Deviance has to do with the

Deviant Behavior vs. Criminal Behavior

Student’s name

Institutional affiliation


Deviance has to do with the act of breaking rules particularly if their behavior differs from the socially accepted norm. Crime on the other hand refers to an act considered illegal and worthy of punishment and social condemnation because it poses danger not only to the individual but also the society. Crime occurs when a given law is violated and the individual is punished by the state laws. For a crime to be committed, a well-documented law must be broken, unlike deviance where cultural principles and norms are broken. Norms are rules made by society to guide people about what is acceptable and what should be done in a given situation. The purpose of this paper is to identify the line that separates criminal from unusual behavior. Further, the text discusses how criminology can redefine what is criminal and develop solutions that prevent the reoccurrence of deviant behavior.

The Line that Separates Criminal from Deviant Behavior

A thin line exists between deviance and crime. Examples of crime are rape, murder, robbery, shoplifting, and prostitution while deviant behavior includes behavior such as underage marriage, walking naked in public, paying for prostitute services, and wearing red to a funeral. The main difference is that while crime has to do with the violation of laws, deviance is about the violation of social norms. While deviance is not very severe, the effects of crime can range from mild or severe. Further, the rules in deviance are not written down while for criminal offenses there exists criminal rules. When a person breaks a norm, there is nothing the society can do as they do not have the coercive power to inflict punishment or penalties on perpetrators while on the other hand if a crime is broken, the judiciary and the police have the mandate and power to penalize and punish perpetrators (Matza, 2017). Also notably, while deviance is unique and differs from society to society, crime is universal although the penalties and punishments can differ from country to country.

How Criminology Can Redefine What is Criminal to Create Public Policy

Defining what is criminal and what is not criminal is a good way of providing fairness when it comes to sentencing. There should be international norms and standards that provide a framework for the national sentencing policy that needs to be articulated and legislated if necessary. This is because the decision about if to go by non-custodial sanctions or imprisonment is informed by the penal law. Some of the sentencing policies only reaffirm the principle of equity and acknowledges the importance of considering the mitigation in the sentence (Osgood, Wilson, O’Malley, Bachman, & Johnston2017). Further, the rehabilitation of offenders does not state the objectives set to be achieved. As such, there is a need to individualize the sanctions to take into account not only the degree of culpability of the defendants but also the seriousness of the crime. Additionally, some instances in sentencing are silent in pointing exactly how non-custodial sentences such as house arrest will be employed to rehabilitate the offender.

Solutions that Prevent Reoccurrence

By coming up with reforms that will guarantee convicted individuals access to educational opportunities while in prisons, and jails can help reduce recidivism both for adults and juveniles. There is a need to incorporate educational opportunities in prisons. According to a meta-analysis conducted in 2013 for educational programs among adults, education was found to work rather well in reducing recidivism (Crank, 2018). Inmates who went through educational programs were 43% less likely to be incarcerated again. Noteworthy, even equipping inmates with basic skills and literacy education can reduce recidivism as inmates get a chance to complete their education, advance their high school diplomas, and learn a technical skill or a trade that will help them secure employment or start a business once they finish serving their term. This way, these individuals are capable of leading a decent life meaning that they are not likely to relapse to dubious ways of survival such as stealing or dealing drugs as such tendencies are likely to land them back in prison. Another solution that can help reduce re-occurrence is increasing the treatment of substance abuse. This has to do with the fact that drug offenses account for a majority of reasons for conviction in the United States. In Wyoming, 17% of total arrests made in 2017 were drug offenses (Goode, 2019). A notable number of detainees often suffer mental health problems. While education is an effective and popular approach to prevent reoccurrence, it is also important to avail treatment to offenders. This can be done with the help of substance abuse treatment programs. The treatment can be done using inpatient drug treatment or intensive treatment during incarceration. It can also take the form of a deferred sentence. Recent statistics show that recidivism rates for offenders that have gone through substance abuse treatment went down by double-digits as compared to the rest of the prison population.


Deviant behavior emanates from social norms and they do not have to be necessarily illegal. The two terms often overlap and are used interchangeably. Deviant crimes follow norms that do have to be written down while on the other hand criminal behavior follows rules that are written down and observed in a given state. Educational programs and inpatient drug treatment are some of the viable solutions that can be used to prevent the reoccurrence of deviant and criminal behavior.


Crank, B. R. (2018). Accepting deviant identities: the impact of self-labeling on intentions to desist from crime. Journal of Crime and Justice, 41(2), 155-172.

Goode, E. (2019). Deviant behavior. Routledge.

Matza, D. (2017). Becoming deviant. Routledge.

Osgood, D. W., Wilson, J. K., O’malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Johnston, L. D. (2017). Routine activities and individual deviant behavior. In Crime Opportunity Theories (pp. 49-69). Routledge.