Criminals make a choice of committing crimes for their own reasons. For some people, the commission of crimes is a one-time affair, and later on offenders refrain from the act after realizing their mistakes. Unfortunately, the other people never learn their lessons and end up being serial offenders despite the punishment by the criminal justice system. Because of this, some criminology theorists have tried to explain these two phenomena, using theories. Some of them believe that every criminal before indulging in committing crimes, weighs the negative and positive consequences of the deviant act while the others believe that the behavior is shaped by the environment in which an individual resides. All in all, community has a large stake in fostering ethics within the society to control the crime rate. Thus, this paper will analyze the role of ethics in explaining why people choose to commit crimes under the conflict criminology theory.
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As opposed to the classical criminology theories, the conflict criminology theory is rather contradictory (Akers, 2013). It argues that the genesis of crimes and criminals in the community is the conflicting views and interests between different social classes. In this case, the inception of laws to criminalize some acts does not come as a result of consensus amongst the members of a particular community but as a matter of necessity (Akers, 2013). These conflicts can only be explained from a social or economic point of view, which are the main society drivers. In this scenario, the laws are made to criminalize the acts of the poor people at the comfort of the rich. The individuals who dictate what is right and what is wrong belong to the high class. Therefore, the moral standard in the society is controlled by them (Akers, 2013). Since it is clear that the law in this way operates to secure the interests of the rich, it creates a rift between the high and the low classes making the latter indulge in criminal activities such as stealing in order to acquire materials to protect themselves from the assaults of the high class. Under this theory, it becomes evident that the poor either do not have rights or their rights are simply ignored by the powerful people in the society (Hagan, 2012). Even the rising middle class is in favor of the rich which leaves the poor a frustrated group of people. For this reason, the street crimes committed by the poor are punished severally than the financial crimes committed by the high class which either get a lenient punishment or are ignored (Hagan, 2012). As a result, the critical theory poses several ethical challenges in the society and determines the ways they shape the person’s decision to indulge in crimes.
In brief, ethics means the moral tenets that govern behavior within the society. It determines why people choose to do the right or wrong things. Therefore, ethics tries to explain why some individuals choose to commit crimes despite knowing that the deviant act is wrong, and that it will certainly be punished. There are several ethical theories that may be employed to understand the role of ethics in criminology. They include the utilitarian theory of ethics, the divine command theory, and the virtue ethics.
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Under the utilitarianism theory of ethics, people choose to refrain from committing acts because they have responsibility for ensuring the common happiness of all the people (Annas, 2009). Likewise, the essence of law is to ensure that people within the society co-exist in a manner that makes them happy. However, under this theory some people choose to refrain from committing acts not because they are ethical but because they bring pleasure to the society. One of such examples is the application of the conflict criminology theory where the laws are only made to favor the powerful individuals in the society at the detriment of the poor. Therefore, if the poor choose to abide the rules which protect the interests of the wealthy, it cannot be said that they act purely in the ethical way because the ethical person is one that treats everyone within the society fairly.
Due to this, the poor indulge in committing crimes as a way of rebelling against the unfair rules. They engage in criminal activities to prevent the physical attacks from the wealthy in the society. Thus, the commission of the criminal acts is more utilitarian driven as the laws are created only to favor a particular class of people. Unfortunately, the law as it is in many societies, morality and ethics are measured in accordance with the society conformity with the law. If, for example, the officers enforce the law that only favors the high class, it is considered as morality. As a result, it is thought that it is ethical for a police to kill a poor man, trying to commit a crime, on the street as opposed to a poverty-stricken man, engaging in a ‘crime’. Therefore, the reasons why some people choose to commit crimes in society regarding the conflict theory of criminology is connected with a fact that ethical is determined by the rich and not the poor which creates an unequal society where the poor are oppressed.
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As opposed to the utilitarian theory of ethics, the virtue theory is not concerned with the act outcome but rather the nurturing of the moral traits within an individual. It is less concerned with the common happiness of the great number of people, and the reasons why someone chose to break the law do not arise here.
In addition, in most societies, democracy allows people to elect their representatives who pass the laws on their behalf under the social contract theory. The moral principles are gauged by how an individual respects the law in society here. In its turn, the virtue ethics teaches individuals how to make moral choices as under the conflict criminology theory the poor choose to commit crimes as a choice to live an immoral life without caring about the consequences.
The last theory of ethics is the divine command theory. It suggests that ethics or morality is dictated by the God, thus deriving from the divine attributes. A person’s acts are deemed ethical when they are in line with the Gods Commands. In the context of the conflict criminology, if the law passed by the wealthy does not meet the threshold of Gods commands, it is impossible to yield a moral adherence, and as a result, people have a right to disobey. It is the disobedience of these laws by the poor that then leads to the commission of crimes.
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In conclusion, the conflict criminology theory is dictated and driven by ethics, which explains why people choose to commit crimes. The theory which proposes that crimes occur in the society as a result of the conflicts between the social classes, expose the poor as vulnerable and notorious for committing crimes. The reason why they do this wrongdoing is connected with a fact that the law only favors the rich in the society. While some ethical theories such as utilitarianism and virtue theory advocate the respect of law as a standard of ethics or morality, the divine command theory advocates the disobedience of the law if it is not in line with the God commands. Consequently, the commission of crimes is a rebellion of the rules in order to enact the moral rules that favor everyone in society.