Furthermore, Clarke & Cornish (1985), note that it is important to understand the why behind the commission of criminal offending. We have moved past an era where we blame just or genetics, the researchers and authors presented this semester are interested in learning more about the how, why, and the belief system to get a better understanding of what offenders are thinking. There have been many critics of rational choice theory in relation to neutralizations; however, neutralizations are strategies that are typically used by criminals to justify their actions.
There has been five main neutralization techniques that I believe truly give us a better look into an offenders thoughts and decision in regards to crime (Maruna & Copes, 2005). First, to mention the five techniques that are often used my offenders is the denial of injury, responsibility, victim, also the condemnation of condemners, and appeal to higher loyalties. These techniques are crucial in being able to look at an offenders actions and further dissect them. Yet, as Maruna & Copes (2005) mentioned, by itself these five techniques do not necessarily have a strong foundation.
Being able to pair these thought processes with the behavior of offenders, widens the basis for this particular literature. This is where I believe that the research sadly falls short. I personally do not see a mode of explanatory power by neutralization techniques in regards to actually explaining the initial criminal act. While I do believe that neutralizations are tremendously important aspect of understanding offending, I believe it fits better once a crime has been committed. Rational choice theory is more centered on the thinking that precipitates the crime, and I do not see it here (Clarke & Cornish, 1985; Maruna & Copes, 2005).
On the other side of the picture, I have learned this semester you must be open to various research, because truly research is always changing, and we are finding out more about theories than we ever knew. Jacobs & Copes (2014) certainly made me think about rational choice theory, neutralizations, drift, and continuance in a whole new light. These researchers found that neutralizations without drift allowed an offender to continue a life of crime by neutralizing his or her actions. This process was done by convincing themselves that they were not bad people.
The justification that came along with the neutralization in fact allowed the offenders to not drift into a life without crime or a positive identity, it allowed continuance. I view this neutralization as a cost and benefit analysis, where the offender does not see an issue with offending, therefore risks do not matter. Even though rational choice theory is about the initiation of criminal behavior, I believe in this case, neutralizations without drift does fit with rational choice theory. On the other hand, with drift would not be as logically sound (Clarke & Cornish, 1985; Jacobs & Copes, 2014).
OPPORTUNITY STRUCTURE Clarke & Cornish (1985), illustrate an essential diagram of an opportunity structure in regards to rational choice theory. For this aspect of the essay I would like to focus on a few of the sections of this diagram, solutions evaluated, perceived solution, reaction to chance event, readiness, and decision. Within the context of the solutions evaluated section, this aspect shows that an offender is evaluating the possibility of punishment and how sever it may be. Also, they are determining if the rewards is going to be immediate enough to fit their wants and/or desires.
Further, there is the rational thought that they can obtain their want by legal or illegal means. Once they determine this, then they move to opportunity and how easy and ready the act, and they may be. Then finally a decision is made. This aspect of Clarke &Cornish’s (1985) literature made the most sense to me, as it walked me through a real scenario. As I have mentioned above, I want to reiterate it here, I believe this model has extreme merit, however, for the mentally ill, incapable, handicap, etc. I do believe this does not apply to them in explaining why they commit crime, if they do in the first place.
However, to move forward, to make rational choice theory even stronger in its explanatory power Carmichael (2004), studied situationally based emotional reactions in regards to offending opportunity. This is a great addition for rational choice theory, due to the fact that numerous studies try to eliminate emotions, and Carmichael’s (2004) work did just the opposite. One of the most fascinating aspects about Carmichael’s research was the explanation that emotions have been an aspect within behavior for a long time.
However, the thought of rationality is fairly new. Therefore, being able to connect these two ideas is actually slightly backwards, as I would classify connecting opportunity and emotion with rational choice, and not the other way around. The takeaway in this research was that people need to stop believing that emotions even at high times or extreme low times are irrational. Carmichael found that it is truly pertinent to understand and incorporate ones anger or emotions in a situation because it does influence that offender’s decision making process.
While, every offender is different, this gives allow us to add emotions to the long line of motivation, cost and benefit analysis, thought processes, irrational beliefs, neutralizations, etc. to allow a broader scope. In this case, having a broader scope is not a negative in my opinion. I base this belief on that fact that offenders have so many diverse characteristics, therefore the more the criminal justice system can understand about why criminal offend, then we are better prepared as a system to handle the outcome (Clarke & Cornish, 1985; Carmichael, 2004).
In addition, self-control theory is conceptualized as an offender engaging in criminal activity, and that activity was caused by a distinct decision, or a rationalization on how to better one’s self. When looking into this theory, one must keep in mind the fact that this theory does not eliminate the positive costs that occur, due to a criminal action. When a person is characterized as having low self-control, they are thinking on what is going to please them right now in the present.
To further give the study conducted by Seipel & Eifler(2008) merit, the interaction of personality, situation, and opportunity added so much to this theory. Further, I was fascinated with that fact that these two researchers came right out and stated that they wanted to elaborate on rational choice theory, in particular the Clarke and Cornish (1985) literature. Therefore, when reading this the Seiple & Eifler (2008) work, one is able to gain more knowledge about criminal offending and rational choice theory.
They were able to successfully start with bringing up routine activities theory, and integrating the theory that opportunity, in their research in relation to rational choice theory, is explained as the ratio of getting caught versus not getting caught. Therefore, when one is rationally thinking, their chance of getting caught is high, they will employ more self-control, not partake in the opportunity, costs and benefits have been weighed, and a final decision has been made based on their own emotions, situation, and self-control (Seiple & Eifler, 2008).