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Posted on June 8th, 2012, by

The prevention of crime is one of the most serious problems and one of the greatest challenges the contemporary criminology and modern society are facing. It should be pointed out that practically all criminologist theories are focused on the problem of the crime prevention and the punishment that people should serve for the crimes they commit. This means that the crime prevention is a constituent element of any criminologist theory that proves the fact that the prevention of crime is not less important than the understanding of the essence of crime and its causes.

In fact, the prevention of crime is the major stimuli for the development of criminology since it may be viewed as the major objective of the development of this science. At the same time, it is still hardly possible to find a really effective way of the prevention of crime that could provide a really effective crime control from the part of the state and society. Nevertheless, in the course of time, criminologists have developed various views on the problem of prevention of crime and crime control.

In this respect, it is worthy of mention the views of Braithwaite who argues that shame and reintegrative shame are the key concepts that should be applied as the major tools of control over crimes, since, according to the researcher, it is due to these two concepts it is possible to totally change the psychology, moral, and emotional sphere of criminals and, in such a way, positively affect their behavior making it less aggressive and anti-social and more predictable and socially friendly. Obviously, his ideas are quite interesting and seem to be very perspective but it is necessary to analyze them in depth in order to understand their essence and assess the extent to which they may be successfully and effectively applied.


Shame and reintegrative shaming

First of all, it should be said that Braithwaite’s ideas and concepts are the products of many years of hard work of this specialists. It is necessary to agree that his ideas are innovative in a way but, nonetheless, they are not totally unique since they basically refer to the influence on the psychological and emotional sphere of criminals in order to establish an effective control over crimes and prevent them from committing anti-social acts. At the same time, his works are really valuable since they provide an opportunity to view the perspectives of crime control from a new, psychological and moral perspective, instead of the traditional punitive or even repressive system of views on criminals and the ways of the crime prevention and control.

On analyzing his views, it is necessary to underline that shame and reintegrative shaming are the key concept of his theoretical approach to crime control and crime prevention. Basically, he stands on the ground that criminal acts are considerably affected by the emotional and psychological, or as Katz defines it ”˜moral-emotional’ component. What is meant here is the fact that crimes are committed under the psychological or moral pressure a criminal suffers form.

In fact, it is not necessarily some external pressure on the psychology of a criminal, for instance, when he gets marginalized under the pressure of his social environment which excludes him from a social group a criminal would like to belong to. In contrast, it is often the internal, psychological state of an individual which often forces him to commit crimes.

In such a situation, it is obvious that the crimes are committed under the impact of moral and psychological factors.

Consequently, the prevention of crimes and crime control should be established by means of influencing moral and psychological sphere of individuals. In this respect, Braithwaite recommends to use shame and reintagrative shaming which could be really helpful in crime prevention and control.

In order to better understand his position, it is necessary to underline that shame may be defined as the realization of the fact that crimes are morally unacceptable and, what is more, shame is quite an uncomfortable state since a criminal constantly doubts whether his actions were right or wrong and the latter dominates. Briefly speaking, shame is a kind of internal system of self-control of the criminal, which though may be and should be provoked from outside in order to make a criminal to reevaluate his behavior and his lifestyle at large. At this point, it is possible to refer to the concept of reintegrative sham which implies the possibility of the reintegration of an individual in the community and in the normal social life, even if he has already committed some crime, by means of shame which is not simply controls the behavior of a criminal but makes him willing to correct his own behavior change it for better, and, what is even more important, to get integrated into society and lead the life similar to that of ordinary people.

The role of shame and shaming in crime control

Taking into consideration the importance of shame and reintegrtive shaming in crime control, it is necessary to carefully analyze their role in this process. Obviously, shame and reintegrative shaming are very important concepts and it should be pointed out that often they are critically perceived by critics of Braithwaite’s approach to the crime control and prevention.

First of all, it should be said that shame and reintegrative shaming are the notions which basically refer to the moral sphere and do not directly affects an individual’s physical state. What is meant here is the fact that, unlike other approaches to crime prevention and control over crimes, shame and reintegrative shaming does not physically limit the freedom of an individual, for instance. Moreover, it is hardly possible to estimate that these concepts are really punitive in the traditional sense of this word. Traditionally, it is believed that crime may be prevented only by means of a severe punishment, or at least, the punishment should be adequate to the crime committed. In such a way, it is believed that crimes may be prevented when criminals are punished and spend a considerable part of their life in a prison or being constantly controlled by police and social services. As a result, the criminal is punished for the crime he commits but he rather suffers from the limitation of his rights and liberties which, actually, he may consider to be unjustly limited. Consequently, the criminal would not change his behavior but would rather look for the options to overcome these limitations which practically force the criminal to violate the law in an attempt to get some freedom.

