some cases a decision to commit a crime may be the easier decision to make, but almost never are life’s decisions cast for an individual so that no choice can be exercised.

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For instance, national differences of victims will influence perception of crime and its significance. Some nationalities (Chinese, Indonesians) may exaggerate mental and psychological impact, or add untrustworthy details to their narration. Criminologists know of people who grew up in environments–impoverished settings where family and friends often engage in criminal acts and there are few opportunities to overcome this heritage-yet they became productive and respected members of the community. Wantonness of Russian or Turkish origin may escape important details or overestimate significance of minor details. Criminologists know people raised in good homes by caring parents and offered innumerable opportunities who pursue an immoral and lawless existence. Even within the same family, the presence of one “good” child and one “bad” child is sometimes observed (Fagin 2006).

Forensic behavior analyst should pay a special attention to environment, religious values and traditions of Asian American/Pacific Islanders, American Muslims. The United States is an achievement-oriented nation that expects its citizens to act purposefully and productively. To do otherwise is considered impulsive, irresponsible, and sometimes evidence that the person is no longer in control. In this “land of opportunity,” people are supposed to be able to accomplish what they want if they work hard and long enough. Crime is a way of fulfilling the American dream, but one that fails to consider the rights of other people. Criminals are people who purposefully set their own needs and desires above those of others and willfully exploit other people to get what they want (Hudson, 2003). People must believe that if they persist in exploiting others they will be punished. If anything interferes with the induction of this threat, potential offenders will think that they can get away with crime. This is one reason people are so disturbed when a criminal escapes punishment because of the exclusionary rule (Fagin, 2006).

For instance, inability of forensic behavior analyst to understand and predict behavior patterns of American/Pacific Islanders, American Muslims may lead to wrong conclusions and false results based on primary data analysis and evaluation. For many nationalities, compliance may be achieved by the threat of sanction so long as the threat is real, but that requires constant surveillance and enforcement. As endorsement declines and deviance becomes more widespread, it becomes more and more difficult, and then impossible, to maintain the effectiveness and meaningfulness of the threat (Fagin, 2006).

References

Davies, H., Croall, H. and Tyrer, J. (1998). Criminal Justice, 2nd edn, Harlow: Longman.

Fagin, J. A. (2006). Criminal Justice. Allyn & Bacon; 2 edition.

Hudson, B. (2003). Understanding Justice: An Introduction to Ideas, Perspectives and Controversies in Modern Penal Theory, 2nd edn, Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

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