Social Structure Theory


SocialStructure Theory


Mostof the criminal activities in the society can be attributed toeconomic and social challenges. Therefore, it is important to analyzethem using the social structure theory to have an in-depthunderstanding and determining the root of criminal activities. Thereexist three types of societal structure theories applicable socialdisorganization hypothesis, strain theory, and culture conflictsupposition. The report uses a case study of Pelican Bay State Prisonto analyze the main reasons for individuals taking part in crimewhere the clip ‘PelicanBay State Prison: War Zone wasused.’ The inmates do not view the confinement as a punishment buta reward where they proceed with their illicit acts perpetuated bygang leaders. They develop a bond that is hard to break. Despite thehigh security measures, the leaders stay in touch with their membersand in the process working as a single unit or simply like a family.Theorists point out that the failure to access education is theprimary reason for increased violence. In other words, it is onlyilliterate individuals who take part in criminal activities becausethey have nothing better to do. Thus, it is the responsibility of thesociety to ensure that people are educated. The solitary confinementat Pelican Bay State Prison has a psychological effect on theprisoners. Nonetheless, it is more of a benefit than a cost andshould be encouraged.

SocialStructure Theory

Thesocial structure theory analyzes all the areas of communal andeconomic aspects of the society. It aids in establishing the root ofcriminal activities in the contemporary world. There are three kindsof social structure theories they include social disorganizationhypothesis, strain theory, and culture conflict supposition (Xiong,2016). The social disorganization one entails the analysis ofsocietal institutions such as families, economies, as well aseducation and their role in causing crimes. On the other hand, straintheory asserts that the level of stress that someone has as a resultof societal expectations is the reason for crime and deviance(McIllwain,2015).Social culture theory points out that crime is a consequence ofmisunderstandings between social groups over what is required or theappropriate behavior.

Inthis paper, the ‘PelicanBay State Prison: War Zone’ clipwas selected to assess the social structure theory in regard to theprison. The clip ‘WarZone’ encompassesthe riots, criminal organizations, and regulatory factors behind thesecured walls. The video further mentions the growth of authority andmurder. The kinds of social frameworks that have grown within theprison will be discussed together with manner in which they try tocope up with the community structure in analyzing all the issuesinvolved in Pelican Bay’s social structure. Furthermore, potentialconsequences for trying to transform the social policy will behighlighted. The paper gives a clear scenario of how less can be doneto a social structure accustomed to violence, such that death cannottransition the behavior, thus rendering the manners extreme.

Overviewof Pelican Bay State Prison

PelicanBay State prison is based on 275 acres in northwest California, 13miles from Oregon and California border. The prison is designed tohouse California’s lethal offenders in a safe and disciplinedenvironment. It was founded in December 1989 to accommodate therising population of maximum-security inmates. Half of the facilityhouses maximum-security prisoners in a General Population (GP)environment and the remaining half accommodates prisoners in theSecurity Housing Unit (SHU).

Recently,the Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, hasattracted the attention of the media on more than a single occasion.The pattern began in February 24th,2000 when a riot between a Hispanic and an African-American ensuedwhile in the exercise yard. The outcome of the violence left oneinmate dead, 19 wounded and approximately 89 weapons seized.

Adecade later, prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison started astate-wide hunger strike. It was in retaliation to the 2000 riot thatsaw inmates viciously attacked. Due to this violence, all gangleaders were put in Secure Housing Units also referred to as SHU.They stayed in the units since the 2000 violence. The prison wardenshave added their numbers as more criminals have joined their ranksfor being involved in gang acts and violating set rules andregulations. The hunger strike was a way of sending a message to theprison’s management. They wanted the release of their leaders fromthe SHU confinements.


