Report Finds Widespread Racial, Economic Disparities In Bloomington-Normal

For the past 15 weeks, I have worked on a research project examining social justice issues in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. The local chapter of Not In Our Town (NIOT), a non-profit organization that fights against bigotry and discrimination, commissioned my graduate sociology class to ‘hold up a mirror’ of the Bloomington-Normal community, reflecting back the good and the bad.

The project was wide in scope. We conducted focus groups and interviews, analyzed crime and segregation data, produced GIS maps, analyzed archival research and performed case studies of best practices employed by other community organizations. What we found was both disheartening and hopeful.

The results from this project were publicly presented to local residents, community leaders, elected officials, as well as faculty and students of Illinois State University.

Prior to the presentation, I participated in a radio interview with the local public radio. I was joined by two of my colleagues who also participated in the research. Some of the findings that were shared in the radio interview can be found HERE.

The professor of the course, Dr. Frank Beck, also interview with the local radio station and shared some information about the project as well as some of the findings. Further information from that interview can also be found in this article.

Overall, the project was very rewarding. We learned a lot about the community we all live in. I am excited for the future of Bloomington-Normal and for the implications of our research.


Race, Class and Gender Differences in Deviant Behavior


Deviant behavior is characterized by departing from social norms and values. Each culture has a unique set of ethnics, and the thoughts and actions beyond this set of beliefs are considered deviant. Like the differences amongst these collections of values, so too does difference exist with respects to the individual and type of behavior. Social scientists have worked hard to understand these diversities, and through this hard work, patterns begin to develop. Some examples of these trends follow the differences in race, class and gender. By applying sociological theory to these three characteristics, this paper will attempt to expand on the commonalties and differences that are at play within these groups and how each one interacts with deviant behavior.



Most societies and cultures, if not all, have developed some form of social doctrine. Within this doctrine is a set of socially constructed rules. These rules, social in context, are dependent upon which culture they operate in and because of this, can vary quite dramatically between other external cultures and even internal subgroups. These rules help to maintain a relatively smooth way of life, without them, the social fabric begins to break down. The complete absence of a social doctrine is anarchy and chaos, but occasional inklings of rule breaking is what social scientists have deemed deviant behavior. Through observation and research, scientists have been able to identify patterns and trends that correlate to deviant behavior, such as race, class and gender. Within these specified categories, the research can show us who is committing deviant behavior and why.


Deviant Behavior

Before one can look at how deviance correlates with social characteristics like race, class and gender, they first must develop an understanding of the behavior itself. In general, deviance describes an action or behavior that violates social norms (Macionis and Gerber 2010). Deviance or deviant behavior (used interchangeably), can be a violation of a formally enacted rule or law. Crime is a perfect example and the one most notably researched. Deviance can also be a violation of a social norm.

There are two types of social norms, folkways and mores. Folkways are customs of daily life. They are mildly enforced social expectations such as saying hello and goodbye.  Failing to say goodbye might be socially awkward but it is not met with punishment. This is where a distinction exists from a more. Social mores come from the Latin word for “manner” or “custom”. Despite similar beginnings, it is different from a folkway in that it is a societal norm that is considered to have greater moral significance (Macionis and Gerber 2010). Mores are strictly held cultural beliefs and behaviors, so strict in fact, that some sort of punishment is often a result of rejecting social mores. In most cultures, committing murder is considered a more that strays far from social norms and is punishable by prison time, and sometimes death.

Between folkways and mores, societies are able to outline commonly held beliefs that act as an agent of social control. A deviant person is one who leaves societal rules behind and performs deviant behavior. The doctrine that the individual is breaking is important, but perhaps more interesting are the characteristics of the deviant person themselves. The first characteristic in conjunction with deviance and crime we will examine is race.


Racial Differences in Deviant Behavior

When looking at racial disparities in deviance and criminal behavior, the statistics can be quite shocking. There are obvious differences in the experiences of a Black individual compared to that of a Hispanic individual, and so on across the racial spectrum; because of these differences, scientists have begun to take a closer look.

In 2013, a Black individual was six times more likely than a non-Black person to commit murder, and 12 times more likely to murder someone of another race than to be murdered by someone in another race (Rubenstein 2016). In general, Asian populations have the lowest criminal rates, followed by Caucasians, and then Hispanics. The Black population has the highest criminal rates and occurrences of deviant behavior. This pattern holds true for almost all crime categories and age groups (Rubenstein 2016; Ulmer, Harris and Steffensmeier 2012).  These differences are so stark, that they cannot be ignored. So why do some scholars think they exist?

