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This article examines a range of issues associated with gangs in incarcerated settings. We begin by examining the similarities and differences between street and prison gangs, and differentiating them from other types of criminal groups. Next, we focus on the emergence and growth of gangs in prison, including patterns and theoretical explanations. Importantly, we draw theoretical linkages between differing perspectives on gang emergence and gang violence. We also present administrative and official responses to gangs in prison. Finally, we discuss the movement from prison to the street, examining the difficulties that former prisoners face when re-entering communities.
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Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research Volume 3 Issue 1 January 2011 © Pier Professional Ltd12
The presence of gangs in incarcerated facilities
presents a host of issues for policymakers and
correctional staff, managers and administrators.
Estimates from the US indicate that gang
members comprise as much as 13% of jail
populations (Ruddell et al, 2006), 12% to 17%
of state prison populations (Griffin & Hepburn,
2006; Kreinert and Fleisher, 2001), and nine per
cent of the federal prison population (Gaes et al,
2002). These figures take on added significance
when considering the violence associated with
gangs, inside and outside of prison walls. In large
US cities, for example, Decker and Pyrooz (2010)
reported that gang members have homicide rates
100 times higher than the national average.
Gang members are disproportionately
represented in prisons, but our knowledge
of prison gangs does not match their level
of prison involvement. We attribute this
discrepancy to two main sources. First, there
are administrative challenges to gathering
such information. Correctional agencies
screen research proposals and may consider
appropriate only those projects with relevance
to programmes and operations of correctional
institutions. Researchers must also receive
approval from university and correctional
agencies’ human subjects committee. Second,
there are methodological limitations. There
are no field studies on prison gangs, and
information about prison gang activity must be
From the street to the prison,
from the prison to the street:
understanding and responding
to prison gangs
David C Pyrooz
Doctoral Student, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, USA
Scott H Decker
Foundation Professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, USA
Mark Fleisher
Kent State University, USA
Invited paper
This article examines a range of issues associated with gangs in incarcerated settings. We
begin by examining the similarities and differences between street and prison gangs, and
differentiating them from other types of criminal groups. Next, we focus on the emergence
and growth of gangs in prison, including patterns and theoretical explanations. Importantly,
we draw theoretical linkages between differing perspectives on gang emergence and gang
violence. We also present administrative and official responses to gangs in prison. Finally,
we discuss the movement from prison to the street, examining the difficulties that former
prisoners face when re-entering communities.
Gangs; prison; programming; re-entry.
13 Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research Volume 3 Issue 1 January 2011 © Pier Professional Ltd
While similarities such as durability and
identity distinguish street and prison gangs
from other types of criminal groups, there are
differences between the two (see Table 1).
According to Klein and Maxson (2006, p4),
street gangs are: durable, street-oriented youth
group[s] whose involvement in illegal activity
is part of its group identity’. The prison gang,
on the other hand, is defined by Lyman (1989,
p48) as: an organization which operates
within the prison system as a self-perpetuating
criminally oriented entity, consisting of a
select group of inmates who have established
an organized chain of command and are
governed by an established code of conduct’.
It is important to point out that definitions of
gangs in prison have not been met with the
same degree of criticism as definitions of street
gangs. Only after many decades of debate has
some semblance of consensus been reached
on the definitional criteria of street gangs. The
lack of research attention to gangs in prison,
as mentioned previously, could be partially
attributed for this divergence.
In Table 1, we display a series of variables
comparing street and prison gangs. While there
are a number of similarities, it could be argued
that prison gangs are more controlled, organised
versions of street gangs. Prison gangs exhibit
higher levels of racial and ethnic homogeneity,
instrumental violence, entrepreneurial offending,
covert behaviours and actions, collective drug
dealing, and unqualified loyalty to the gang.
These are characteristics that are found only in
rare cases in the street context. In street gangs,
membership tends to be fluid, leadership is
situational, violence is less co-ordinated and
more symbolic, and drug dealing tends to be
individualistic rather than collective (Curry &
Decker, 2002; Decker & Van Winkle, 1996;
Klein & Maxson, 2006).