Thereis massive information supporting the derivation of crime from asocial structure theory in the film, ‘PelicanBay State Prison: War Zone.’Those already in prison have conditioned their mind to fancy thatoption. To them, prison acts as a gift and not a punishment for theirillicit acts. In addition, it is a reward since Pelican Bay housesthe notorious gang leaders able to carry out their operations whileserving imprisonment. They are fearless and sacrifice a lot for oneanother. In other words, they perceive each other as families, andtherefore, stick together, especially during difficult times. Theyshare a bond that cannot be easily severed by anything or anyone.Pelican Bay State Prison boasts of long confinements and rigidsecurity measures. Nonetheless, gang leaders manage to stay in touchwith their groups both on the streets and prison, which proves thatthey operate as families. As a consequence, such acts are in linewith the principles of the social disorganization theory, whichasserts that there is flourishing of crime for inmates.


Theprimary social challenge presented in the video was the manner inwhich the gangs were regulated differently while confined. Despitethe unyielding nature of gang leaders in an unsentimental prison,they still manage to sneak drugs and contrabands through theirallowed means of communication (Hanson, Venturelli&amp Fleckenstein,2015).Even if the gang leaders are imprisoned they are able to callthe shots. For example, in case the gang has a feeling that acriminal activity needs to take place, the leader will be the one toapprove the act. Pelican Bay Prison management has tried all ways oferadicating such a problem but in vain.


Thereare two primary principles illustrated in the video. First, there isan inadequate efficient home environment. Second, gang life is theonly thing that they know and ever done. Violence perpetuated bydifferent gangs in the prison is the main problem, whichunfortunately, takes place daily. It is so intense such that theleaders have a huge say when it comes to murder. They are responsiblefor the murders in the prison. Manslaughter according to the gangleaders acts as a punishment to those in violation of the operationalprinciples. Therefore, leaders determine who will be killed toeliminate possible threats. It goes back to members and leaders withthe knowledge of the gang life and ready to die for a ‘worthycourse’.


Thesocial structure is a subject of examination by theorists exploringall the elements of a criminal’s lifestyle. They assess eachportion of their existence from the start. Through a persisting crimeanalysis, they are capable of identifying the reasons for engaging incriminal activities. Specifically, they are in a position todetermine how they ended up in an immoral life. Furthermore,theorists have established that failure to graduate from learninginstitutions is associated with a rise in atrocities, that is,illiteracy is the main cause of increased violence. On the contrary,those who are well-educated get good jobs and live an honest, as wellas great life. It implies that there is a little or zero probabilityof such people participating in violent acts.

Thereare diverse reasons for people not graduating or being educated. Itmay be due to the absence of a family supporting and wanting them toget the best out of life. It could also be attributed to theoccurrence of other social events. For example, a person may beunfortunate not to graduate or complete their education due topregnancy and forced to have a baby in the process. Others may failto graduate and become educated just because they believe thatschooling has no role to play in their lives.

Nowadays,law enforcement officers are vigilant and responsible. Crimes areperpetuated by malicious individuals in the society. If differentcommunities combined resources and looked after their children, thesociety would be a better place. At times, idleness among the younggeneration is the root source of crime. Consequently, it would beprudent if the youths are kept busy after school, for example, makingthem take part in co-curricular activities and sports to streamlinetheir focus towards self-nourishment. They should be allotted withitems to distract their minds and make sure that they are not introuble and abstain from things such as drug abuse (Hanson,Venturelli &amp Fleckenstein, 2015). Nonetheless, it is not the casein the modern world. The society is busy minding its own business andfear encountering the ramifications of meddling into other peoples’private affairs. If only the society would change its communal policyand begin looking after one another based on the beliefs of thesocial structure theory, the environment would be peaceful withreduced crime levels.

Ananalysis of the theory proves that strains may not essentiallyoriginate from frustration instead, a blend of homelessness,neglect, abuse, subcultures, odd values, and aggravations aboutpoverty. It also means that there could be more than a single elementin force when someone is influenced to take part in crime bysocializing within a specific economic class. An individual mayexperience one of these elements by themselves and avoid falling preyto peer pressure that may lead them to participate in criminalactivities. One may be faced with poverty but have sufficientemotional strength through family values to take part in legalactions.

