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Subcultural Values, Crime, and Negative Social Capital for Chinese Offenders

NCJ Number
International Criminal Justice Review Volume: 14 Dated: 2004 Pages: 49-68
Jianhong Liu
Date Published
20 pages
Using inmate self-report data from Tianjin, China, this study conducted a preliminary test of the modified theoretical relationship between violent subcultural values and criminal behavior.
A sample of 25 percent of all inmates admitted into the prison in Tianjin in 1991 was randomly selected in the fall of 1992 (n=1,063). Of this sample, 29.5 percent were violent offenders; 60.4 percent were property offenders; 5.3 percent were economic crime offenders; approximately 4.4 percent were "sex offenders" (prostitution); and less than 0.4 percent were political offenders. A total of 279 inmates were recidivists who were imprisoned for their most recent offense. These recidivists were the subjects of this study. The questionnaire administered to the inmates included a measure for violent subcultural values. It determined whether respondents agreed with, were not sure about, or disagreed with a gang saying: "A person should go to violent fights for his friend, unafraid of even being stabbed in the ribs of both sides." This item not only measured violent orientation but also loyalty to friends. Thirty-six percent of the recidivists disagreed with this saying; 35 percent were not sure; and 27.7 percent agreed. The presence of violent subcultural values in an inmate's attitudes significantly influenced the risk of reoffending when offenders committed their crimes with other offenders; however, violent subcultural values were not found to influence the risk of reoffending when there were no co-offenders, after controlling for the usual factors that influence the risk of reoffending. This suggests that "negative social capital" (social interactions that fuel and reinforce violent subcultural values) is a powerful ingredient in determining whether subcultural values influence criminal behavior. Further confirmation of the impact of negative social capital on criminal behavior will require direct measures of negative social capital. The current results are preliminary. 3 tables and 88 references