From street to prison
Emergence and growth of prison
The Gypsy Jokers, formed in the 1950s in
Washington state prisons, were the first
identified American prison gang (Orlando-
Morningstar, 1997, pp1–13; Stastny & Tyrnauer,
1983). In 1957, the Mexican Mafia (La Eme)
was first documented in California. Le Eme was
the first prison gang with alleged nationwide
garnered through interviews with inmates,
prison staff or prison records (see Gaes et
al, 2002). Researchers remain sceptical about
the validity of prison record data, which is
confounded by definitional variability and
variation in disciplinary policies (Fleisher &
Decker, 2001).
This article delves into a range of issues
associated with gangs in incarcerated settings.
We begin by examining the similarities and
differences between street and prison gangs,
and what differentiates them from other types
of criminal groups. Next, we focus on the
emergence and growth of gangs in prison,
reviewing the literature on patterns of gang
behaviour and theoretical explanations for that
behaviour. Importantly, we draw theoretical
linkages between differing perspectives on
the formation of gangs and gang violence.
We next review official responses to gangs in
prison. Finally, we discuss the movement from
prison to the street, examining the difficulties
former prisoners face when re-entering
communities, and recidivism patterns. For all
intents and purposes, we use ‘prison gangs’ as
the term to encompass gangs in incarcerated
facilities, which also includes jails and other
settings. Further, while prison administrators
commonly refer to gangs as ‘security threat
groups’ or ‘inmate disruptive groups’, we refer
to these groups simply as ‘gangs’ for ease of
discussion of the movement from the street to
the prison and back.
Street and prison gang
similarities and differences
Street and prison gangs are groups that
engage in criminal activity. In this regard they
are similar to graffiti or tagging groups, or
groups engaging in human, firearms or drug
trafficking. There are, however, distinctive
characteristics that distinguish street and
prison gangs from these groups, as well as
from one another. Street and prison gangs
differ from the aforementioned groups in
that they are more durable (in terms of
persistence across time) and they maintain
a collective identity (typically in terms of
a name or set of insignia). The durability
of prison gangs reflects their age structure,
higher level of organisation, and role in
illicit activity.
Understanding and responding to prison gangs
14 Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research Volume 3 Issue 1 January 2011 © Pier Professional Ltd
membership nearly quadrupled between 1985 and
1992, from 12,624 to 46,190 (Baugh, 1993).
Prison gangs expanded as prisons did.
Useem and Piehl (2008) assessed the rate of
imprisonment from 1930 to 2005, finding four
distinct periods of imprisonment:
1. The 1930–1960 period is described as a
trendless trend’.
2. The 1961–1972 period is described as a
large to modest declinetrend.
3. The 1973–1988 period is described as the
buildup beginstrend.
4. The 1989–2005 period is described as
accelerated growth’.
ties. In 1980, America’s state prisons housed
294,000 inmates and federal prisons housed
21,974. Camp and Camp’s 1985 national prison
survey identified approximately 114 gangs with
a membership of approximately 13,000 inmates.
Of the 49 correctional agencies surveyed, 33
reported gangs. Of those 33 gangs, 26 had street
gang counterparts. For example, Illinois had 14
gangs and 5,300 gang members; Pennsylvania
had 15 gangs and 2,400 gang members; California
had 2,050 gang members; Texas had nine prison
gangs with 2,407 gang members (Ralph &
Marquart, 1991); and Fong (1990) reported eight
Texas gangs with 1,174 members. The American
Correctional Association reported that prison gang
Understanding and responding to prison gangs
Table 1: A comparison of prison and street gangs
Variable Prison gang Street gang
Race Single race or ethnicity Mostly single race or ethnicity
Age Concentrated in mid-20s, Average age in upper teens
with members into 30s-40s
Organisational structure* Hierarchical Situational/hierarchical
Sources of violence Symbolic and instrumental; Symbolic; core activity
core activity
Offending style** Entrepreneurial Cafeteria style
Visibility of behaviour Covert Overt
Drug trafficking Major activity; organised, Varies; mostly individualistic
Loyalty to gang Absolute Weak bonds
Key to membership Unqualified fidelity, abide Real or perceived fidelity; hanging out;
by gang rules; willingness abide by street rules
to engage in violence
Key psychological attribute*** Oppositional, intimidation, Oppositional, intimidation, camaraderie
control, manipulation
* Situational refers to structural flexibility from loose to more rigid.