PelicanBay State Prison Structure Shock

ThePelican building is unique and may be one of the reasons forprisoners desire to change life. In most buildings, the structure anddesign can maintain a mood set and can also bar happiness. Thebuilding style of the prison is not a cheerful one by all means andit is almost like being locked up alone throughout. All cells lack awindow, it is nothing but metallic making for cold eerie feeling andsurrounded by darkness and cold.

Monthsor years of solitary confinement at Pelican are connected with totalidleness, that is, a person is socially deprived and has nothingimportant to do but just wait for time to lapse (Bassett, 2016). As aresult, one suffers a breakdown, which is emotionally destructivefrom a psychological point of view. Some of the possible impacts ofsolitary confinement on prisoners include high level of anxiety,insomnia, paranoia, depression, and suicidal feelings(,2016). Prisonersmay end up pacing and cleaning their cells uncontrollably. Inaddition, they develop eyesight complications because of theinability to gaze at a distance. The inmates find it difficult tofocus their thoughts on a single item, for example, reading a book.

Prisonersmay be petrified and angered due to their situation, which may getout of control, an implication that they will place themselves inmore trouble, thus translating to an increased confinement. Such ascenario in criminal psychology is normal for a stable person.However, for those with a background of vulnerable mental illness,solitude can result in a breakdown.

NancyMullane, a reporter of the ‘Lifeof the Law’pointed out that unlike other prisons Pelican Bay has an attractivearchitectural touch (Mullane,2016).The inmates are capable of accessing external sources of light thatdrift in through doors that are constructed of perforated metal. Theporous doors also facilitate exchange of information among prisonersdespite the absence of lines of sight to any inmate in theconfinement.

Besides,the cells have no windows it means that prisoners have noopportunity to view the horizon. They are only allowed to leave theircells to exercise or shower however, even bathrooms and exerciseareas are also not so different from their cells save for theirsmaller sizes. While many prisoners have cellmates, Pelican Bay onlyallows for solitary confinement. Having cellmates may lead tounnecessary conflicts and other unwanted behaviors, and hence, it ishighly discouraged at Pelican Bay State Prison.

ALife of Solitude

Aprison sentence is challenging nonetheless, being jailed andspending a considerable period under a single confinement is anotherproblem. The solitary confinement has long term impacts on inmates’lives. The primary reason that prisoners go back to their initiallifestyle but do not attempt to better themselves may be attributedto the treatment they received. They condition their mind to believethat they are outcasts and have no hope of redemption (Bassett,2016). The sentence together with solitary confinement propagates theminds of prisoners to a deeper and darker environment, thus making ithard for them to escape their life of crime.

Prisonwardens believe that solitary confinement assists in lowering thegang problem. On the contrary, it has seen an increase in gangrelated problems to a whole new level. Inmates tend to become moreviolent and easily irritated. Presumably, solitary confinement ismaking them worse and destroys their sanity for some time.Nonetheless, there is a productive side to the issue. People causingtrouble upon their release are locked up again to detach them fromthe mainline, thus making it to serve its intended purpose.


Insummation, the social structure learning process based on the videoculminates in an extreme degree of emotional struggle to obtain theusual principles and ideas from the society’s interactions andattempts to summarize them as conceptual intelligence. From PelicanBay’s perspective, conceptual knowledge is most rigid whenorganized to a system. An analysis of the video further reveals itsability to incorporate all the three different types of socialstructure theories. The inability of the external environment toregulate criminal behaviors makes it difficult for the prisonmanagement to control the behaviors of the growing number of inmates.While in prison, some inmates acquire criminal tendencies in asimilar manner they learn conventional traits. In other words, whenone is in an environment of crime, they eventually turn out to becriminals. Therefore, prisons should continue practicing the solitaryconfinement in prisons. However, the prison wardens should conductstrict monitoring and evaluating of inmates to prevent the continuedgrowth of crime despite the apprehension of gang leaders. However,the criminals should not be placed under solitary confinements forlittle offenses. In the event that prisoners commit particular crimesfor a gang or get involved in a conspiracy, they should be placed inthe SHUs. They should only be released from the units through goodbehavior and not by use of hunger strikes and violence from theirpeers. It is termed as a stepdown program, one that does not requiredebriefing of inmates.


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