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An explanation of the strain and cultural criminology theories and the criminal elements Essay

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The fast-changing society is demanding improvement of the existing legal frameworks each and every day. Indisputably, this is considerably challenging the decisions made by policymakers and more especially the judiciary sector. The challenge is more intensified by the way we define the defendant, victim, and penalty imposed for any crime committed. The underlying problem is that there exist various cultural norms and natural law; which significantly differ with constitutional requirements. In other words, legal procedures are not sufficient in providing criminal facts that can help us clearly understand the criminal elements mentioned above. Nevertheless, many scholars in the field of criminology such as Robert K. Merton and Keith Hayward now believes we can rely upon the strain and cultural criminology theories. Inarguably, the relationship existing between the two theories goes beyond our expectation, more especially when analyzing any criminology case. In fact, many people have been convinced it would be appropriate if policymakers integrate some of the facts unrevealed by these theories when making or amending the criminal laws. The paper offers a detailed explanation of the two methods and more importantly, how they can be applied in the criminal case study of Mr. Heffernan convicted of the crime of cultivating cannabis plant which is an illegal plant and supply of the same plant products as drugs to the community. The case took place in the district court, New South Wales and has since sounded the trumpet over how the proceedings were unraveling the case that Mr. Heffernan was convicted with. This will be discussed along with the criminal elements and criminal facts which were evident in the case.

Strain theory argues that when an individual is pressurized by the community or by the factors in his environment, the pressure overwhelms him which forces him to satisfy his cultural inequalities and material requirements by engaging in crime as stated by (Agnew, 2001, p319) The crime, in this case, is a subject to the strain that oversees a high level of pressure that the victim cannot bear the burden of. There are numerous forms of stress best explained by GST. The diverse forms of strain do not exclude financial requirements. The fear may force one into committing a crime that he never intended. Merton in his strain theory argues that it is only a small margin of the people who face stress end up committing crimes.

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The group that is involved in offenses that emanate from the strain from external forces is seen as deviant since they view the world as if there exists no other solution for their problems. Morten argues that the group is then forced into crime despite the fact that it is against their will. Cultural criminology theory, however, presents a different view of such an instance. It argues that the individual rather enjoys the self-fulfilling feeling that comes about with being involved in criminal activity. The theory explains that when the personal gains the social requirements that he or she could have otherwise not achieved legally, they are left with a sense of insecurity while others feel self-fulfilled and okay when they have their requirements fulfilled. According to Presdee, (2003) Cultural criminology is distinctively conjectural, procedural and domineering slant that places criminals, cases and the control mechanism in the context of culture

Linking the theory to the case of Heffernan to both methods, strain theory argues that the convicted was involved in the crime due to the strain that he was facing.  It is evident that he as the criminal was suffering from an extraordinarily high degree of anxiety that he could have otherwise avoided if he had a well-paying job if the parents were not sick if his wife had no medical complications and if he was not unwell. On the other hand, cultural criminology argues that the occurrence of the crime was purely projected from the nature of the community the offender comes from as stated by (Ferrell et al., 2004). This, therefore, makes the community to be viewed as the actual cause of the crime due because the factors that led to the offense against which Mr. Heffernan is convicted are subject to the same community. The offender presents various evidence to the jury that when analyzed helped, in coming up with a valid judgment. The case presented states that the offender is a victim of the drugs misuse and trafficking laws which inhibit one from growing plants that are otherwise termed as illegal. It also prohibits the supply of the same to the community.

Mr. Heffernan was caught with 32kgs of cannabis leaves that are more than the monetary amount which is said to be 25 kilograms as stated by (Cerdá et al., 2012, p22). He had surpassed a commercial margin which otherwise inevitably presents the idea of the sale of the same to the community. He was rather much more cooperative by taking the police to the ranch where he grew the plant. The evidence was based on the idea that the man was found in the hold of a few bags of the leaves, showed where he grew the leaves and accepted to be the only person involved with the same. Evidence presented before the jury was photographs of these bags of leaves and the plant as well as the $1400 that was in his custody. The offender argues that he has been working on a farm for over 33 years and in his work life, he has been a victim of many injuries which have presented themselves as a limiting factor to the type and the amount of work that he can be engaged in evidenced by the numerous medical records submitted to the coat regarding the same. His wife’s letter also backs up the issue since its content explains how those injuries have impacted negatively on their lives and the lives of their kids. This is seen as one of the strains that the convicted is battling with that could have otherwise presented to be the cause of the crime as stated by (Agnew, 2007, p319).