One way in which to examine racial differences in deviant behavior is to apply the Structural Disadvantage Framework. This framework assumes there to be embedded institutional factors that permeate into social life, providing privileged experiences for some and disadvantaged experiences for others. Unfortunately, this divide between privilege falls along racial boundaries. The Structural Disadvantage Framework seeks to explain these disparities by examining structural forces within a society as sources of disadvantage and consequently of deviant behavior. In their studies of gaps in disadvantage and crime between racial groups, Ulmer, Harris and Steffensmeier found significant heterogeneity in the White-Black, White-Hispanic, and Black-Hispanic gaps (2012). In other words, they found suggestive variety in the experience of underprivileged individuals and deviance amongst racial groupings. With higher amounts of advantage came lower levels of crime, while higher amounts of disadvantage translated into increased levels of crime. Along the same vein, they found that Black individuals have the highest homicide and violent crime rates, followed by Hispanics and then Caucasians (Ulmer, Harris, Steffenmeier 2012). These differences in crime rates correlated directly to key structural disparities between the groups.

The structural functions that the Structural Disadvantage theory looks at are the circumstances in which individuals and groups of people live. These circumstances can be chosen, however, most structural characteristics are worked into the architecture of an organized society. In their studies, Ulmer, Harris and Steffensmeier found Black and Hispanic poverty levels to be twice that of Caucasians (2012).  This strong presence of poverty often forces or encourages risky decision making, often resulting in increased deviant behavior and crime. For example, one individual might consider a criminal career to make money when they cannot secure a job. More research on the topic has found other sources of disadvantage that correlate with criminal behavior such as unemployment, educational inequality, residential segregation, social disorganization, and subcultural adaptations to disadvantage. These circumstances are often found in non-White racial neighborhoods and help to exacerbate the amount of deviance found within them. It is argued that the long legacy of racism and discrimination, stretching back to times of slavery and indentured servitude, is responsible for putting these people and places at a disadvantage from the start (Steffensmeier et al. 2010; Kubrin and Weitzer 2003).


Class Differences in Deviant Behavior

Very closely related to the ideas of structural disadvantage and race are criminological theories of class differences. Like race, scholars have spent quite a bit of time attempting to explain the relationship between social class and deviant behavior.

One classic explanation comes from American sociologist Robert K. Merton (1910-2003) which he coined Strain Theory. Merton argues that the desire to achieve success is a cultural goal that is present across all social levels. However, the means to achieve such success are allocated in such a way that some groups are privileged while others are deprived. The discrepancy that deprived classes experience, between desire for success and attainment of success, leads to an increase in deviant behavior and crime (Merton 1957). In other words, lower socioeconomic classes experience a strain that more privileged classes do not experience, hindering them from the same opportunities and quality of life. It is at this point where Strain Theory and the Structural Disadvantage framework intersect— both acknowledging the macro level phenomena that control groups of people, pushing some into success while others into lives of deviance.

To the contrary, it is important to understand that crime and deviant behavior also exist within higher socioeconomic classes, however, the crime that exists within these realms can be much different.

The term ‘white-collar crime’ was popularized by another American sociologist by the name Edwin H. Sutherland (1906-1957). To get a better understanding, the FBI includes the following offenses among the white-collar definition: public corruption, money laundering, health care fraud, embezzlement, price-fixing, anti-trust violations etc. Sutherland argued that important sociological differences existed between these types of crime and more conventional crimes such as burglary or murder. In general, Sutherland ascertained that these differences lay across a class difference­­—conventional crimes being committed by lower socioeconomic class and white-collar crime by those in higher socioeconomic social classes (1940). Knowing what we know now about racial differences in deviance and poverty, it is safe to argue that conventional crimes of violence mainly pertain to non-White populations operating within disadvantaged social classes while examples of white-collar crime tend to be found within White communities not experiencing the same strain. Of course there are exceptions to the case, but it is important to understand the generalizable patterns that permeate into societies.


Gender Differences in Deviant Behavior

Another lens social scientists have used to examine the full scope of deviant behavior is with gender. In 2002, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 73% of all people arrested in 2002 for serious crimes were male.  Although this statistic is somewhat recent, it is a trend that has been observed for decades. So the question became, why is deviant behavior primarily a male phenomenon? One way in which to attempt to answer this question arises from Conflict Theory. In general, conflict theorists call to attention the unequal power within groups and societies. They are interested in focusing on processes of tension, inequality and conflict and how these items generate social phenomena, which in this case is deviant behavior.

