Sample Law Paper on Functionalism Theory on Violence against Hispanic Women

Functionalism Theory on Violence against Hispanic Women between the Age of Twenty to Thirty Years Old at Los Angeles County Jail


The largest jail system in the world is in the Los Angeles County with approximately 17,500 prisoners in it every day. The L.A. County Sheriff Department (from now the sheriff department) governs it. In terms of demographics, approximately 80% of those incarcerated in this jail system are Latinos and Black Americans (McDonnell, 2016, p. 24). Latinos constitute about 50% of the jail population. The population of women in the L.A. county jail  (LACJ), by the end of 2015, was 2,210 with 37% of these women being Latinos aged 18-34 (McDonnell, 2016, p. 24). The Citizens Commission on Jail Violence through its studies discovered that the sheriff department had a long-standing culture and pattern of violence against inmates (Dolovich, 2012, p. 968). According to this commission, sheriff county personnel initiated about 57% of violent incidents. The sheriff department was accused of developing a culture of using violence in the form of force first policy as a tool for the establishment of authority as opposed to using force as the last resort. In 2015, the commission reported approximately 40% increase in the use of violence and force in different forms in the LACJ (Natapoff, 2017, p. 82).

Women in the LACJ have been subjected to different forms of violence as a tool for extracting information on different crimes. They were “punished and burdened in ways unique to the intersections of their race and gender” (Natapoff, 2017, p. 83). These types of violence not only have a psychological effect on the wellbeing of these women but also affect the ability of the jail system to ensure that its operations are transparent and racially unbiased. This is a form of discrimination. An interesting feature of this form of racial bias on women inmates in the LACJ is that even inmates from other racial backgrounds have begun subjecting Latino inmates to sexual harassment.

Functionalism Theory and Violence Against Latino Women in the LACJ

Functionalism theory perceives the society as a complex system whose parts work in unity with the aim of promoting stability and solidarity. The functionalist perspective uses a macro-level orientation to focus on the social structures that shape the society (Andersen & Taylor, 2008, p. 486). On matters of violence, functionalists such as Merton and Durkheim believe that it is necessary for some level of crime in the form of violence to exist in the society to experience change and growth (Newman, 2010, p. 18). Functionalists also believe that violence is a necessity in the society because they provide a platform for creating and starting morals and norms in the society. When an individual commits a crime or engages in an act of violence, he will be punished and this will act as a deterrent to other members of the society who will be socialized into understanding the deviant nature of violence (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008, p. 383-88).

When used in understanding the use of violence against Latino women in the LACJ, it is possible to argue that functionalism perceives this form of violence as a necessity in the establishment of order in American jail systems. This is because through the findings of the commission, of the existence of a culture of violence instigated by the county sheriff’s department, it will be possible to address this concern through the development of laws and policies that socialize the sheriff’s department on the deviant nature of sexual violence against Latino women (Dolovich & Natapoff, 2017). Functionalist such as Merton argues that in an ideal society, everyone would be happy. However, the actual society operates as an imbalanced entity, which depends on various aspects for its operationalization. The imperfect nature of the society means that people must struggle to abide by the social norms and values, which are crucial in the realization of a successful society (Tischler, 2013, p. 55). Different forms of violence cannot be eliminated from the society because it is in the nature of human behavior to use violence in the realization of certain needs. The objective of the sheriff department in using sexual violence against women in the LACJ is for extraction of information. However, the frequency and the intense nature of these forms of violence against Latino women has led to the development of a culture which has been perceived as contributing to the reduction in the levels of self-esteem among these women (Mallicoat & Ireland, 2013, p. 91).

Sexual violence against Latino women in the LACJ has been cited as a major contributor to an increase in incidences of racial discrimination within the jail system (Renzetti, Edleson, & Bergen, 2011, p. 80-81). According to functionalism theory, members of the society are considered as the results of the existing social controls. These include their relations with other members of the society, their educational surroundings, and their acquaintances (Newman, 2010, p. 19). This means that it is the responsibility of an institution such as the government and schools to socialize members of the society in understanding the existing differences among members and the possible ways through which such differences can be used in enhancing social development. However, when these institutions fail in executing their mandate, it is possible that members of the society will adopt the existing societal stereotypes in defining the eventual behavior adopted (Stolley, 2005). When this is perceived in relation to sexual violence against women in the LACJ, it is possible to argue that the failure of the government and other socialization institutions to offer sufficient education must be the contributing factor (Mallicoat & Ireland, 2013, p. 92-93). They contribute to failure by the prison wardens and the sheriff department to understand their role of socializing prisoners and viewing them as equal members of the society despite their racial differences. This is considered as the leading perpetrator of violence against Latino women.

Functionalists also view violence in the society as a way through which individuals express their frustrations. This means that the intensity and frequency of sexual violence against Latino women in the LACJ will only reduce when the concerned institutions address the existing frustrations. Financial frustrations may be considered as a leading cause of frustrations among the prison wardens operating under the sheriff department. These wardens use violence against Latino women to express their concerns and frustrations (Renzetti et al., 2011, p. 80). From the functionalist approach, the recognition of violence in the jail system by the existing authorities often leads to investigations on the main cause of such criminal activities. Through a series of investigations, it will be possible for the concerned authorities to develop findings and recommendations focusing on improving the welfare of the prison wardens. It is, therefore, possible to assert that the development of structures that enhance the comforts of the prison staff at the L.A. county prison has a high probability of reducing the level of violence against women in this jail system (Holmes & Holmes, 2008).

The functionalist assertion that different forms of crime are inevitable in the society is based on the understanding that not everyone will subscribe to collective sentiments that define operations within the society. For structural functionalists, such as Durkheim, violence is considered as a safety valve in the society because it provides a technique through which different individuals can express their discontent with the prevailing conditions in the society (Thio & Taylor, 2012). From this perspective, violence against Latino women in the LACJ can be perceived as performing a safety valve function, which also acts as a warning device since the society, is a multifunction organ. Crimes such as sexual violence against women play the role of drawing the attention of the stakeholders to existing problems within the society that must be addressed through the establishment of norms and values in the form of policies (Holmes & Holmes, 2008).


Sexual violence against Latino women in the LACJ, between the age 20 and 30, can be understood as an element of racial discrimination. However, functionalism theory recognizes such violence as essential elements in the society because they facilitate the development and implementation of norms and values essential in promoting the wellbeing of the society. Furthermore, the functionalist approach to understanding violence against Latino women in the LACJ asserts that violence is also a warning device used in predicting possible outcomes when the concerned stakeholders fail to develop policies that can reduce the prevalence and intensity of such atrocities with regard to the root causes.



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