The offender also claims that his family has been haunted by a trail of illnesses beginning with his mother who is suffering from breast cancer and osteoarthritis. His father is also suffering from a heart disease and osteoarthritis. He has diabetes and has been needing insulin to survive bearing in mind that his wife also has health conditions that make Mr. Heffernan the only breadwinner. This trail of illnesses presents themselves as another form of strain that led to the unusual character of the victim. An aggregate of such issues may result in so much pressure that needs a person with an unyielding personality to handle. While this is seen as strain, the cultural criminology finds it as social factors which when linked caused the occurrence of the crime. This presents the social and the crime as distinctively of a parallel nature.

He is also faced with some more pressure of taking care of their 14 years high school kid and the younger one in primary education. The family had just married a year ago which rather increases the commitments of the breadwinner. The offender’s family has been selling their property which was around $80000 and has now depreciated to around $60000. His house is also being mortgaged at $70000, and this would render the family homeless. He argues that it is due to this pressure that he decided to engage in this criminal act. The jury well understands the pressure that the offender is facing pointing out that an offender is a man of substance whose life has not been presented as a threat to any criminal record. The only criminal record that exists seems baseless to make an overall conclusion that the man is a criminal. Evidence presented by   Mr. P. Harper, the offender’s defendant. The evidence is full of commendations for the man. This evidence is based on the people who know Mr. Heffernan stating that the individual’s behaviors have been outstanding, something that even the judge recognizes by saying that Mr. Heffernan is a man of excellent character in the argument number 11 0f the case.

The case presents itself from a criminal act that has been catalyzed by the excessive pressure faced by the convicted by strain theory which recognizes the existence of such anomalies in individual’s life when faced with extreme pressure. The issue that revolves around the life of the convicted is a monetary issue. Money, in this case, could have been the solution to all his problems since if he had enough of it, he could have saved his parent’s property from being sold. He could also have been able to take care of his sick relatives, his sick wife and cater for the life of the kids who are still in school. He could also have not gone to the extent of growing and distributing cannabis which is the state’s laws and the drugs misuse and trafficking act of 1985. The judge recognizes all the burdens that the convicted has to bear in his life considering that he is 51 and has to take care of all this pressure. About GST and the reasons that the convicted gives regarding the case he has been charged with, there were a few goals that the convicted was unable to meet. His desire to cater to his family and his parents and the desires to have a well-paying job dragged him to committing this crime. The unfolding circumstances are in line with the arguments of strain theory.

Cultural criminology which seeks to understand crime in the context of culture is inevitably applicable in the case. The crime was subject to subcultures which revolve around what the community around the offender does and the rules that exist governing this particular crime. The rules governing drug and substance abuse have given guidelines on the judgment against the convicted depending on the nature and the extent of the committed crime. In a nutshell, it is the society that leads to the development of the rules that exist against the offenses revolving around drug and substance abuse. The occupation of the offender and the circumstances revolving around his life which led him to commit the crime are part and puzzle of the culture and community. As strain theory argues that the crime that was committed was subjected to the pressure of the life of the convicted, cultural criminology sees it as just another culture of various subcultures that may have led to the crime.

Growing of Cannabis and distributing it to the public is considered to be a crime since there are rules against it as stated by (Reuter, 2010). If the drug had to be distributed to the community, the general impact on the youths would have been dire since this is the most likely group to the issue. As such, the convicted is seen to have been an agent of community destruction since he was a man of age and a parent. He is seen to have not minded about the lives of the other kids in the community and committed the crime for monetary gain. The strain theory comes about to argue that withstanding the pressure of the life the convicted was facing needed him to have looked for an alternative way of getting money.

