McAfee SECURE sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams

Groups in society are policed differently. Discuss your answer in relation to class, race or gender

Civil society operates smoothly because most of its members retain respect of the rule of law. Law is to protect the individuals within a society from wrongdoing by others, providing a legal framework from which punishment may be meted out should the laws of a society be broken. In a system which promotes the equality between its individual citizens, all should expect to be subject to the same laws and also to receive the same punishment should it be deserved. However, it often seems that there are discrepancies in the way 'criminals' from different classes are policed when laws are broken. A member from a higher class can expect far different treatment than a citizen from a lower societal class. This essay will discuss how groups in society are policed differently in relation to the policing of different classes.

As evidence of the differences in policing between the classes, crime has even been separated into different categories in everyday vernacular.  You have standard crime, committed by ordinary people, and then you have 'white collar' crime, committed by the upper class, and those with enough education to have a career which enables to stay clean enough to wear a white collar. The punishments for non-violent, white collar crime are generally less severe in terms of sentence time and conditions of detention, even though these crimes often affect greater quantities of victims in more permanent ways. Standard criminal activity faces longer sentences in harsher conditions, although often those from higher classes see leniency in this type of criminal activity as well.
"Except for the most serious crimes, it was found that the proportions of street crimes committed by middle-class and lower-class youths are similar (Currie, 1985; Elliott and Huizinger, 1983). The biggest differences are in how they are policed, charged and how punishments are meted out between members of different classes. It was further found that the lower-class offender is more likely to be arrested, charged, and convicted by the criminal justice system (Liska and Chamin, 1984; Sampson, 1986)." (Henry and Lanier, 1998, p. 33). It would often appear that that the seriousness of a crime is not important in determining the strength of a punishment, but more important is the neighborhood where you lived, or the school which you attended. Also, the poorer a neighborhood is, the larger the police force for monitoring the behavior of its residents. Studies have found that "the number of police (per population) hired by a community is related to the level of inequality in the community, not simply the rate of poverty in the community, (Kerbo, 2003 p. 250).

It is easy to see that the higher an individual's standing within the social class system, the easier the policing and criminal justice system favours them. They are not considered to be as threatening to society, even though they are just as human as the classes beneath them. When labeling the different classes with different 'risk levels' and their need to be policed, Giddens says that "the politics in class society is concerned not with risk, but with the attainment and retention of social wealth (Taylor, 1999: 207)," (in Carrabine, et al. 2004, p. 104). If the social status of the upper classes can be maintained, then the policing system is working. The activities of the working-classes are likely to be viewed as in need of social control, thus the need for a police system. In fact, "Sidney Harring wryly notes: "The criminologist's definition of 'public order crimes' comes perilously close to the historian's description of 'working-class leisure-time activity, '" (Williams, 2003, p. 16). If you are of the lower class, your activities are already deemed as being against social order even without a crime ever being committed. There is no applying the idea of 'innocent until proven guilty', guilt is automatically assigned by virtue of birth.

In a modern civilized society, it would be expected that each member of a civilization could expect to receive the same treatment by its formal institutions. But it is clear from the evidence and attitudes that there is great differentiation and disparity among treatment of the different classes in regards to how they are policed. Perhaps time and the trend towards greater social mobility will eventually help to eliminate this conditions, but until then should you find yourself in the wrong class through the unfortunate circumstance of birth, make sure you are able to maintain inculpability in the eyes of the law.

Related Links
To Top