The Theory of Labeling

Topics: Labeling Theory

Labeling theory believes that personal identity and behavior can be determined or influenced by terms described or classified. It is related to self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotypes (McGrath, 2014). This theory states that people recognize and express themselves in a way that reflect how others identify them as. This is most often associated with criminal sociology, because marking illegal offenders can lead to bad behavior. For example, describing someone as a criminal may cause other people to treat the person more negatively, and then make the person behave (Chiricos, Barrick, Bales, & Bakes, 2007).

Police officer was inspired by labeling theory but this is considered ineffective and have been abolished. Polices are responsible for implementing normal standards and labeling certain as a natural behavior. These officials strengthen the power structure of society by labeling people and creating deviation categories (Chiricos, Barrick, Bales, & Bakes, 2007). Social dominators create deviation labels and applying it to subordinate groups, such as the poor, the youth, ethnic majority, etc.

Contemporary research has shown that labeling can have a profound impact on individuals because formal labeling has revealed a quantifiable impact on the future employment opportunities, and education (Chiricos, Barrick, Bales, & Bakes, 2007). This can mainly effect adolescents, and the impact may lead to continued criminal behavior. Policies, judges, attorneys, and other personnel created by label theory to focus on reducing the negative effect of previous labels and providing opportunities for a change.

Ban the box is created to forbid companies from asking job applicants about their felonious background when they’re first searching for a job.

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The ban the box was by a former US crime advocate. The purpose is to delete the check box asking if the applicant has a criminal record. This is to enable former criminals to prove their qualifications during the recruitment process before being asked for criminal records (Craigie, 2020). The premise of this policies is that anything that makes it difficult for former criminals to find a job makes it possible for them to commit crimes again, which is not good for society.

The reason this policy was created to give people a fair chance for getting a job.

Ban the box policy does not prohibit employers from conducting background checks, but some policies require that a delayed copy be obtained after the first (Craigie, 2020). Some states also have laws that limit the ability of employers to use credit records when making employment decision. Though, some situations go further and require companies to wait until the meeting or provide temporary work before asking about the felony history. Company should be aware and take into attention what time of crime the applicant has committed. They should put into consideration what kind of job the applicants are applying for when it comes to the safety of children, vulnerable adults, elderly, etc.

Not every state uses the ban the box law, asking about criminal history and strict refusal to hire may violate federal anti-discrimination laws. Complete refusal to hire applicants from the criminal record will have a disproportionate impact on certain races. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has caution companies about this kind of behaviors. To avoid discrimination company should take into consideration the nature of the work, seriousness of the crime, time that pass during crime (Silverman, 2016). Companies have reasons to ask the applicants about their criminal background. The most important thing is the profit, hiring people with a criminal background can hinder the company public imagery and productivity (Silverman, 2016).

Ban the Box Law should be swapped out with The Fair Credit Report Act, this would provide some protection to employees and applicants. The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides certain guidelines for consumer reporting agencies when conducting background checks and providing consumer reporting to employers. If criminal records are older than seven years they’re not include into the arrest records (Westrope, 2018). There is no time limit for recording a conviction. Company should first have the applicant written consent in order to do research on their criminal history, and based on the information provided to see whether or not they’ll be hired.

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The Theory of Labeling. (2022, Jun 30). Retrieved from

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