CRIMINAL MINDS (Not the tv show..!)

What is the first thing we think about when we hear, see or read about criminals in the news? You will naturally assume that they are bad people and that they deserve to go to prison and rot in there. But we forget one important issue, what turns a normal person like you and me into a criminal? What motivates criminals to act as they do even when they know they are doing something wrong and society does not approve of it? I intend to find the answer to this mystery with a little application of sociology.

Bernard ‘Bernie’ Madoff, founder of the Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC was arrested in 2008 for probably the biggest financial fraud in the United States. “He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in between. He had no values,” Said one of his victims. (Internet article, 2009) According to his two sons, Bernie had earlier on confessed to them that his investment advisory business was ‘a giant Ponzi scheme.” Whereby he would pay investors with money paid by other investors rather than actual profits generated from the organization. All the money from his customers would go straight into his account.

In a sociological point of view, Bernie Madoffs criminal acts can be seen as deviance. According to Robert Merton’s strain theory, deviance occurs when a society does not give all its members equal ability to achieve socially accepted goals. That is, people are forced to act the way they do because the society has forced them to. Therefore, Bernie Madoff can be seen as an innovator. He accepts the goal of making money since it is a major necessity in the society, but comes up with different means and methods of acquiring it. These means are not accepted in society of course, but he is forced to come up with them simply because society has not given him a chance to get employed, get a good salary or even be able to provide himself and his family with basic necessities needed in daily life and hence, resorting to a life of crime.



Madoff gets 150 years for fraud Retrieved from an internet article on 11/10/

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