Saints and the Roughnecks - William J. Term Paper

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Saints and the Roughnecks - William J. Chambliss

In his seminal essay "The Saints and the Roughnecks," William J. Chambliss studied how a community's differential perceptions led to preferential treatment of a group of juvenile delinquents from upper-middle class families over another gang of delinquents from lower-class families. The main determinant for a community's reaction to a juvenile's deviant behavior was socioeconomic class.

Since this essay's publication in 1973, the idea that people get treated differently according to their class has become widely accepted. Based on Chambliss's thesis, poor people who engage in deviant behavior - ranging from shoplifting to murder - are still more likely to be prosecuted and to receive harsher punishment. They are also more likely to be perceived as guilty by the public.

The more recent research on other determinants of social stratification allows us to expand on Chambliss's original thesis. Thus, in addition to class, a community's perceptions of a person's deviant behavior is also colored by a nuanced intersection of race, gender and class.

The recent shoplifting trial involving actress Winona Ryder is a case in point. The affluent Caucasian actress was convicted of grand theft, for having stolen $5,000 worth of merchandise. Despite the conviction, prosecutors for the case say they are leaning towards probation and community service and will probably not seek any jail time.

A poor young African-American man who steals an old car, however, will most likely receive a jail sentence. This is a probable result, even if the car is worth far less than $5,000. This is also indicative of how society gauges danger stemming from deviant…

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