** Entrepreneurial activity refers to specific types of profit-generating activity. Cafeteria-style activity
refers to a range of profit-generating and non-profit activities.
*** Oppositional refers to attitudes toward correctional supervision in the case of prison gangs. For
street gangs, it reflects a generalised opposition to authority.
15 Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research Volume 3 Issue 1 January 2011 © Pier Professional Ltd
(Fishman, 1934; Clemmer, 1958) and importation
(Irwin & Cressey, 1962).
These perspectives
focus mostly on the development of prison
culture. Implicit in the description of prison
culture is the emergence of gangs. The seeds
of what later became known as adaptation/
deprivation are found in Fishman (1934).
Fishman’s concept of deprivation applied to
imprisonment as a type of punishment but also
connoted the loss of freedom (‘loss of liberty
constitutes the real punishment’, p165). Clemmer
(1958) expanded the discussion of deprivation
in The Prison Community, arguing that structural
constraints (such as isolation and the lack of
privacy) strip inmates of their identity. Cultures
endogenous to the institution arise as an
adaptive response to prison conditions gangs
being one of them. Incoming inmates are
then socialised gradually into various prison
subcultures (see also Jacobs, 1974), including
gangs. This socialisation accounts for gang
members who shed their street gang identity
upon admission to the prison, where they
assume membership in a prison gang.
The importation model, alternatively,
advocates that pre-institutional characteristics
shape prison culture. This perspective is
argued most prominently by Irwin and
Cressey (1962). Inmate composition,
including demographic characteristics, cultural
background and personality characteristics,
are responsible for the prison culture. In other
words, prison gangs do not emerge due to
indigenous conditions within the prison; rather,
they emerge due to pre-institutional conditions
that inmates bring with them. Schwartz (1971)
termed this cultural drift’, as compositional
factors do not observe the boundaries and
walls of the prison. In this way, gang members
bring their individual and cultural histories with
them when they go to prison.
Parallel arguments can be found in the
street gang literature. It has been argued that
the emergence of gangs is consistent with
the principles of homophily, where similarly-
situated and like-minded individuals come
together because of personality deficiencies
and geographical proximity (Gottfredson
& Hirschi, 1990). Further, elevated criminal
propensity (eg. poor self-control) is the key
characteristic drawing the gang together. This
The context for prison gang growth is the
expansion of America’s prison systems as a
consequence of national crime control policy
(Garland, 2001; Travis, 2005). Over the past
30 years, as state and federal prisons were
constructed in the US, hundreds of thousands
of prisoners poured into state prisons from 1980
to 2007. Over the years, the prison population
grew from 315,974 in 1980, to 739,980 in 1990,
to 1,331,278 in 2000 and to 1,532,800 inmates
in 2007 approximately a five-fold increase. In
2000, there were 84 federal and 1,023 general
confinement facilities equalling 1,107 state and
federal prisons. By year-end 2005, there were
1,821 state and federal correctional facilities
(United States Department of Justice, 2003).
While the number of prisons and inmate
population expanded, there are no national
(or state) longitudinal data tracking street gang
expansion in state and federal prisons, and
prison gang growth over the three decades
of prison expansion. We do, however, have
data that infer street gang expansion into state
prisons. If one assumes that some percentage
of the street gang members per 1,000 state
residents are arrested and imprisoned, then
it can be inferred that those states with the
highest per capita rate of gang members should
also have the highest number of imprisoned
gangs and gang members. The 2009 National
Gang Threat Assessment (National Gang
Intelligence Center, 2009) provided data on
gang members per capita. The state of Illinois
has the highest rate per capita (eight to eleven
per 1,000 residents); California, Colorado, New
Mexico and Nevada have the second highest
rates at five to seven per 1,000; and Idaho and
Florida are third highest with four per 1,000.
Most prison gang members are 20 to 30 years
old. We recognise the difficulty of collecting
accurate estimates of the number of prison
gangs and gang membership, particularly today
when prisons house an enormous imprisoned
population. In mid-year 2009, state and federal
prisons housed more than 1.6 million prisoners
(West, 2010).
