There are two possible theories and strategies which may be employed instead of the stereotypical labeling and cultural deviance theory. The rational choice theory is one good example of an alternative theory that may be used. This theory asserts that deviance results from rational calculation of rewards and risks. The person who engages in criminal behavior thus does so under his own volition and not because of the societal or environmental conditions he lives in or was exposed to (Clinard & Meier, 2011).A good example of this is the instance in which a person is presented with an opportunity to do wrong with no or little chance of getting caught and punished. The person will act according to the determination of the risks that are presented and the rewards in taking a certain cause of action. This theory therefore places the instance of wrongful behavior upon the individual will.
The labeling theory may be deemed to be a legitimate crime causation theory due to a variety of factors. According to evidence, people tend to behave differently according to the various classifications stereotypical as they may be. Empirical evidence has shown that people living in certain areas or in certain environments tend to have certain behaviors. The tendencies are highly concentrated in a group of people who come from a similar or same environment (Siegel, 2011). For instance people who come from lower class areas generally tend to be less educated and marginalized. Such tendencies in turn result into a situation which necessitates for adaptation of such people to such circumstances. The instance of conditions such as, not having a stable family, low education standards and living in poverty, leads to criminal behavior. The labeling theory is thus a relevant theory in predicting the instance of criminal behavior in people according to certain classification. Criminal gangs that have evolved from the latter stage will now be formed primarily for personal gain (Regoli, et al, 2010). While at first criminal activity was based on earning a living these subculture of criminal gangs eventually morph into a criminal gang aiming for personal gains and satisfaction.
The instance of the rise of criminal gangs may be explained by the theory of cultural deviance which has three sub theories explaining criminal behavior. The rise of criminal gangs may be best explained through: Urban lower-class areas produce subcultures that are responsible for the rise of crime and Subcultures of crimes in which individuals come together to band in creating crimes for their own personal gain and satisfaction in urban areas. Both these theories may be applicable in explaining the instance of criminal gangs since gangs usually have an aspect of both.
Criminal gangs in urban areas usually arise from what are initially non criminal gangs. In the first instance, groups of youths usually come together in the urban areas in order to socialize. With the youth coming from a similar demographic it is inevitable that there will be formation of groupings according to certain values and culture. Youth in certain areas will thus develop their own culture in order to understand each other and separate themselves from other people from different backgrounds. This subculture will eventually result into the situations in which they are disadvantaged economically leading to the instance of crime (Clinard & Meier, 2011). While subcultures may at first be formed in order to differentiate different cultures these subcultures soon evolve into a means for economic empowerment. Since these subcultures lack the necessary education or economic power they will resort to forming criminal gangs in order to earn a living. With the passage of time the subculture of the criminal gang evolves in its aim as it now engages into criminal activity for personal gain and satisfaction (Akers, 2009).
Both the theories may be useful in explaining the different aspects of the case study. Both the labeling theory and the cultural deviance theory may be important in explaining the rise in the number of youths joining criminal gangs in the inner city. Labeling has led to the large increase in the number of youths joining gangs in the inner city since labels placed upon such youths lead to association of such youth with criminal activity even in instances when they are innocent. Such stereotypes lead to cultural deviance in such youths in order to defy the cultural norms of the society. By joining criminal gangs the youths are simply voicing their dissatisfaction with the system which imputes improper motives on them and hence they live up to the labels imposed upon them by joining gangs in defiance of social norms (Regoli et al, 2010).
The labeling theory is also responsible for the recent increase in the number of gang leaders getting released from prison from good conduct. Gang leaders usually lose the label of gang leader in prison which tends to alter their behavior leading to behavior that is less criminal leading to them being released from prison after good conduct. Since the gang leaders do not have the title of gang leader and have equality in the prison, they tend to become like their fellow prisoners. The instance of the increase in gang violence may be attributed to labeling and cultural deviance. The criminal justice system focuses more on labeling people as criminals according to stereotype. This eventually results into a situation in which people from inner city neighborhoods react to such stereotypes through deviance from societal norms. Since gangs do not have a way in which to vent their frustration they take it out on their victims (Akers, 2009).