Historically, women have been excluded from essential social processes and restricted to the home. In some cultures, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, their presence in public is unwelcome, resulting in less access to opportunities for criminal behavior (Carrabine et al. 2009; Rossi 1985). In addition, it his hypothesized that cultural norms attached to women, such as their subordinate position in some societies and submissive behavior, also eliminate occasions for deviant acts (Rossi 1985). Overall, these scholars argue it is the regulation of women—often by their over powered male counterparts—and the conflict that exists between them, that results in higher amounts of deviance for men than women. It is with this thinking that one scholar posited, “most crimes would remain unimaginable without men” (Collier 1998).

A second way to examine the relationship between deviant behavior and gender is to apply Gender Theory ways of thinking. In this mode of thought, researchers and scholars attempt to find out what it means to be a ‘man’. Gender theorists look at issues of power, dominance, aggressiveness, achievement, competition and status attainment. Through this, they argue that masculinities are always contested and never fixed. In other words, it is through avenues such as dominance and competition that men, more so than women, assert themselves. “Doing gender” in this way results in committing criminal activities—both conventional and white-collar— such as violence, rape and corporate crime (Carrabine et al. 2009).

Furthermore, gender theorists look at issues of self-control to deepen their understandings of the differences between genders, and their applications of deviant behavior. It has been argued that theorists of deviance overestimate the effect of opportunity on crime, or lack thereof, and do not shed enough light on the “substantial self-control differences between the sexes” (Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990: 147).  On both sides of the gender binary, low self-control is significantly related to deviant behavior. For men, crime is ubiquitous amongst the population where self-control emerges as the catalyst for deviance. For women on the other hand, the act of deviant behavior is dependent on individuals with low self-control gaining access to illegal opportunities (Burton et al. 1998). Here we see a connection to the earlier ideas of gender and crime. Males have more agency to commit acts of deviance especially when compounded with low self-control, whereas females, despite levels of self-control, also need the access to opportunity in order to become deviants.  Conflict theorists and gender theorists intersect at this point, creating a more robust explanation for the correlation that exists between gender and deviant behavior.



Every culture has deviance and the deviant individuals that perform it This is inherent in the construction of social norms and a values. By doing so, a society creates the ‘other’—whether that be a person, thought or action— that operates outside the normal realm of society. Out there, there is a rejection of folkways and mores, and instead, an acceptance of the deviant way of doing things.

Race, class and gender are attached to this way of life and have been used to better understand deviant phenomena. There are distinct differences in the amount of crime throughout the racial spectrum. It is from institutional disadvantages—such as unemployment, educational inequality and social disorganization—coupled with long histories of racism and prejudice that this crime pervades and persuades its way into society (Kubrin and Weitzer 2003; Carrabine et al. 2009; Rossi 1985; Steffensmeier et al 2010). Similarly, these differences can be found amongst the social classes. Much like disadvantage, it is the strain in which lower socioeconomic classes live in that pushes them into lives of crime. In search of some form of success, individuals perform deviant behavior in order to survive (Merton 1957). On the other hand, individuals from higher social classes will commit white collar crimes, perhaps not for survival, but instead in pursuit of some warped conceptualization of success (Sutherland 1940). Nonetheless, deviance exists on all levels of social strata and will continue to do so.

Lastly, scholars of deviance pull in gender to draw connections to deviant behavior. Criminal behavior is largely a male phenomenon. Some posit that it is the sexist regulating of women, and the antithesis for men, that create gendered differences in crime levels (Carrabine et al. 2009; Rossi 1985). Other scholars point to actions of ‘doing gender’ and the cultural stereotypes attached to genders that separate males from females, such as men being aggressive and dominant while women remain submissive and passive (Carrabine et al. 2009). Combining the two sexes, some scholars point to low levels of self-control found in both females and males that contribute to criminal behavior (Burton et al. 1998). Perhaps the most helpful way to see the correlation between gender and deviant behavior is so combine all these perspectives, and to acknowledge the intersectionality of all of them.

Regardless of the lens that one applies to study deviant behavior, it is the curiosity that matters. By being interested and satisfying our curiosities, we work to more fully understand the cultures human beings exist within. This is good work, and needs to be accomplished. With it comes more robust outlooks and data that can one day hopefully help to correct some of the inequalities human societies experience.


Burton, V., Cullen, F., Evans, T., Alarid, L., and Gregory Dunaway. 1998. “Gender, Self-Control, and Crime. Journal of Crime Delinquency. 35(2):123-147.

