Gender and Perceived Severity of Informal Sanctions: A Case Study of Convicted DUI Offenders in Cass County, North Dakota
The use of informal sanctions as deterrents to socially undesirable behavior is not new. Particularly at a time when individuals (especially public figures) are subject to growing scrutinization, the breadth of public censure is expanding to envelop a seemingly wider array of moral and legal violations. Minor law-breakers, too, are being made increasingly aware of the public's social monitoring role a role which functions as a dynamic reference point by which individuals, on the basis of certain actions, are deemed to be "deviant" or "respectable" (Douglas, 1970). "What is relatively new, however, is the "formalization of the informal sanction"; that is, for less serious crimes, the formal imposition of what Garfinkel (1956) has termed "degradation ceremonies", using public recourse as the primary sanctioning agent. In colonial times, violators were publicly displayed in stocks, where social disapproval by one's peers could be visibly vented. Today, courts appear to be resurrecting the informal sanction to provide a second line of defense to supplement the formal system of surveillance and punishment (Snortum, 1988). As in earlier times, the function today is essentially twofold: to sanction the offender and to reinforce existing norms. Of primary interest is the effect such sanctions have on various offenders, since each individual will be subjected to varying degrees of informal sanctioning based upon their own perception of how selected members of society (i.e, significant others, reference groups, etc.) view their offense (for a discussion of the looking glass self, see Cooley, 1902). Obviously, the nature of the violation also impacts how the actor will be perceived; situational contexts, such as the option of alternative actions, are also primary consider ations (McHugh, 1970). However, among the most influential factors which initially impact the social construction of deviance are offender characteristics (Kitsuse, 1962;Becker, 1963). Of these, respectability, age, and sex are among the most studied, perhaps because they constitute the most observable attributes which comprise one's social identity (Goffman, 1963).
Stratton, Terry D. and Larson, James H.
"Gender and Perceived Severity of Informal Sanctions: A Case Study of Convicted DUI Offenders in Cass County, North Dakota,"
Great Plains Sociologist: Vol. 4:
1, Article 2.
Available at: https://openprairie.sdstate.edu/greatplainssociologist/vol4/iss1/2
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