Over the course of several days browse the print or online editions of a major U.S. newspaper (be sure to check each section of the paper, not just the front page). Identify and record the various types of criminal deviance reported in the news. Are certain types of criminal deviance represented more than others? Which ones? Overall, did it seem like criminal deviance was a major or minor part of news coverage?
Marijuana use represents a type of contested deviant behavior. Some people feel that using marijuana is no more deviant than smoking cigarettes, while others feel it should be criminalized. The debate surrounding marijuana exemplifies how what is considered deviant can change over time and also how deviance varies based on the context. Create two lists, one with reasons why marijuana use should not be considered deviant and another listing reasons why marijuana should remain a largely criminalized form of deviance. How many of the points you listed relate to ethical, moral or religious convictions? What about economic or social concerns? Given the opportunity, which side of the debate would you choose to argue and on what basis.
Labeling theories in the area of criminology suggest that labeling particular groups as deviant can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, people may become that which is expected of them—including becoming deviant or even criminally deviant. Can you think of other social settings where labeling theory might be applied?
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