Therehas been heated debate concerning the value of hostile policingstrategies, which include stopping, questioning and frisking (Wiley,Slocum and Esbensen 928). According to the labeling theory, thisbehavior may essentially amplify delinquency owing to the reason thatstopping and arresting youths excludes them from conventionalopportunities. It also results in the adoption of a deviant identity,such that they are labeled as criminals, gang member, rapists,delinquent or any other activity they are associated with andspending more time with felonious peers. However, researches haveexplored the means by which police contact increases criminalbehaviors (Wiley, Slocum and Esbensen 930). For instance, in theirstudy, Wiley, Slocum and Esbensen (2013) examine middle-schoolstudents in different cities to demonstrate the devianceintensification procedure. The results obtained were evaluated foryouth who had not experienced any police contact, those stopped aswell as arrested. Wiley, Slocum and Esbensen indicate that youth whoare either stopped or arrested generally report augmented degree offuture criminal behavior, while their social bonds, delinquent peersand deviant identity to some extent arbitrate the association betweenfuture offending and police contact. The implication of this study isthat programs that are aimed at lessening the negative impacts ofpolice contact, including deviant identity formation, low academicachievement, as well as aberrant peer relationships, may result inthe reduction of secondary deviance.
Accordingto labeling theory, deviance is not intrinsic to a behavior, rathercenters on the trend of how the majorities pessimistically labelthose who are deemed deviant from regular cultural customs ((Wiley,Slocum and Esbensen 928). The theory is defined as the manner inwhich individuals’ acts or self-identity may be swayed ordetermined by the phrases employed to classify them. It is linked tothe notions of stereotyping and self-fulfilling prophecy.
Labelingtheory assumes that the labels used on people at a greater extentsway their behavior, especially the employment of stigmatizing ornegative ones, including ‘felon’ or ‘criminal’ among others.They increase they aforementioned deviant acts, meaning that personswho are named as such end up conforming to the fundamental meaning ofthe verdict. As a result, the theory claims that there is a highlikelihood of preventing social deviance through limited socialdisgracing reactions in ‘labelers’ by substituting moralresentment with tolerance. This means placing more significance onrehabilitating offenders by altering their labels. Associated withprevention policies encompass meditation, individual empowermentplans, restorative justice, appeasement, reparation, as well as otheralternatives that involves diversion.
Labelingtheory states that when an individual is labeled, it is tremendouslyhard to eliminate such label. For instance, when police stop,question, frisk and label a person as deviant, there is a highprobability that other people in the neighborhood consider and treatsuch as person as untrustworthy. Such people tend to integrate thatlabel in their self-concept, therefore developing a stigma or aharmful label, which exceedingly modify their social identity as wellas self-concept. Such stigmatization results in lower self-esteem,subsequently leading to more deviant behavior in future. As a result,when people are stigmatized by the use of more aggressive policestrategies, they end up being attached to such labels and adopt theminstead of fighting them.
Indeed,the impacts of stigmatization are extensive. A stigma acts as amaster status, and it overpowers other features of societal identity.Regrettably, when a person is stigmatized, it is hard for the societyto modify its judgment, albeit the label is verified as fallacious(Wiley, Slocum and Esbensen 944). The society also participates inretrospective labeling, whereby it construes someone’s pastperceptions of some current deviance.
Inaddition, it is extremely difficult to divest oneself of a certainlabel. It is also time-consuming. Take for example when a person islabeled as a criminal, getting a job is troublesome. Such a person islabeled as ex-criminal. Certainly, they are publicly and formallynamed as offenders therefore, they are handled and treated withdistrust and this may happen for the rest of their lives. This isreferred to as projective labeling, whereby a deviant identity isused to foretell future behavior.
Somewrongdoings such as using violence are generally acknowledged aswrong. For this reason, labeling people as wrongdoers is notconstructive. In the society we live in today, such labels as ‘childabusers’ or ‘murders’ are usually used to show the level ofcondemnation. However, there is a somewhat mechanical determinism inemphasizing that applying a label always changes the behavior of thelabeled person (Wiley, Slocum and Esbensen 954). Moreover, when asingle function of the punitive system is to lessen recidivism, usinga long lasting label might result in unfairness against themalefactor, leading to the incapability to sustain social linkage ora job.
Byand large, labeling theory claims that the aggressive policingstrategies used in the current time essentially amplifies delinquencyand criminal behaviors in the community. The theory inquires why someindividuals who engage in certain behaviors are labeled as deviantrather than focusing at why others are involved in more criminalacts.
Wiley,Stephanie A., Slocum, Lee A. and Esbensen, Finn-Aage. The UnintendedConsequences of being Stopped or Arrested: An Exploration of theLabeling Mechanisms through which Police Contact Leads to SubsequentDelinquency. ,51(4), 927–966, 2013. Web.6 Nov. 2015.