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Sociology – Labeling and Deterrence
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Reflection Paper #2
How to deal with juvenile offenders is controversial. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, sociologists warned treating juveniles like common criminals would make them more likely to break the law. The nation listened to this and began diverting youths with minor or status offenses away from the juvenile justice system. They would experience other, less punitive sanctions such as counseling. What is interesting in this scenario is that this actually “widened the net.” More juveniles were actually in the system, which would not be otherwise, because the punishment was less punitive. In the late 70’s the public began to demand harsher punishments for juveniles. Research indicates that a juvenile accused of a violent crime was more likely to be prosecuted and receive a longer sentence. The recidivism rate also increased. The trend continued in the 1990’s and 2000, juveniles were treated more punitively. Juvenile crime actually declined in the 1990’s which shows that this punitive treatment was a response to a myth of increasing juvenile violence.

Scott Dyleski, if convicted of murder (and this paper assumes he will be), could serve his time in a California youth detention center. These centers are plagued by violent behavior and excessive lock up times. Decrepit conditions and overcrowding are serious problems as well. These centers have received so much attention that some state legislators want to shut them down.

Under the deterrence theory, general deterrence occurs when someone decides not to break a law because they fear legal punishment, this did not happen in the case of Scott Dyleski, because he did commit murder. Specific deterrence could occur is Dyleski is charged as either an adult or juvenile, because the punishment for murder could be severe enough to keep him from committing another one. The relativist definition under the labeling theory says the murder of Pam Vitale is only a crime because it is labeled as so. Therefore Scott Dyleski is a deviant, because he is labeled as so by those with power, lawmakers and those involved with the court. Labeling often reduces law abiding opportunities for employment, for this and other reasons Lemert would argue that Dyleski is likely to commit secondary (continuous) deviance. If the labeling theory holds true Dyleski should be tried as an adult and given the maximum sentence so he will not have the opportunity to commit secondary deviance.

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Juvenile Offenders And Scott Dyleski. (April 16, 2021). Retrieved from