Conflict Theory and Deviant Labeling

Conflict Theory and Deviant Labeling

Monday, February 01, 2021

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Prison Inequality

Deviant labeling plays an important role in conflict theory since social inequality is supported through labeling and reducing individuals to stereotypes (Macionis, 2011). For example, labeling someone a felon is in many ways a life sentence as this person is now excluded from many opportunities both socially and career wise, but more important to conflict theorists is the fact that this person is now reduced in power within society by having less opportunities to earn and less access to resources. Social stereotypes such as believing entire races are deviant impacts the positions of class, race, ethnicity, gender, etc… In this way, deviant labeling becomes an oppressive tool that reinforces outcomes such as prison for specific groups in order to reduce this groups power.

This theory has a great deal of merit when looking at prison incarceration statistics by Pope and Feyerherm (1993) which showed the preponderance of studies examined were indicative of racial and ethnic influence: most notably in during the arrest process. status influenced the justice process for juveniles, especially in terms of arrest. Continued research in this area of criminal justice provides an almost unarguable conclusion that people of color are more likely to be arrested and imprisoned than whites (Bilchik, 1999).

Deviant labeling directly impacts racial disparity and fuels many behaviors such as racial profiling which makes entire groups prone to legal sanctions that in many cases lead to the status of felon thereby reducing power within society. There is not part of the criminal justice system that this is not apparent within even in juveniles who are routinely arrested, found guilty, and given harsher punishments than their white counterparts (Pope, & Feyerherm, 1993).

Social-Conflict theory carries much merit when looking at racial groups and comparing deviant labeling effects.


Bilchik, S. U.S. Department of Justice , Office of Justice Programs Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (1999). Minorities in the juvenile justice system (179007). Washington, DC : OJJDP’s Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse. Retrieved from

Macionis, J. J. (2011). Society: The basics (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Pope, C, & Feyerherm, W. U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention . (1993). Minorities and the juvenile justice system: research summary. Washington, DC : OJJDP’s


Vincent Triola. Mon, Feb 01, 2021. Conflict Theory and Deviant Labeling Retrieved from

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