Carrabine, E., Cox, P., South, N., Lee, M., Turton, J., and Ken Plummer. 2009. Criminology: A Sociological Introduction. London: Routledge.

Gottfredson, Michael R. and Travis Hirschi. 1990. A General Theory of Crime. CA: Stanford University Press.

Kubrin, Charles E., and Ronald Weitzer. 2003. “New Directions in Social Disorganization Theory”. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 40(4):374-402.

Macionis John J., Gerber, Linda M. 2010. Sociology, Seventh Canadian Edition. Toronto: Pearson.

Merton, Robert K. 1957. Social Theory and Social Structure. Ill: Free Press

Richard, Collier. 1998. Masculinities, Crime and Criminology. UK: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Rossi, Alice S. 1985. Gender and the Life Course. New York. Aldine Publishing Company.

Rubbenstein, Edwin S. 2016. “The Color of Crime, 2016 Revised Edition”. American Renaissance. MA: New Century Foundation. (

Steffensmeier, Darrell, Jeffery T. Ulmer, Ben Feldmeyer, and Casey Harris. 2010. “Testing the Race-Crime Invariance Thesis: Black, White, and Hispanic Comparisons.” Criminology 48(4):1133–69.

Sutherland, Edwin H. 1949. White Collar Crime. NY: The Dryden Press.

Ulmer, J., Casey, Harris and Darren Steffensmeier. 2012. “Racial and Ethnic Structural Disadvantage and Crime: White, Black, and Hispanic Comparisons”. Social Science Quarterly. 93(3): 799-819.

Crime and the Life Course



Criminal behavior has been correlated to numerous characteristics such as gender, socioeconomic class, race and ethnicity. However, this essay we will focus on age and the time dimensions in which a criminal career can exist. Through older and more contemporary forms of research, it has been found that changes in age and criminal activity occur in an orderly way (Thornberry 1997: p.1). The orderly function in which criminals commit crimes is called the life course. By using criminology within the realm of the life course paradigm, social scientists have been able to understand the myriad of fluctuations that occur in the duration of a criminal career. This paper will attempt to provide some ground work on the life course criminology that examines these changes, provide concrete statistics on these trends, and discuss how age-related differences in crime have had impacts on the criminal justice system as a whole.


The relationship between age and crime has been one of the highest researched topics in criminology. The long history of scholarly attention to understanding age and crime has mostly been paid to gathering information with regard to the onset, persistence, and desistance associated with criminal behavior throughout an individual’s life course. The high level of attention has fostered the creation of theories of crime across multiple realms of social science. The commonality that is obvious across these disciplines is that they desire to explain the fluctuations in criminal activity over the life course and why or how involvement in a criminal career changes with the onset of major developmental phases and experiences within the life course (Life Course Criminology 2016).

The Criminal Career

Before one can look at life course theories developed to understand fluctuations in criminal activity, they must first become familiar with the idea of criminal careers. A criminal career is the “characterization of the longitudinal sequence of crimes committed by an individual offender” (Blumstein, 1986: 12). A criminal career operates within the life course, with identifiable start and end points. In other words, individuals begin their career of crime, persist to commit crimes, and at some point, halt offending. A groundbreaking study completed by Marvin Wolfgang and his colleagues, known as the Philadelphia Birth Cohort Study, planted the roots for this area of thinking. In the Birth Cohort study, Wolfgang, Figlio & Sellin studied the criminal activity among 9,945 males born in Philadelphia in 1945 (1972). Their first important finding was that one third of the cohort had police contact by the age of 17, with most being one-time offenders. Their second influential insight was that 18% of the cohort was responsible for committing roughly half of all offenses and about two thirds of all violent offenses (Wolfgang, Figlio, Sellin 1972). These findings shed light on the adolescent onset of most criminal careers within an individual’s life course and how, in most cases, a small majority is responsible for a large portion of the crime that is occurring (Piquero, Farrington and Blumstein 2007).

With these findings in mind, Wolfgang, Thornberry & Figlio sought to expand the scope to later parts in the original subject’s life courses (1987). In a 10 year follow up of the Philadelphia Birth Cohort Study, they found that of 10% of the original cohort had become chronic offenders, increasing the seriousness of their criminality into adulthood. This insight provided evidence of not only the persistence of criminal careers but also the increasing severity of crimes committed later on in an individual’s career and life course. In other words, as time goes by, chronic offenders­—­with the beginnings of their careers at an early age—continue to lead lives of crime with mounting cruelty.

