Not All “Wrong” Behavior is a Crime

The justice system is put into place to create and enforce laws. These protect us. They stop others from hurting, violating or stealing from us because those are fundamentally “wrong” behaviors. They cause monetary or financial damage to one member and unfairly benefit the other. While some actions may feel wrong, almost offensive to someone’s morals, that doesn’t always make it illegal.

These are known as deviant behaviors. They’re acts which feel wrong, or are unsightly, but ultimately don’t break any law. Walking into a crowded shopping mall and licking the floor may disgust everybody around you. You may even be removed from the property. But at the end of the day, the only law broken is a social construct that views licking a public floor as gross and weird. These behaviors can also take the form of:

  • Lying
  • Cheating
  • Sadism (natural tendency towards cruelty)
  • Binge drinking
  • Living as a nudist
  • Various sexual fetishes

Sociologists have debated for years exactly where these behaviors come from, and discussing that could easily fill a dozen textbooks. The boiled down version is that the urge to commit these acts, and the acts themselves, are fueled by or respond to a mixture of these categories.

  • Conformity- Acceptance of cultural goals and striving to achieve them.
  • Innovation- Acceptance of cultural goals, but uses abnormal means to achieve them.
  • Ritualism- Refusal of cultural goals, but follows a regular routine to achieve them.
  • Retreatism- Refuses both cultural goals and the means to achieve them.
  • Rebellion- Both the refusal of cultural goals and means to achieve, and the substitution of different goals and means to achieve.

At the end of the day, deviant behavior is really about the psychological makeup of the individual committing it. Symptoms of a tendency to commit these acts will start appearing in early childhood, but may start to form in early adulthood as well. In most cases, there isn’t much to worry about. There are thousands of deviant acts which have become more acceptable in society, or have a safe way in which an individual can act on those impulses.

However, should an individual begin to start lashing out or committing more aggressive acts (firesetting, nudity in public, etc.) it’s important to intervene immediately. Rehabilitation can be a much harder process when done within a prison. A qualified psychiatric hospital is the best bet.