Edwin Sutherland's Differential Association Theory Term Paper

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Warlords have apparently been in the process of financing their various struggles against the Western States in two different contexts. One is that which occurs in the several drug producing countries of the world, that is, those that come under the so called 'Golden Triangle', and the struggles that occur in the various different drug trafficking routes, like for example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, where there has been a complete erosion and fall of the central and the state authorities in military and in economic and in political areas. All these drug warlords in fact preside over anarchy, while at the same time attempting to manage the chaos in which they are forced to live. (Segell, 1997)

Therefore, the drug warlord becomes an individual who is a parochial militarist, and one who thrives on the lack of central authority on the one hand, while on the other, makes several attempts to corrupt the existing structures so that he may be able to further his own personal ambitions, in any manner that he chooses to do so. An important fact to remember is that these drug warlords impose no age restrictions of nay sort on the members of their gang, and the members' ages can range from as low as six years old, wherein these tender young children are pressed into the service of their warlords for the purpose of drug trafficking. The second context that has severe repercussions for the security of the United States as far as drug trafficking is concerned, is that of the destination state of the drug traffickers, which is in general, the United States of America, or Western Europe, where it must be said that the drug distribution network is supposedly organized in much the same way as would a gang of drug warlords and his subjects. In many cases, these gangs would have started their existence as individuals involved in nefarious activities such as prostitution, money laundering, or any other form of illegal activities.

These activities cause the sovereign states huge amounts of money, because of the various police and court actions that need to be taken against them, and also for the treatment of those people who have become irrevocably addicted to the drugs that they have been selling. As a matter of fact, it has often been stated that international cooperation and understanding will be required to deal with the escalating issues and problems of the gangs, warlords, and drug trafficking. Therefore, one must initially, at the outset, identify the problem, and where it lies, and then moves on to finding out where the weakest links in the chain lie, so that international cooperation can be sought to bridge and to fill up the weak spots and the existing gaps. Fighting drug trafficking would mean that the fight against drug warlordism would also be fought. (Segell, 1997)

Drug trafficking as such in the United States of America has been termed a very serious crime indeed, and all sorts of attempts and efforts are being made to combat this crime. One aspect of this research aims at racial profiling, wherein the use of official crime data, like for example, arrests, prosecution, and punishment, reveal a real bias against blacks, and less against whites, according to the research that was conducted by Bachman et al., 1991, National Institute on Drug abuse, 1991, Rebach, 1992, and Lockwood et al., 1995. This is a huge problem in the United States of America because of the racial bias and prejudice that is revealed. (Mitchell, 2001) As far as policies regarding drug trafficking are concerned, it is a fact that the United States has made several attempts at extradition as a means and a suitable method of enforcing its anti-narcotics policies. In Latin America, this particular scheme has remained extremely unpopular and unaccepted; because Latin Americans feel that it is being viewed by them as a mere extension of the 'Yankee Imperialism'. Bulmer-Thomas, 2003)

Drug abuse has been steadily increasing over the years, and according to reports submitted by Mexican authorities, cocaine abuse has been growing alarmingly over the past few years, and in addition, life time dependence on cocaine has also increased significantly, especially over the last decade, when it has gone up from 0.14% in 1988, to 0.4% in the year 1998. In the same way, almost all the countries of South America, including Central America as well as the Caribbean, reported that cocaine use and abuse was on the rise over the pats few years. The largest drug consumer is of course without doubt, Brazil, and it is estimated that about 900,000 people may consume cocaine in Brazil. A lifetime dependence on cocaine was also revealed to be in existence at alarming percentages in Brazil, and the tragic part is that most of these users were children aged about fifteen and above. (United Nations Publications, 2003)

In the year 1939, the popular criminologist of the time Edwin Sutherland developed a theory named 'Differential Association', which he outlined in his textbook 'Principles of Criminology'. This theory states that 'criminal behavior is learned behavior' and that it is generally learned through 'social interaction with others'. This Differential Association Theory is popular even today with most criminologists all over the world, because of its simple nature, as well as its bank of supportive evidence to prove the theory. Edwin Sutherland drew upon the there major theories of his time to develop his theory, and these were the ecological and cultural transmission theory, the symbolic interactionism theory, and the culture conflict theory. In general, at that point of time, it was believed that criminology did not provide sound scientific evidence and had no coherent theories upon which to base their findings, and this was perhaps why Edwin Sutherland set out to create such a theory. (Sutherland's Differential Association)

This is how he arrived at the Differential Association theory, and this theory has nine important postulates, which are the following: criminal behavior is in general, learned, and it is learned while communication and interacting with other people, especially in intimate groups. One learns criminal behavior by first learning the various complicated and simple techniques of committing that crime. The specific direction that his motives or the crime takes is learned from the legal issues involve in the crime, and whether they are favorable or unfavorable, and on an average, an individual becomes a criminal based on the number of definitions that he learns as being unfavorable to the law. All differential associations will generally differ in intensity and in frequency, and the very process of learning criminal behavior by means of association with either criminal or non-criminal behavior can be said to be the same as learning anything else. Criminal behavior need not be the expression of all the general needs and values of a human being, because of the fact that even for non-criminal behavior, the values and the needs will still be the same. (Sutherland's Differential Association)

When a number of prisoners were released from prison after the completion of their respective terms, a study was conducted on them to find out the recidivism rates among these criminals. It was seen that within a period of a mere three years after their release from the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1987, about 40.8% of these people were back where they had started from, which was prison. Among 'offense' types, it was found that those persons who had served prison sentences for either fraud or for drug trafficking had the lowest recidivism rates, at about 20.8 and 34.2% respectively. Those who had been in prison for homicides or for other criminal activities had the highest recidivism rates, of about 64 and 65%. It was also discovered that those people who had been employed full time, or who had been attending school at the time of their arrest or with six months to two years before their arrest had lower recidivism rates as compared to those who did not have a job or schooling. In a similar manner, those people who had a history of drug abuse were higher recidivists. (Harer, 1994)

The sociologist and criminologist Edwin Sutherland has stated that any type of deviant behavior, like for example, drug abuse, is, as stated earlier, learned through others. Deviance is therefore learned behavior, which is learned by an individual from other deviants. Howard Becker, another criminologist, has explained how exactly this happens, in his study entitled "Becoming a Marijuana User" wherein he explains how a novice becomes a drug user when he is influenced by more experienced users. He also states that no one can become a user without properly learning the exact technique of how to smoke the drug, and in the same way, no one can actually use the drug without knowing that he is…[continue]

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