Explaining gang emergence and gang
violence in prison
Two perspectives have guided the explanation
of gangs in prison: adaptation/deprivation
Understanding and responding to prison gangs
Modern terminology notwithstanding, the seminal germination of the concepts of importation and deprivation were conceived in ancient Greece
(Morris & Rothman, 1995). That offenders ‘import’ characteristics, personality traits, beliefs, values and norms into prison was the basis of debate over
the effects of prison conditions on inmates in late 13th century Italian prisons and onwards throughout the history of prisons (Geltner, 2008).
16 Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research Volume 3 Issue 1 January 2011 © Pier Professional Ltd
periods of gang membership, but remained
minimal before and after gang membership
(consistent with process or deprivation views).
Enhancement was any combination of the two.
A considerable amount of attention has been
devoted to testing these models empirically.
In a recent review of the literature, Krohn and
Thornberry (2008) concluded that findings in
favour of the facilitation effect exceed that of
the selection effect in terms of the prevalence of
the studies and the frequency of effects.
In the prison context, a modest body of
literature has explored the effect of gang
membership on prison misconduct (see Table
2). Similar to the street gang literature, gang
membership appears to exhibit a robust effect
on prison misconduct (see DeLisi et al (2004)
for the lone exception). It should be noted that
the methodological rigour of the prison gang
literature is not comparable to the street gang
literature, where researchers have modelled the
relationship using elaborate analytic techniques
and with longitudinal data capable of capturing
the entire life course of gang membership. That
said, the findings displayed in Table 2 portend
perspective is consistent with the importation
model; that is, conditions of deprivation unique
to the prison don’t draw inmates together
propensity and other characteristics external
to the prison environment are the driving
force in this process. The counterpart to the
homophily perspective can be found in the
works of Cloward and Ohlin (1960), Cohen
(1955), Miller (1958) and Thrasher (1927), where
socioeconomic conditions, limited opportunity
structures and neighborhood subculture are the
driving force behind gang emergence.
At the individual level, the conceptual
arguments about gang emergence have
translated into a set of theoretical models on
the relationship between gang membership
and criminal offending. Thornberry et al (1993)
advanced three models selection, facilitation,
and enhancement to account for this
relationship. Selection effects were supported
if offending remained elevated before and
after gang membership, but did not increase
during periods of gang membership (consistent
with propensity views). Facilitation effects
were supported if offending increased during
Understanding and responding to prison gangs
Table 2: Studies examining the effect of gang membership on criminogenic outcomes in
prison settings
Study Data Key finding
DeLisi et al (2004) Southwestern US state, N=1,005 Prison gang: Violent misconduct (+)
Street gang: Violent misconduct (+)
Street & prison gang: Violence (ns)
Gaes et al (2002) Bureau of Prisons, 1997-98, Gang to non-gang: Violence (+)
N=82,504 Core to periphery gang: Violence (+)
Griffin & Hepburn Arizona DOC, new admissions Assault (+), Threats (+),
(2006) 1996, N=2,158 Fights (ns), Weapons (ns)
Huebner (2003) 185 state correctional facilities, Assault correctional staff (+)
Kreinert & Fleisher Nebraska prison system admissions, Engage in assault (+), Drug use (+)
(2001) N=704
MacDonald (1999) California Youth Authority, Various acts of violence (+)
two samples, FYs 82 and 87,
Note: a positive effect of gang membership on criminogenic outcomes is symbolised by (+), negative
effect (-) and no effect (ns).
17 Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research Volume 3 Issue 1 January 2011 © Pier Professional Ltd
evaluated for their effectiveness in the
prevention and intervention of gang activity.
This is consistent with our generally low state of
knowledge about prison gangs.
Correctional agencies have developed policies
guiding initiatives that control gang-affiliated
inmates’ misconduct. Carlson and Garrett’s
2006 collection of essays illustrates the diverse
approaches that major correctional agencies have
implemented to manage prison gangs.
Since Clemmer’s (1958) The Prison
Community, prison scholars have debated
the effects of prison administration and
management on the formation of inmate groups
and individual behaviour. Do prison policies
and procedures intended to create safe prisons
have iatrogenic effects on inmates, which then
result in the formation of disruptive groups? In
spite of prison managers’ best efforts to create a
positive environment, inmates continue to form
disruptive groups as a prison extension of their
street behaviour (Jacobs 1977; Hunt et al, 1993).
