The Role of Courts as Agents of Social Control

The Role of Courts as Agents of Social Control

The Role of Courts as Agents of Social Control. One of the underlying lessons in Week 4’s course materials is that clashing value systems foster nonviolent crimes in an archetypal society.  Since much of the focus is on social disorganization in local communities and neighborhoods, I sought to understand the criminal justice system’s role in restoring social order in our value system. As such, I recently attended a court proceeding involving a juvenile property theft case. The defendant was a minor and had stolen a bike from a local store. He was a first-time offender classified under nonviolent crimes. In my understanding, the presiding judge who heard this case was tasked with determining whether the minor should be sanctioned according to the law or if he should be offered a chance at rehabilitation. After hearing both sides, the judge decided that the minor would serve a probationary period, allowing him to attend counseling and community service.

Court’s role in restoring social values and desirable community


Attending this in-person event reinforced my understanding of the court’s role in restoring social values and desirable community standards. I needed to understand society’s priority: should we be tough on crime by punishing to deter recurrence or is it more reasonable to reform nonviolent offenders by re-socializing them? My experience in this case taught me that the court system should focus on rehabilitating those willing to be helped. Shaw and McKay (1942) argue that a clashing value system fosters crime through social disorganization. Therefore, the courts are among the agents of social control charged with restoring order by mending society’s value system. This case also demonstrated the importance of sanctions to deter future offenses and ensure people abide by the laws. Additionally, the court’s decision to offer the defendant a chance at rehabilitation instead of immediate punishment showed that restoring social control and conventional societal standards is possible through sanctions and rehabilitation.




Shaw, C. R., & McKay, H. D. (1942). Juvenile delinquency and urban areas. University of Chicago Press.

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