Labeling theory: people become criminals when significant members of society label them as such and they accept those labels as a personal identity.
· Whether good or bad, people are controlled by the reactions of others.
· Throughout their lives people are given a variety of symbolic labels in their interactions with others. These labels imply a variety of behaviors and attitudes; labels thus help define not just one trait but the whole person.
· If a devalued status is conferred by a significant other, the negative label may cause permanent harm to the target. Being perceived as a social deviant may affect their treatment at home, at work, at school and in the other social situations.
· Labeled persons may find themselves turning to others similarly stigmatized for support and companionship.
· Stigmatization is an interactive process, labeling theorists blame criminal justice agencies, originally designed for its control, for actually helping to maintain and amplify criminal behavior.
· Crimes, such as murder, rape, and assault, are only bad or evil because people label them as such. For example, a killing may be a murder, an execution, an accident, self-defense, or a legitimate act in war.
· Law is differentially applied, benefiting those who hold economic and social power and penalizing the powerless.
· The content of the law reflects power relationships in society.
· The law is differentially constructed and applied. It favors the powerful members of society who direct its content and penalizes people whose actions represent a threat to those in control.
· Labeling theory is not concerned with why people originally engage in act that result in their being labeled. Its concern is with criminal career formation and not the origin of criminal acts.
· A person is deviant primarily because of the social distance between the labeler and the labeled.
· Two effects of labeling:
o The creation of a stigma
§ A public record of the deviant act caused the denounced person to be ritually separated from a place in the legitimate order of society through successful degradation ceremonies.
o The effect on self-image: stigmatized offenders may begin to reevaluate their own identities around the label.
o Primary deviance: crimes that have little influence on the actor and can quickly be forgotten.
o Secondary deviance: when a deviant comes to the attention of significant others or social control agencies who apply a negative label. The person then reorganizes his or her own behavior and personality around the consequences of the deviant act.
o Secondary deviance involves re-socialization into a deviant role. The labeled person is transformed into one who employs his behavior or a role based upon the label as a means of defense, attack or adjustment.
o Secondary deviance produces a deviance amplification effect. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy.