The story of Craig Price is tragic, violent and troubling. For these very reasons it is important to investigate this man’s life and childhood in order to better understand the effects of juvenile delinquency and how they possibly related to his behavior. The purpose of this paper is to describe and postulate how Craig Price’s violent behavior relates to theories of juvenile delinquency and how he developed into a killer and a significant terror and burden to society. I will examine this case by providing background information and then applying three separate general theories of juvenile delinquency including, rational choice theory, social understanding theory and labeling theory. Included in each analysis will be the important factors in each theory that correspond or do not correspond to Price’s case.
In September of 1989 three dead bodies were found in Warwick RI. In an investigation into the serial killings of four people the name of Craig Price became a person of interest after he was caught lying to a couple of policemen who knew the 16-year-old at the time. Price became a suspect and later failed a polygraph test. Price confessed of the murders and also confessed to an additional murder he committed three years earlier. He was locked up in a facility but due to his minor status he would be scheduled to be released at the age of 21. Prosecutors have since been able to keep Price in jail but the fear and terror he caused his community will never be forgotten.
Bell (2008) claimed that “Craig Price was not an average teenager. At age 15, he already had a history of offenses including a record of breaking and entering, theft, peeping into houses and using drugs. He was also known to have a violent temper. Police had been called to his house on more than one occasion to settle disputes in which he was involved.” Price was cold and calculating as demonstrated by his confession and his reported lack of any type of remorse. O’Neil reported that “even today, Price’s taped confession sounds chillingly surreal. In a nonchalant, matter-of-fact drawl he describes the night of terror in the Heaton home. He tells how he bit Heaton’s face as he knifed her. He mimics the last sounds of the dying girls. He whines about cutting his hand.”
O’Neil investigated some into Price’s childhood. She found that “nothing in Price’s background explained his rage. By all accounts he was from a stable home where both parents worked to provide a comfortable life for their children.” It appears that Price’s problems may not be easily explained using only one theory of juvenile delinquency and perhaps many need to be synthesized to attain a clearer picture of understanding the motivating factors that were involved in these murders.
Rational Choice Theory
Rational Choice theory may be able to explain some of Price’s issues and how the relate to his crimes. This theory understands human behavior as being rooted in free will where people are actually in control of their behaviors and actions. Rational Choice also assumes that each individual is responsible for their own actions making this theory easy to identify the source of the problem. The theory claims that juveniles are making choices because they believe that these choices will support their needs in the long run. This theory tends to ignore the environmental factors that surround the individual who committed the crimes..
Craig Price’s case and his actions never appear to be rationale or reasonable for the most part. However, the murders themselves were committed as part of a robbery making a small case for rationality. By disposing of the witnesses to his crime he could be said to be acting rational and in his best interests. This argument only works if we are to believe that the moral act of killing someone could not rest on the heart of Price. Regardless, in consequent acts, Price confesses to the murder and in the process self-incriminates himself dismissing some sense of rational action in the process of this confession.
At this point rationality becomes a real problem because, at the time of his confession, Price was aware that he would only serve less than five years in a facility because of his minor age status when he committed the crime. At some level this may be considered rational, but maybe not too intellectual. Overall, rational choice theory does not fully explain Price’s behavior and provides more questions than answers in coming to a worthwhile conclusion of his motivations and the roots of his juvenile delinquency.
Social Learning Theory
Social Learning theory may help in developing further understanding into the juvenile delinquency problems of Craig Price. Social Learning theory suggests that the child’s behavior is immensely affected by his environmental and social settings. In this theory it is to be inferred that Price learned that murder and robbery are acceptable practices within society. Under this theory, Price’s behavior would have to have been mentored or modeled in some way by another person who served as an authority to the young man.
Price’s immediate family was not violent and did not have criminal histories which may eliminate these people as a positive component in this theory. The nature of society itself however is very competitive and devious. The background of armed conflict being portrayed in the media and other sources permeates the lives of children where violence can be desensitized and become parts of everyday life. Some children learn that the violence committed by institutional and state authorities is often overlooked and people do often get away with murder under the right circumstance.
It appears that Price may have been influenced by this trend due to his casual attitude towards serving a reduced penalty for the horrendous crimes he committed. This behavior represented someone who could see that police and military personnel often kill people under questionable circumstance and are often rewarded. This behavior can be learned and therefore appears to apply to the Craig Price case in some means. While this theory can explain some of the circumstances revolving around this case, many questions still remain as to why he didn’t social learn obedience and moral treatment of fellow humans. It appears that social learning theory does not account for the scope of crime in relation to the exposure to the learned behavior.
Labeling theory, like social learning theory is based more on the environmental aspects of the juvenile’s influences. This theory suggests that young people who are branded as trouble makes or outliers of conduct, will continue to uphold this opinion. Because people are labeled as criminals they will act like criminals according to this theory. Labeling is mostly associated with the negative effects of stereotyping.
This theory does not work very well in the case of Craig Price. Although Price was in trouble with law at times throughout adolescence before he confessed to the murders, there is little evidence to suggest that he was labeled as a serial killer. That label would be applied to him after he committed these crimes. In order for this theory to work and have some merit in this case would have to included a situation where Price was exposed to him being labeled as a murderer or serial killer. There is no evidence to suggest that this labeling ever occurred.
Bell, R. (2004). Craig Price: confessions of a teenage serial killer. Crime Library, viewed 3 Dec, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/predators/craig_price/index.html
DuRant, R.H., & Cadenhead, C. (1994, April). Factors associated with the use of violence among urban black adolescents. Journal of Public Health, 84, 4.
“Juvenile Delinquency.” United Nations World Youth Report 2003. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/documents/ch07.pdf
Lahey, B. et al. (2003). Cases of Conduct Disorder and Juvenile Delinquency. Guilford Press, New York. Retrieved from http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/soc/faculty/sampson/articles/2003_CausesConductOr der_Wikstrom.pdf
O’Neil, H.(2007). Juvenile serial killer remains in prison. San Francisco Chronicle, 15 Dec, 2007. Retrieved from http://murderpedia.org/male.P/p/price-craig.htm
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