Prisons have tried a variety of overt and
covert strategies, including the use of inmate
informants, the use of segregation units
for prison gang members, the isolation of
prison gang leaders, the lockdown of entire
institutions, vigorous prosecution of criminal
acts committed by prison gang members, the
interruption of prison gang members’ internal
and external communications, and the case-by-
case examination of prison gang offences. There
are, however, no published evaluations testing
the efficacy of these suppression strategies
on curbing prison gang violence and/or other
criminal conduct inside correctional institutions.
These substantial gaps in our knowledge hinder
the safety of other inmates, staff and ultimately
the public (see also Trulson et al, 2006).
The Texas state legislature passed a bill
in September 1985 that made it a felony for
any inmate to possess a weapon(Ralph &
Marquart, 1991, p45). The bill also limited the
discretionary authority of sentencing judges:
inmates convicted of weapon possession
must serve that sentence subsequent to other
sentences. Officials believe that laws such
as this one help to keep inmates, especially
those in prison gangs, under control (Ralph &
Marquart, 1991).
A common inmate control procedure is
administrative segregation, often referred to as
‘secured housing units’ (SHU). This isolation
strategy is commonly applied to gang members.
what future research may find, suggesting that
gangs do indeed exert an effect on offending
behaviour in incarcerated settings.
The UK experience
Gangs have been documented in European
cities and countries for at least two decades
(Klein et al, 2001; Decker et al, 2009). The
presence of gangs in Europe suggests that
studies in prison facilities should find gangs and
gang activity. The problem, however, is that,
outside of England, so little is known on gangs
in jails and prisons that there is little to discuss.
Adult male gang members’ behaviour was
linked to higher levels of offending in the UK,
similar to the US. In a study of recent arrestees,
Bennett and Holloway (2004) found that current
gang members were more involved in robbery,
drug-related offences and weapons offences
than former and non-gang members. Further,
gang members (current and former) comprised
15% of the sample, yet accounted for 31% of all
of the offences reported, including 89% of all
the robberies. The above results, as a whole, are
consistent with studies in the US.
Jane Wood and colleagues have conducted
a series of studies on gang activity in English
prisons (Wood, 2006; Wood and Adler, 2001;
Wood, Moir, and James, 2009; Wood, Williams,
and James, 2010). Based on information and
approaches from American studies of gangs,
they examined the views of staff members in
English prisons. Staff members across 16 prisons
were asked questions regarding their knowledge
of gangs, gang members and gang behaviours.
Gang activity was highest in male institutions
that maintained medium security. Gangs formed
around race, and there were high levels of drug
possession among prison gangs. This study was
a groundbreaking approach to understanding
the issue of prison gangs in England although,
as the authors noted, it is an indirect measure
of prison activity. Regional affiliations were a
key part of gang groups, as noted above in
American prisons, as individuals from the same
regions tended to associate together.
Institutional gang intervention
In this section, we summarise prison and
jail gang intervention strategies. Note that
the interventions we discuss have not been
Understanding and responding to prison gangs
18 Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research Volume 3 Issue 1 January 2011 © Pier Professional Ltd
were left in the general population, violence
would erupt between rival gangs. Two key
federal court rulings have addressed this issue:
Toussaint v. McCarthy (1984) and Madrid
v. Gomez (1995). In the Toussaint case, the
courts held that segregating inmates based on
gang affiliation was permissible, based on the
opinion that segregation is administrative as
opposed to punitive or disciplinary. Because
of the administrative designation, the ruling
held that inmates that are labelled as gang
affiliated should not be afforded more rigorous
standards of due process (eg. notice of charges,
representation, witnesses). The court recognised,
however, that special considerations were
necessary for determining gang membership
and that minimal due process rights should
be provided to inmates. In other words, the
implications for policies on gang members in
general were that prison officials would need to
develop more systematic methods for classifying
inmates as gang members. This ruling was
ultimately upheld in the Madrid case (for a
more detailed discussion, see Tachiki, 1995).
Orlando-Morningstar (1997) cites the need
for better information gathering and sharing
between law enforcement and corrections. Law
enforcement can provide corrections officials
with background information on street conflicts
among inmates entering facilities. Corrections
can provide similar information for offenders
returning to the community. Correctional
agencies now use databases to track prison
gang members and gang activities. This allows
for more effective communication between
a correctional and a state police agency, and
improves data accuracy because data can be
entered as soon as they are gathered (Gaston,
1996). The New York City Department of
Correction uses a system that allows for
digitised photos that document gang members’
marks and/or tattoos. Database searches can be
done by tattoo, scars or other identifying marks.