The convicted argues that he had complications regarding his health and that he was nearing his retirement age. He was forced to grow cannabis after ordering seeds from the United Kingdom which he later planted. It is the same marijuana that was harvested and packed before it was confiscated by the police. The theory gives out a clear argument that the man had small means of supporting his family using whatever he was gaining. This case is brought out clearly by the fact that the convicted had no previous criminal records and that his life was clean therefore it is due to what seemed to be a sort of excessive pressure that led him to commit the crime. On the other hand, cultural criminology makes the mere mention of cannabis a criminal activity where any activity that is associated with the drug has been criminalized. With the building of a belief that this activity is already a crime, the theory argues that rules that forbid it are developed ensuring that those who are associated with cannabis are taken into justice without considering any argument or reasons behind the act.

With all the associated facts and evidence having been presented, Mr. Harper claims that the case on which the offender has been convicted with is not a drug trafficking case since it was planned as a one-time business. The pressure under which the convicted was suffering from forcing him to establish a cannabis plantation which he prepared to sell only once and increase the value of the ranch. This was one of the strain factors that made him respond to the pressure by involving himself in the crime. The judge, however, argues that it is irresponsible for a man with a family to release cannabis of a monetary amount to the society which would impact negatively on the lives of the youths as stated by (Lowinson, 2005).

The judgment against both crimes was supposed to be ten years for the crime of growing cannabis and 15 years for trafficking.  The judge at the end of it all understands the pressure that the convicted was facing and gives him a sentence of two and a half years. The strain theory gives out a sense of reasoning and weighing of matters such that the degree of pressure was duly recognized by the jury. The cultural criminology theory, on the other hand, views the crime generally as breaking the law that originated from the same issue. It argues that the moral standards of the community which harbors the roots of the law have declined. The argument here is that the community from which the convicted comes from and the crime that was committed is viewed as one and the same thing.

With the weak empirical evidence in support of the strain theory, the presented arguments were not sufficient to ensure that the convicted was set free. Rather it just explains the problems that the law class individuals are facing without taking into consideration of the larger picture of the community and the white collar crimes as stated by (Aseltine et al., 2000, p256). Crimes in such levels are the ones that decapitate the community. The theory deals with individuals rather than the community on which the crime and the criminals thrive. These issues are well explained by the cultural criminology theory which does not only just present its arguments from a particular line or level of crimes. It digs into every crime be it white collar or any other sort of the offense.

Conclusion

The case presented above shows how strain can cause various crimes. The arguments put forward to show that some forms of tension can be so haunting such that the victim ends up being involved illegal activities that end up bringing peace to the life of the victim. The judge, however, takes into consideration the strain that the convicted is facing, and from this, a valid judgment is given. As the strain theory views this crime as a result of pressure, the cultural criminology sees it as the larger picture of the nature of the community from which the convicted comes from. However, the theories try to explain the kind of judgment that is passed as not usual from the rest since consideration depending on the prevailing circumstance is taken note of.

Reference

Agnew, R., 2001. Building on the foundation of general strain theory: Specifying the types of strain most likely to lead to crime and delinquency. Journal of research in crime and delinquency, 38(4), pp.319-361.

Agnew, R., 2007. Pressured into crime: An overview of general strain theory.

Aseltine Jr, R.H., Gore, S. and Gordon, J., 2000. Life stress, anger and anxiety, and delinquency: An empirical test of general strain theory. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, pp.256-275.

Cerdá, M., Wall, M., Keyes, K.M., Galea, S. and Hasin, D., 2012. Medical marijuana laws in 50 state: investigating the relationship between state legalization of medical marijuana and marijuana use, abuse, and dependence. Drug and alcohol dependence, 120(1), pp.22-27.

Chan, J.B., 1997. Changing police culture: Policing in a Multicultural Society. Cambridge University Press.

Ferrell, J., Hayward, K., Morrison, W., and Presdee, M. eds., 2004. Cultural criminology unleashed. Routledge.

Lowinson, J.H. ed., 2005. Substance abuse: A comprehensive textbook. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Mazerolle, P., Piquero, A.R. and Capowich, G.E., 2003. Examining the links between strain, situational and dispositional anger, and crime further specifying and testing general strain theory. Youth & Society, 35(2), pp.131-157.

Presdee, M., 2003. Cultural criminology and the carnival of crime. Routledge.

Reuter, P., 2010. Marijuana legalization: what can be learned from other countries. Baltimore, MD: RAND Drug Policy Research Center, University of Maryland.

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