In an effort to enhance and extend these research findings, Tracy, Wolfgang and Figlio conducted the Second Philadelphia Birth Cohort Study, which was a study of more than 27,000 individuals who were born in Philadelphia in 1958 and socialized in the 60s and 70s (1990). They found even higher rates of chronic offending among members of the second cohort. Most importantly, they found these chronic offenders to represent only 7% of the cohort with 23% of the offenders being responsible for committing 61% of all the offenses; including 60% of homicides, 75% of forcible rapes, 73% of robberies, and 65% of aggravated assaults (Tracy, Wolfgang and Figlio 1990). It is clear from these numbers and severity of crime, that the earlier hypotheses about crime progression throughout a criminal career were impressively significant.

With these findings about an individual’s criminal career, researchers began to wonder why such changes were taking place and in what context they were occurring. These questions led them to the life course framework and insightful experiences that impact criminal careers.


The Life Course Framework

The life course paradigm can be defined as a series of pathways throughout developmental processes in which there are varying age-dependent expectations and available options in an individual’s decision-making process (Elder 1985). Personal decisions, such as attending college, and natural events like familial death can shape one’s life path and can influence various transitions and turning points within the life course. The criminal career is one such trajectory that operates throughout the life course framework. Other examples might include schooling, work life and y marriage—each with their own potentially positive or negative impacts on the trajectory of the life course (Elder 1985). With the myriad of possible outcomes and transitions within the life course framework scholars look to focus on three main veins.

The first major concept that life course criminologists look at is the development of offending alongside antisocial behavior. Often times, the two come together, with the latter exacerbating the criminal career. Antisocial behavior has been found to increase the progression of crime overtime (Tracy, Wolfgang and Figlio, 1990). In other words, the more antisocial an individual tends to be, the more serious crimes he or she will commit. Second is the effect of risk and protective factors at different ages on criminal activity at varying ages. Some examples of risk factors for a life of crime include scenarios such as truancy and poor social bonding. Protective factors against a criminal career might include items such as local law enforcement presence and strong family bonds. The third important concentration for life course theorists deals with the effects of life events on the course of development and criminal activity throughout the life course. For example, marriage and steady employment have been found to be two of the most influential live events that decrease criminal decisions and lifestyles (Farrington 2003:221). In addition, as individuals develop and mature in later years, they tend to move away from lives of crime and towards more normative lifestyles. These significant characteristics of the life course—antisocial behavior, risk and protective factors, and powerful life experiences—depict a relatively vivid picture in which social scientists can better understand the changes in likelihood of engaging in criminal behavior.

Characteristics of Criminal Behavior

Extensive life course criminology studies have aided in identifying trends of criminal careers as they develop and progress throughout their life course. So much so, that social scientists from multiple disciplines have been able to provide widely accepted conclusions on the likelihood of engaging in criminal behavior, many of which are directly connected to age and maturation.

Through his studies and observations of other research, Farrington—a psychological criminologist— has outlined ten conclusions of criminal behavior.

  1. The frequency of offending peaks in the late teenage years.
  2. The peak age of onset of offending is between 8 and 14, and the peak age from desistance of offending (halting crime) is between 20 and 29.
  3. An early age of onset predicts a relatively long criminal career timeline.
  4. There is a significant correlation between offending and antisocial behavior from childhood, to the teenage years and into adulthood.
  5. A small fraction of the population (i.e. chronic offenders) commits a large fraction of all crimes.
  6. Offending is versatile rather than specialized.
  7. The types of acts defined as offenses are elements of a larger syndrome of antisocial behavior.
  8. Most deviant behavior up to the late teenage years is committed in groups, whereas most offenses from the age 20 onward are committed unaccompanied.
  9. The reasons given for offending up the late teenage years are quite variable, including utilitarian reasons, for excitement or enjoyment, or because people become angry.
  10. Different types of offenses tend to be committed at distinctively different ages (Farrington 2003: 223-224).

In a study of 411 males from South London, ages 10-40, Piquero, Farrington and Blumstein uncovered findings that helped in the creation of the listed conclusions (2007). In this long term follow up of individuals previously tracked during childhood in the Cambridge Study of Delinquent Development (West & Farrington 1973), they found that 2 out of every 5 males, approximately 40%, accumulated an official conviction for a crime in some point in their lives; with 17 being the most prevalent age. In addition, they found that an early onset of offending was directly related to having a more extensive criminal career. This was measured by the accumulation of numerous convictions, having higher probability of participation of violence, demonstrating a longer criminal career and displaying involvement in many type of offenses. Piquero, Farrington & Blumstein also found the average length of a criminal career to be 10 years—falling in place almost perfectly with the peak ages of onset in the teen years and desistance somewhere in the late twenties (2007). Lastly, they found that recidivism after the fourth conviction, or a return to criminal behavior, was extremely high at 84.5%. This statistic points to progressive nature of criminals and their almost habitual dependency on crime from one reason or the other.