The speed and capacity to update intelligence
information makes the use of a shared database
an effective tool in prison gang management.
Providing alternative programming could
become part of prison gang management
strategies; however, prison gang members
have not embraced such programming. The
Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow,
Massachusetts, developed a graduated programme
for prison gang members who wanted to leave
segregation. Two years into the programme, 190
Segregation keeps inmates alone in a cell,
23 hours a day, with one hour assigned to
recreation and/or other activities. Texas used
administrative segregation and, in 1985, put all
known prison gang members into segregation
in the hope of limiting their influence on
mainline inmate populations. Violence in the
general population decreased, resulting in nine
prison gang-motivated homicides from 1985 to
1990; fewer armed assaults were reported as
well. By 1991, segregation housed more than
1,500 gang members (Ralph & Marquart, 1991).
Knox (2000) reported that a majority of 133
prison officials interviewed in a national survey
believed segregation policy did not accomplish
its anti-gang crime objective. Nevertheless,
isolating gang members, and especially gang
leaders, is a popular control strategy. With
prison gang leaders locked down, officials
hoped vertical communication within the gang
would be weakened, resulting in an erosion of
group solidarity.
Another form of isolation transfers prison
gang leaders among institutions (United States
Department of Justice, 1992). To reduce gang
membership, an official notice of suspected
gang activity is kept in an inmate’s file, a
procedure known as ‘jacketing’. This note
follows the inmate and allows authorities to
transfer him to a high-security facility. Hunt
et al (1993) describe a ‘debriefing’ technique.
This requires prison gang inmates to report
information about their gangs as a precondition
of release from a high-security facility. Staff
might use a threat of a transfer to high-security
facility unless the inmate divulges information.
The legality of this procedure remains
questionable and may threaten the life of an
inmate who has been, or is thought to have
been, debriefed.
The constitutionality of these policies has
been challenged in federal courts. The argument
behind these challenges is that secure housing
facilities are reserved for inmates responsible
for disciplinary infractions ranging from
minor malfeasance to major acts of violence.
Based on this logic, if a gang member has
not violated prison rules then they should
not be confined in a SHU; however, prison
policies systematically segregate and transfer
gang members to more secured settings (see
Toch, 2007). Prison officials contend that gang
members maintain an elevated propensity
for violence and that if all gang members
Understanding and responding to prison gangs
19 Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research Volume 3 Issue 1 January 2011 © Pier Professional Ltd
From the prison to the street
The prison boom over the last two decades has
forced policymakers and researchers alike to
turn their attention to prisoner re-entry. Lynch
and Sabol (2001, p6) reported that, from 1985
to 1995, the number of prisoners released into
society increased from 260,000 to 566,000.
These figures beg the question: what happens
to people once they are released from prison?
Once paroled or released, the institutional
controls over behaviour are removed, and
material benefits of imprisonment (housing,
food, activity, supervision, medication etc)
disappear. Forty years ago, Irwin (1970, p107)
observed that the impact of release is dramatic
The problems of the first weeks are usually
staggering and sometimes insurmountable
and for many impossible’. The burden is
lessened for only a select few, but especially
among those with strong familial support
systems (Martinez, 2007). These challenges
remain today.
Given the prevalence of gang membership
in prison, it is logical to conclude that many
of those released from prisoners are gang
members. Should they return to their place
of last residence or to areas where they grew
up, it is likely that they will associate or
reconnect with their gang (see eg. Petersilia,
2003; Pyrooz et al, in press). While these
street gang members were in prison, their
gang allegiances may have changed and
the hierarchies, processes and behaviour of
their street gang will certainly have changed.
They return to a very different gang scene
than before they went to prison. A body of
risk factor research indicates that street and
prison gang members possess an array of
risk factors, ranging from poor education
to poor mental health to poor job skills to
poor social support in the community. In the
modern economy, where will former inmates,
with inadequate skills, personal problems,
grade school reading levels, and a history
of felony convictions and imprisonment, fit
in the marketplace? While opportunities for
legitimate employment appear slim (see eg.
