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Social disorganization is the failure of social institutions or social organizations such as schools, business or social networks in certain communities or neighborhoods to adequately serve its community members. In criminology, social disorganization is usually treated as both perspective and theory.
Social disorganization occurs when there are inequalities in a society. The poor members of society often turn to crime as a way to gap the inequalities amongst its members. Another form of social disorganization is ethnic succession, which basically means that when one group exhausts its resources, another group will take its place and go through the same cycle. When immigrants come to this country from another country, they may find people of the same ethnicity struggling to make a life for them. After so many failed attempts at success, the new immigrants may then turn to crime. There will be a distinct difference in how many members of that group participate in crimes as compared to those who refrain. For example, when the Irish immigrated to America a rise in crime by the Irish was observed. The crime pattern was cyclical: once the Irish were able to establish themselves in the community, a different immigrant group took their place in the world of crime.
As it happens, the pattern is continuing, and we are experiencing the same situation today in America. When you look at the ratio of the population, there are more blacks per 100,000 who are incarcerated or are under some form of supervision than whites (Bureau of Justice, 2009). We are also seeing an increase in Hispanic arrest rates. This is due to the high number of immigrants coming into the country who are at a social disadvantage, are not able to obtain jobs, and are not able support themselves legally.
With the research of organized crime several theories used to explain organized crime functions, which are directly related to the social environment. Those theories would also relate to the individual and the group that are involved in organized crime. "Some researchers link criminality to social conditions prevalent in neighborhoods. Many of them believe that the reasons crime rates are high in these areas are urban decay, a general deterioration of the ecology of inner cities, and general social and familial deterioration." (Lyman, Potter, 2007)
In some scenarios the record seen with criminal socialization could have to do with the status of where a person is within their community. “Socioeconomic stratification, which is based on monetary, ethnic, racial or even charismatic circumstances, deals with how humans are ranked in their social system.” (Associated Content) Some people have other resources where as others do not which will cause different circumstances then the rest of their community. This can cause whole lot of stress, which can reflect their decision-making.
Social disorganization may also be a result of the rules of society members ignoring the established rules of a society--in this case organized crime and its disregard for the normal actions of members within the society where it exists. The deterioration of the family structure can also be a cause of social disorganization and, in turn, fuel some types of organized crime, particularly street gangs with national prominence. In many cases street gangs are approached as a replacement family. For those belonging to a gang, criminal activities become a simple fact of their lives and as such, when they become part of the gang and the crime scene, find it difficult to leave. Demand for goods and services banned or not acceptable within normal society also may result in organized crime filling that need.
Political organizations and organized crime in the United States have had a colorful and
long history of working together to retain control. Political figures have long used the influence that organized crime holds to run successful campaigns and gain power through use of political favors given to those controlling organized crime. "In the early twentieth century, the Irish played the dominant role in organized crime in Chicago. They ran major gambling syndicates, were leaders in labor racketeering, and, as an outgrowth of these rackets, became involved in politics and even law enforcement careers. In short, they were at the apex of both the city's political and criminal hierarchy." (Organized Crime)
In many cases the Jewish, Sicilian and Irish mobs that existed early on in the United States were all involved in politics through the use of bribes, and political capital traded for a "blind eye." The concept of Social Disorganization applies here as well given that politics in the United States are supposed to operate fairly and with regard to the people and their desires. However, when an organization controls or at least directly or indirectly influences decisions made within the political scene the system itself breaks down and no longer functions the way it was initially set up thereby exhibiting classic social disorganization. It should be noted that generally this is a result of corruption, which is not always prevalent, though as some have said, with power comes corruption.
Social disorganization, while being a theory, is perfectly acceptable to describe both organized crime and political organizations. After all, the entire goal of a good criminal and political organization is the ability to guide the thoughts and ideals of those who look to either for guidance. As we can see, organized crime can and generally does have community-based support, which allows it to continue and even, thrive in many cases, just as political parties do. Overall, the idea allows criminal justice professionals to view organized crime from a standpoint that allows a social outlook that is similar and yet still separate from what we may term normal society as well.
Associated Content retrieved on August 27, 2010 from
Organized Crime, Fourth Edition Chapter 2: Theories of Organized Criminal Behavior
Author: Michael D. Lyman, Gary W. Potter copyright © 2007 Pearson Education
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