Addiction & Criminology

All submissions of the EM system will be redirected to Online Manuscript Submission System. Authors are requested to submit articles directly to Online Manuscript Submission System of respective journal.

Opinion Article - Addiction & Criminology (2024) Volume 7, Issue 1

The Stigma of Deviance: Understanding Its Impact on Criminal Identity

Brett Murphy *

School of Social Work, University of Memphis, USA

*Corresponding Author:
Brett Murphy
School of Social Work, University of Memphis, USA

Received: 02-Feb -2024, Manuscript No. AARA-24-129755; Editor assigned: 03-Feb-2024, PreQC No. AARA-24-129755 (PQ); Reviewed:17-Feb-2024, QC No. AARA-24-129755; Revised:22-Feb-2024, Manuscript No. AARA-24-129751 (R); Published:29-Feb-2024, DOI:10.35841/aara-7.1.194

Citation: Murphy B, The stigma of deviance: Understanding its impact on criminal identity. Addict Criminol. 2024;7(1):194

Visit for more related articles at Addiction & Criminology


Deviance, defined as behavior that violates social norms or expectations, often carries a stigma that can profoundly affect individuals' identities and interactions within society. When deviant behavior intersects with the criminal justice system, individuals may face not only legal consequences but also enduring social stigma that shapes how they perceive themselves and are perceived by others. This article explores the stigma of deviance and its impact on criminal identity, examining the psychological, social, and structural factors that contribute to stigmatization and its consequences [1].

When individuals engage in criminal behavior or come into contact with the criminal justice system, they often acquire a criminal identity that shapes how they perceive themselves and are perceived by others. Stigma refers to the social disapproval, discrimination, and devaluation experienced by individuals who deviate from accepted norms or who possess characteristics perceived as undesirable or inferior [2].

This criminal identity may be internalized, leading individuals to view themselves as inherently flawed or morally inferior. Additionally, external labeling by society, law enforcement, and the media can further reinforce this identity, exacerbating feelings of shame, guilt, and alienation [3].

The stigma of deviance and criminal identity is perpetuated by social perceptions and stereotypes that associate criminal behavior with moral depravity, dangerousness, and unreliability. These stereotypes often oversimplify complex realities, leading to the demonization and dehumanization of individuals who have committed crimes. As a result, those with criminal records may face barriers to employment, housing, education, and social integration, perpetuating cycles of poverty, exclusion, and recidivism [4].

It is essential to recognize that individuals with criminal identities may also carry other stigmatized identities based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. These intersecting identities compound the stigma experienced by individuals, exacerbating their vulnerability to discrimination and marginalization. For example, people of color and individuals from low-income communities are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, facing intersecting forms of stigma and systemic oppression [5].

The stigma of deviance and criminal identity can have profound psychological consequences for individuals, contributing to low self-esteem, self-efficacy, and mental health problems. Internalized stigma, also known as self-stigma, occurs when individuals internalize negative societal attitudes and beliefs about their deviant status, leading to feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and self-blame [6].

Beyond individual attitudes and perceptions, structural stigmatization and institutional discrimination contribute to the marginalization of individuals with criminal identities. Policies and practices that restrict access to employment, housing, education, and social services for people with criminal records perpetuate cycles of poverty and incarceration. Moreover, the disproportionate targeting and policing of marginalized communities reinforce systemic inequalities and exacerbate disparities in the criminal justice system [7].

Education and awareness campaigns can challenge stereotypes and promote empathy and understanding towards individuals with criminal backgrounds. Moreover, efforts to reform criminal justice policies, such as ban-the-box initiatives and fair chance hiring practices, can reduce barriers to reintegration and promote rehabilitation [8].

Deviance encompasses a wide range of behaviors, beliefs, and characteristics that depart from societal norms or standards. While some forms of deviance may be relatively benign or even celebrated within certain subcultures, others, such as criminal behavior, are stigmatized and carry negative connotations [9].

Addressing the stigma of deviance and criminal identity requires collective action at multiple levels, including changes in societal attitudes, policies, and practices. Self-stigma can undermine individuals' motivation to seek help, pursue rehabilitation, or reintegrate into society, perpetuating cycles of isolation and despair [10].


The stigma of deviance and criminal identity has far-reaching implications for individuals, communities, and society as a whole. It perpetuates cycles of marginalization, discrimination, and recidivism, undermining the principles of justice, dignity, and equality. By challenging stereotypes, addressing systemic inequalities, and promoting inclusive policies and practices, we can create a more compassionate and just society that recognizes the humanity and potential for redemption in all individuals, regardless of their past mistakes. It is time to confront the stigma of deviance and criminal identity and build a society that values rehabilitation, second chances, and social inclusion for all.


  1. Smith JL, Mattick RP, Jamadar SD, et al. Deficits in behavioural inhibition in substance abuse and addiction: A meta-analysis. DAD. 2014;145:1-33.
  2. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  3. Volkow ND, Koob GF, McLellan AT. Neurobiologic advances from the brain disease model of addiction. NEJM. 2016;374(4):363-71.
  4. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  5. Koob GF, Le Moal M. Addiction and the brain antireward system. Annu Rev Psychol. 2008;59:29-53.
  6. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  7. Wu AM Cheung VI, Ku L, Hung EP. Psychological risk factors of addiction to social networking sites among Chinese smartphone users. J Behav Addict. 2013;2(3):160-6.
  8. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  9. Sutherland I, Shepherd JP. Social dimensions of adolescent substance use. J Addict. 2001;96(3):445-58.
  10. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  11. Nagai F, Nonaka R, Kamimura KS. The effects of non-medically used psychoactive drugs on monoamine neurotransmission in rat brain. Eur J Pharmacol. 2007;559(2-3):132-7.
  12. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  13. Whittington MA, Faulkner HJ, Doheny HC, et al. Neuronal fast oscillations as a target site for psychoactive drugs. Pharmacol Ther. 2000;86(2):171-90.
  14. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  15. Nutt DJ, King LA, Nichols DE. Effects of Schedule I drug laws on neuroscience research and treatment innovation. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2013;14(8):577-85.
  16. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  17. Chastain G. Alcohol, neurotransmitter systems, and behavior. J Gen Psychol. 2006;133(4):329-35.
  18. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  19. Mattson MP, Moehl K, Ghena N, et al. Intermittent metabolic switching, neuroplasticity and brain health. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2018;19(2):81-94.
  20. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

Get the App