Saints and the Roughnecks Term Paper

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Saints and Roughnecks was the title given to Chambliss' 1973 study in which he found that class and not crime often determines a person's reputation in the society and his fate with the police. The author, William Chambliss' selected two different groups of teenagers for his study, one coming from affluent part of the metropolitan area and are labeled Saints for the study, while the other group came from lower-income section of the society and were thus termed 'Roughnecks'. The study sought to find out just why the lower-income group was more often clashing with the police and ending up in jail for petty crimes, while the other group usually escaped police even though they were just about as delinquent as roughnecks. "In terms of the sheer number of illegal acts, the high-SES [socioeconomic status] boys were more delinquent. However, they were perceived as "sowing their wild oats" and were rarely disciplined, whereas the low-SES boys were seen as criminals and were frequently in trouble with school officials and with the police." (Gareis, 1993)

Chambliss doesn't mention labeling theory but it is clear that labels are what determine a person's reputation. It was seen that since Saints came were from "good white upper-middle class families. They attended Hanniabal High: a moderate size high school in a suburb near a large metropolitan area. The Saints were active in school affairs, were enrolled in the pre-college program and received good grades," they mostly managed to escape punishment even though they were "some of the most delinquent boys at Hannibal High." (Chambliss p. 106) Police, teachers and society saw their troublemaking as a case of "sowing their wild oats." On the other hand, Roughnecks were often seen as 'troublemakers' who would end up in jail not because they were any more trouble than Saints but because they appeared rough and were "not-so-well-dressed, not-so-well-mannered, not-so-rich boys" and thus "were heading for trouble." People had a totally different perception of these boys and their oat-sowing wasn't seen in the same light as their Saint counterparts. "Townspeople would say, "You can see the gang members at the drugstore night after night, leaning against the storefront (sometimes drunk) or slouching around inside buying cokes, reading magazines, and probably stealing old Mr. Wall blind. When they are outside and girls walk by, even respectable girls, these boys make suggestive remarks. Sometimes their remarks are downright lewd." (p. 107)

It is important here to understand that class is what made the two groups distinctive. The upper-class kids were just about as delinquent as Roughnecks yet they were also engaged in extra-curricular activities, were involved in pre-college program, participated in school activities and didn't go poorly in academics. On the other hand, Roughnecks were only interested in hooliganism. They would spend their free time engaged in street fights, selling drugs and passing lewd comments. This difference in their behavior at other times primarily emerges from the extent of access to extra-curricular activities and programs the two groups enjoy. This had permanently damaged their reputation and the two groups were seen in very different light.

Society's views of the two groups, interesting had little to do with their actual delinquency. Instead it was based on the way two groups conducted themselves and the social status they enjoyed. Claster (1992) explains: "The reputation that a person enjoys within a community may serve as a kind of counterforce, protecting the person from the stigma that would ordinarily attach to violation of the criminal law." (p. 97) In the case of Saints, they managed to escape jail time because their reputation offered solid protection even though this reputation was grounded in their social status and class and had little to do with their actual criminal activities. Claster further adds: "Chambliss's study calls attention to a perceptual process in which certain individuals, even if thought to have committed criminal offenses, continue to be regarded as good people by virtue of their association with prestigious families, social groups, business enterprises, or religious and charitable activities. Such immunity is not always granted, of course, but under certain circumstances a person's high social status or record of personal achievement may simply lead people to disbelieve that the person committed the alleged crime, even in the face of otherwise compelling evidence." (p. 98)

Another important factor that had a bearing on their reputation…[continue]

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