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SOCIAL STRUCTURE, CRIME AND CRIMINAL PUNISHMENT 2 Despite broad research in justice and law sociology, the interconnection between criminal punishment and social stratification is often misunderstood. Sociological theories state that criminal laws mirror the social structure of society. However, most approaches differ in explaining how legal and law process, that is; courts, law enforcement agencies, and correctional institutions are majorly influenced by the social structure of communities. In the United States of America, criminal offenses are classified into three primary classifications, that is; infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. How serious the offense is, is what distinguishes classifications from each other and thus helps in evaluating the amount of punishment an individual receives when convicted. Felonies are the classification of the most serious crimes, such as; kidnapping, armed robbery, grand theft, rape, and murder. They are punishable by life imprisonment without parole and also incarceration for not less than a year in prison. Misdemeanors are lesser crimes compared to felonies, such as; possessing less than an
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