In such a way, under the impact of traditional methods of crime control and prevention which imply severe punishment and constant control over the criminal, the latter, being unable to bear such a punitive system of control, simply rebels against the system and, therefore, against society and continues to commit crimes.

In stark contrast to this imperfect system, shame and reintegrative shaming are based on principles that differ from the traditional punitive system of crime control. In general, shame implies that a criminal’s emotional and moral sphere should be affected. Practically, this means that a criminal should be conscious of the fact that he committed a crime but, instead of a simple understanding of this fact, he should realize that he was totally wrong and his actions is unacceptable not only from the legal point of view, which he has neglected because of different reasons, but it is also unacceptable from the moral point of view. What is meant here is the fact that Brathwaite stands on the ground that the emotional and moral sphere can affect the behavior of a criminal more substantially than some legal measures or limitations of a criminal’s freedom. These actions create a psychological pressure on an individual but they rather stimulate him to rebel against the law and society while shame undermines his moral views on his behavior, especially on his crime. In such a way, shame becomes a kind of remorse which constantly accompanies a criminal, controls his behavior and, therefore, controls crime.

The reintegrative shaming may be viewed as the following stage of the process of crime control and prevention. To put it more precisely, the reintegrative shaming implies that shame overcomes its initial boundaries and forces a criminal not only concentrate on his crime and his guilt and realize that his actions were totally wrong and unacceptable, but it also forces a criminal to look for the possible way out from his current position when he is practically an outcast, a marginal rejected by society because of his crime or crimes. In fact, the reintegrative shaming is based on the idea that under the pressure of his shame, a criminal reevaluates his behavior and attempts to find the new, effective ways of returning to the normal social life. In other words, shame forces a criminal to get integrated in society and become an ordinary member of some community. Such a change in his lifestyle would contribute to the gradual decrease of his moral sufferings, remorse and shame of his past actions since, as he gets reintegrated, he becomes practically a new person which sincerely regrets about his past actions, fully realizes his past mistakes and, what is more, does not want to repeat them anymore.

Strengths and weaknesses of the approach and its limitations

Naturally, as any other approach, the approach of Brathwaite has its own strengths and weaknesses. It should be pointed out that basically, this approach is relatively new to the contemporary justice system and its practical implementation would inevitable come across serious difficulties. Nevertheless, its strengths and advantages seem to be obvious.

One of the major strengths of this approach is its potential power. What is meant here is the fact that this approach really targets at the moral and psychological correction of a criminal and his transformation in a normal citizen. It is important to underline that due to shame and reintegrative shaming this transformation occurs not only under the pressure from outside but also and mainly under the internal pressure. In other words, society just pushes the button of self-control of an individual’s behavior when it helps him to realize the extent to which his behavior and his crime are immoral and shameful. As soon as a criminal gets shameful of his illegal actions it is just necessary to direct him in the right way to the reintegration in society. In such a way, a positive effect and really effective crime control is achieved due to the use of non-repressive or punitive methods, in their traditional sense, but rather due to the use of moral potential of the criminal himself. Moreover, this correction and control is conscious and a criminal is willing to change that is another strength of this approach.

On the other hand, there are some weaknesses. For instance, this approach implies that the major influence on a criminal must be the impact on his psychology, his morality and emotions. If this impact is successful than this is a strength of the approach but, it is also necessary to take into consideration the possibility of failure of moral or psychological pressure on a criminal or that his psychology or moral beliefs, though it would be more precise to say immoral beliefs, would be too strong and he would neither regret nor feel shame for his actions.

Furthermore, it is also necessary to remember about the fact that the modern justice system and society at large are simply unprepared to the practical implementation of this approach since there is neither sufficient amount of specialists having profound knowledge of human psychology able to evoke the feeling of shame or practically apply Braithwaite’s recommendations, nor society is ready to refuse from the traditional punitive system since the public opinion is often for the stricter punishment for criminals and not for their moral ”˜reconstruction’.


Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Braithwaite’s approach discussed above seems to be really effective and very perspective since it provide a new system of crime control based on the psychological and moral change of a criminal under the impact of shame and reintegrative shaming. This approach is really strong since it affects directly the psychology and moral sphere of a criminal reshaping his personality and making it better but, nevertheless, the practical implementation of this approach should be developed more carefully and, moreover, this method should be used as a complementary method to the existing approaches to crime control, at least on the current level of the development of the contemporary justice system and society.

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