Changes in the Criminal Justice (CJ) System

From the examination thus far, it is clear that age plays an important role in the nature of criminal behavior. Adolescents commit different crimes than adults, and in different ways. Should this marked disparity hold true with regards to punishment of these crimes in the criminal justice system? In a poll by ABC news, 55% believed that the crime, and not the perpetrators age, should determine their sentencing (Reaves 2001).  In other words, children and adults should be tried equally. Let us now turn to what the research has to say.

Historically, children in the CJ system were treated in much the same ways as adults and subject to many of the same criminal justice processes as adults (Richards 2011). Until the mid-nineteenth century, there was no specific category for the juvenile offender in Western CJ systems. For example, children as young as six years of age were being tried and incarcerated in Australia (Cunneen & White 2007). However, it is becoming increasingly acknowledged that juveniles should be subject to a CJ system that is different from the adult system. Scholars and activists have now turned to providing evidence for why this change should come to fruition.

Most proponents of separate punishments for adolescents point to their lack of development and maturity. One researcher writes, “changes in arousal and motivation brought on by pubertal maturation precedes the development of regulatory competence in a manner that creates a disjunction between adolescent’s affective experience and his or her ability to regulate arousal and motivation” (Steinberg 2005: 69-70). In other words, children are not yet equipped with the tools to control some of their urges and decisions that often end in criminal behavior. It’s as if they were starting the engine to an automobile without yet having learned about to drive it. This lag in development is by no means their fault. It is a biological phenomenon that all children must deal with, unfortunately, some are better at it than others. On the other hand, majority of healthy adults do not struggle with this discrepancy; all parts of their cognitive development are completed around age 20 (Steinberg 2005). Due to this completion of maturation, many scholars believe adults should be put in separate categories when it comes to convicting them for crimes that they are undoubtedly responsible for. Children however require an additional acknowledgement of this maturity discrepancy before being convicted.

Fortunately for adolescent criminals within the United States, many changes—drawn from international law— are being made to add this extra protection to U.S.  criminal proceedings (de la Vega 2015). De la Vega argues that there are many cases where individual’s rights, especially children’s rights, are better protected under an international standard than under the American Constitution and its statutes. The influence of international law, practice and opinion has been, and continues to be, responsible for much of the criminal justice reform that is occurring in the United States.

In Toper v. Simmons 2005, the Supreme Court abolished the juvenile death penalty. No longer can a child be put to death for his or her crimes. Adults however, can still be convicted with this punishment. The Court specifically looked for evolving values of decency with regards to this punishment, pulling much inspiration from international law that prohibits adolescence from receiving the out dated and biblical punishment (De la Vega 2015). In a similar case, Graham v. Florida 2010, after citing the Roper case, deemed life without parole sentences for juveniles for non-homicide crimes unconstitutional, already international trend. This case, much like its predecessor, reaffirmed the relevance of the international law practice and opinion on the differences between adolescent and adult crimes and punishment (De la Vega 2015).


Along other important characteristics of criminal behavior such as race, ethnicity or gender, age proves to be a dimension worth examining. Each year in an individual’s life is different and these differences can be represented by their life course (Blumstein et al.1986; Elder 1985). Different pathways or trajectories push and pull these people into various decisions and experiences, some better than others. By looking at an individual’s trajectory through the life course paradigm, we can gather more information on the direction they are heading. For some, this means a life of crime and the development of a criminal career. From an early age many people begin their careers. For some, it is short lived and desistance takes place rapidly, while others evolve into chronic offenders. For these individuals, their crimes increase in both frequency and extremity as they journey through their life course (Farrington 2003; Piquero, Farrington and Blumstein 2007; Tracy, Wolfgang and Figlio 1990). Regardless, all crime comes to an end and in the case of this paper, the halting of crime most often comes with old age or conviction. These two milestones mark the end of the criminal career but not necessarily the end of the life course. Some may live on without criminal behavior while others who have become convicted are left in prison or rehabilitated into civil citizens. No matter the outcome, all life courses must also come to end and it’s up to the individual to choose how that is.


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