Sociology of Crime

Sociology of Crime


Choose TWO of the following four essay questions, and in NO MORE THAN 500 WORDS each (1000 TOTAL), answer the questions. Please observe the following guidelines:

Reference and cite all sources and quotations using APA, 6th edition. You do not need a separate bibliography for each question.

Please double space your answers, using only 12 point font.

Please do not waste time on lengthy introductions or on conclusions. Simply answer the question.


  1. Recent results from a study published in Molecular Psychology (2014) have reignited the debate between “nature and nurture” as researchers have claimed to identify two genes associated with “extreme criminal violent behaviour.” According to the findings of this study:

“Results from our population-based sample showed a modestly increased risk for alcoholism with [gene 1], which was especially attributable to those who had severe problems in childhood. However, our results from the present study indicate that [gene 2] and low-activity MAOA [gene 3] are quite specific to violent crime . . . The results indicate both low monoamine metabolism and neuronal membrane dysfunction as plausible factors in the etiology of extreme criminal violent behaviour, and a conservative estimate implies that 5–10% of all severe violent crime in Finland is attributable to specific [gene 2 and gene 3] genotypes.”

As a sociologist, you have been asked to sit on a panel at an upcoming criminology conference and provide a “sociological response” to the findings presented above. Since you are not an expert in molecular biology, you are not expected or asked to comment on the technical aspects of the paper, but rather provide a “sociological critique” of what you might see as some of the problems with these findings. Using our lectures, readings, and other materials you choose, write a 500 word response to be presented at this panel discussion. (10 points)

The full paper can be found online here if you need to look at it:

  1. Violent crime in Australia, the United States, and Great Britain has generally, although not uniformly, decreased for a protracted period beginning in the middle or late 1990s. Using materials from the readings, lectures and any other outside sources you choose, write a 500 word response where you provide AT LEAST two possible explanations for these cross-national trends. By cross-national, we mean reasons that may explain these decreases in ALL three countries. Make sure to back up your explanations with material from the texts and/or lecture notes, giving special attention how each explanation specifically factors into the reduction of violent crime. (10 points)
  2. In the past twenty five years, countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the US and the UK have all seen dramatic increases in prison populations as a result of “tough on crime” policies that are in part based on the assumption that harsher punishments will lead to greater general deterrence and also serve to deter individual offenders. Write a brief response (500 words) from the perspective of a social disorganization theorist on why you think these tough of crime policies ARE, or ARE NOT a cost effective way in reducing crime. In your response, you should pay attention to the following:

Do NOT waste time documenting the rise in prison populations in these countries. Each has seen at least a 100% increase over the last twenty-five years, and you do not need to provide evidence of this. It can be assumed.

You should be able to adeptly explain the basic assumptions and arguments of the Social Disorganization perspective in terms of how it conceptualizes both the causes of and solutions for crime

Following on the point above, you should be able to extrapolate an argument from the perspective of Social Disorganization theory as to why, or why not, increased punishments are a cost effective way of reducing crime.


You should use the lectures, course readings, and any other outside materials you need to support your argument. Make sure that you provide references or supporting materials for all arguments or claims. (10 points)

Tools such as risk assessments are often used to inform decisions regarding offender treatment, the granting of parole, etc. In a smaller number of jurisdictions, risk assessments have also been used to make decisions regarding length of sentence for incarceration, although there has been much controversy about their use in this respect. Write a 500 word answer that addresses the following questions:

What social logic or justification of punishment is most linked to the use of risk assessments as a means of determining sentence length?

In your estimation, is it ethical to give two people different sentences for the same offense based on the use of risk assessments? Why or why not?

If you argue this is ethical, you should present evidence to support your claim. What are the reasons why two people should be punished differently for the same offense?

If you argue this is not ethical, you should provide evidence to support your claim. You should also draw from other social justifications of logics of punishment as needed to support your argument. (10 points)