Crime & Deviance, Social Control,
& Social Justice
The tension identified by Benjamin Franklin more than two centuries ago has not dissipated. All societies must manage the tension between the need to protect citizens from harm and the possibility that social control measures deny basic rights, exacerbate inequalities, and create injustices. Societies impose some combination of formal social control, through creating norms, laws and regulations, and enforcing them-formally and informally. Citizens interpret these controls as just (or unjust) and choose how to respond to them - via conformity, criminality, or collectively to advocate for social change. Sociologists, since Durkheim, have understood that nonconformity may be constructive in fostering social change as well as destructive to the social fabric.
The problem of balancing social control and social justice is central to society and to sociology. Washington State University's sociology faculty's scholarship on crime and deviance, law, social control, and social justice addresses key sociological questions: 1) What are a society's norms and how do these come into being? 2) When and why do people deviate from society's informal and formal norms of behavior? 3) What are the societal reactions and social control measures invoked in response to collective or individual deviations? and 4) Are the mechanisms of social control evenly applied across the social spectrum and are the intended and unintended consequences of social control efforts just and equitable?
Substantive expertise in law, crime and deviance, social control, and social justice maintained by our faculty ranges from microlevel knowledge of how informal norms emerge and what makes them effective to macrolevel insights into the unintended consequences of social policies, war, and other social control efforts as well as how citizens collectively or individually respond to social injustices. Together, our work takes a comprehensive approach to the study of crime and deviance, social control and social justice, by exploring diverse topics, using a range of sociological methods, and disseminating our research to a wide audience. Our aim in systematically studying the formation and alteration of norms, enforcement and its consequences, and inequities in formal and informal social control is to inform debates about social change aiming to remedy illegitimate practices in society's institutions.
Faculty in this area maintain expertise in a broad range of topics related to crime and deviance, social control and social justice.
Clay Mosher’s current research focuses on criminal justice system policies with specific interests in racial profiling and inequality in criminal justice system processing. His most recent book provides a cross-national perspective on the regulation of drug use and the effectiveness of drug policy in the US and abroad.
- Mosher, Clayton, and Scott Akins. 2007. "Drugs and Drug Policy - The Control of Consciousness Alteration". Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
- Mosher, Clayton, Terance D. Miethe, and Dretha Phillips. 2002. "The Mismeasure of Crime". Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Jennifer Schwartz’ work examines how structural characteristics can inhibit community efforts to control crime and how these characteristics function similarly or differently to explain female and male offending patterns. She also is interested in identifying and understanding the sources of disparate effects of crime policy on women.
- Schwartz, Jennifer. ( 2006 ). “Effects of Diverse Forms of Family Structure on Women's and Men's Homicide”. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68: 1292-1313.
- Schwartz, Jennifer. ( 2006 ). “Family Structure as a Source of Female and Male Homicide in the United States”. Homicide Studies, 10(4): 253-278.
- Steffensmeier, Darrell, Jennifer Schwartz, Hua Zhong, and Jeff Ackerman. (2005). “An Assessment of Recent Trends in Girls' Violence Using Diverse Longitudinal Sources: Is The Gender Gap Closing?” Criminology 43(2): 355-406
James F. Short’s long career spans a broad spectrum of research and public service relevant to this area. He has published on such topics as youth and gang violence, ethnic segregation and violence, and the relationship between social control, trust in social institutions, and the distribution of risk. Serving now as Emeritus Professor of Sociology.
- Short, James F. Jr. 2007 “The challenges of gangs in global contexts”. Pp. 319-43 in J. M. Hagedorn, ed., Gangs in the Global City: Alternatives to Traditional Criminology. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
- Short, James F., Jr. and Lorine A. Hughes, eds. 2006. "Studying Youth Gangs". Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.
- Short, James F. Jr. 2001. “Technology, risk analysis, and the challenge of social control". Pp. 213-30 in Henry Pontell and David Schicor, eds., "Contemporary Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice: Essays Honoring Gilbert Geis". Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Christine Horne is primarily concerned with the development and enforcement of social norms. She applies this focus to substantive topics such as international human rights norms and the informal neighborhood social control of crime.
- Horne, Christine. 2009. The Rewards of Punishment. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
- Horne, Christine. 2004. “Collective Benefits, Exchange Interests, and Norm Enforcement”. Social Forces 82(3): 1037-1062.
- Horne, Christine. 2001. “The Enforcement of Norms: Group Cohesion and Meta-Norms”. Social Psychology Quarterly 64(3): 253-266.
Lisa McIntyre has explored how legislation and the actions of the legal system sometimes alter or impinge on informal social norms. Key publications include:
- McIntyre, Lisa. 1987. "The Public Defender: The Practice of Law in the Shadows of Repute". Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
- McIntyre, Lisa. 1994. "Law in the Sociological Enterprise: A Reconstruction". Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
- McIntyre, Lisa. 2006. "The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology, 3nd Edition". New York: McGraw Hill.
Thomas Rotolo has examined the consequences of social and demographic change on community crime rates as well as causes and correlates of substance abuse. His most recent collaborative research in this area involves a longitudinal study of the relationship between population change and the change in crime rates in US cities.
- Rotolo, Thomas and Charles Tittle. 2006. "Population Size, Change, and Crime in American Cities." Journal of Quantitative Criminology 22: 341-367
The faculty members working in the area of crime and deviance, social control, and social justice area are notable for their achievements and high degree of visibility in the field. Faculty have regularly published in top tier general sociology journals such as American Sociological Review, Social Forces, Social Problems, European Sociological Review and Social Science Quarterly as well as specialized area journals including Criminology, Social Psychology Quarterly, Journal of Marriage and Family, Crime and Delinquency, The Prison Journal, Journal of Drug Issues, Mobilization, and Research in Social Movements, Conflict and Change. Our faculty have written a number of books, published by prestigious presses such as University of Chicago Press, University of Illinois Press, University of Toronto Press, Sage Publications, and Rowman and Littlefield. In addition to publishing high quality books and peer reviewed journals, Mosher serves as an Associate Editor for Social Problems, one of the three most influential journals to the field. Scholars studying crime and deviance, social control, and social justice have been supported by competitively awarded federal and foundation grants, from organizations such as the National Institute of Justice and the National Science Foundation. Faculty in the crime and deviance, social control, and social justice cluster have also been awarded prestigious fellowships, such as the Soros Justice Fellowship. In recognition of our achievements, faculty in this area have been asked to serve on grant and journal review boards, governing committees at the local and national level, and study groups funded by foundations and the federal government. Work by sociologists in the crime and deviance, social control, and social justice research cluster has the potential to foster constructive social change, with local and far-reaching societal impacts. Our research, fundamentally concerned with legal and social inequities, informs debates about law and social policy and shapes social movement practices. For example, Mosher's expertise on race and criminal justice issues has led to federal, state, and locally funded studies of racial profiling and his expertise on substance abuse has been utilized by lawmakers and law enforcement via his appointment to the Washington State methamphetamine action study team, the Northwest drug trafficking advisory board, and the Washington State Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse. Horne was invited to present her research on cohesion and social norms to a group of Japanese scholars at Hokkaido University. Hooks has visited communities confronting prison construction to share his research on economic impacts of prison expansion; this work has also been widely cited by the media.
“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”