Pager, 2003; Huebner, 2005), opportunities
for illegitimate money-generating activities
appear ubiquitous. For these reasons, it is not
surprising that former prisoners end up back
in prison, especially gang members.
inmates had been enrolled and 17 had been
returned to segregation for gang activities (Toller
& Tsagaris, 1996), although no details of the
programme’s evaluation were available.
Out-of-state transfers are a control strategy
that sends key prison gang members out of
state, in the hope of stopping or slowing a
prison gang’s activities. If a gang exists, officials
hope a transfer will disrupt its leadership and
activity and cause its elimination; however,
there has not been an evaluation of this
strategy to control gang activity. The United
States Department of Justice (1992) reported
that transfers may export gang activity to other
prisons. Correctional agencies have tried to
weaken prison gangs by assigning members
of different prison gangs to the same work
assignment and living quarters, in anticipation
of limiting the number and thus the power
of one prison gang over another at a specific
place. Illinois tried this approach to no avail,
because the inmate prison gang population
was too large to control effectively within a
few locations (United States Department of
Justice, 1992). Camp and Camp (1985) surveyed
facilities and asked officials which strategies
they were most likely to employ against prison
gangs. Transfer was cited by 27 of the 33
agencies; the use of informers was cited 21
times; prison gang member segregation was
cited 20 times; prison gang leader segregation
was cited 20 times; facility lockdown down
was cited 18 times; and vigorous prosecution
and interception of prison gang members’
communications was cited 16 times.
Knox (2000) shows that training for
correctional officers has improved, and that
over two-thirds of the 133 facilities surveyed
provided some gang training in 1999. Despite
this, only 20% of prison administrators surveyed
by Knox (2005) indicated that they had
programming for gang members who wanted
to leave the gang. Correctional administrators
(Knox, 2005) identified six potential solutions to
make their institutions safer:
1. increased sanctions against gang members
2. special housing for gang members
3. new restrictions on benefits for prison
4. new services for prison gang members
5. new policies to deal with prison gang
6. increased staffing and resources.
Understanding and responding to prison gangs
20 Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research Volume 3 Issue 1 January 2011 © Pier Professional Ltd
were not only more likely to recidivate, but also
recidivate more quickly, than drug-dependents.
Huebner et al (2007, p208) concluded that gang
membership proves to be a difficult barrier
to overcome and [has] important effects on the
timing of post release convictions’. The obstacles
faced by those who are released from prison
are substantial; such obstacles are significantly
greater for gang members.
In an experimental study, Di Placido et
al (2006) examined the effectiveness of high
intensity cognitive behavioural programmes on
gang member recidivism. Using data on 1,824
male adult offenders drawn from the Regional
Psychiatric Centre, a mental health hospital in
Canada, the researchers matched treated and
untreated gang and non-gang members on
age, race, criminal history and conviction type
(ie. a 2X2 design; N=160). Treated subjects
experienced programming that targeted
criminogenic attitudes and beliefs, aggression
and substance use, as well as educational and
life skills when appropriate. The follow-up
period for the subjects was two years. Twenty-
five per cent of the treated gang members
recidivated, compared to 40% of the untreated
gang members and 35% of the non-gang treated
and untreated subjects. Further, among those
recidivating, the untreated gang members
received the longest sentences (33 months),
whereas treated gang members (12 months),
treated non-gang members (seven months)
and untreated non-gang members (11 months)
received around one-third of the sentence. At
a cost of $100,000 for an eight-month stay,
the authors maintained that treatment would
outweigh the social and economic costs of
doing nothing.
This review has documented the substantial
magnitude of the problem posed by
incarcerated gang members. Gang members
enter prison with very high levels of crime in
their background. They are more prone to be
involved in violence, have weak community
ties, have low integration into conventional
society and possess deficits that impede their
progress in the employment market. Once in
prison, opportunities for involvement in crime
abound. Whether by affiliating with members of
their own gang, neighborhood or new prison
State and federal prisons have the responsibility
to ‘correct’ the behavioural problems prisoners
import into prison. Because prisons stand
outside the mainstream of American cultural and
behavioural patterns, it is important that they
do not further isolate already marginal men and
women. It is also argued that communities have
little concern for prisoners’ families and the
well-being of prisoners once they are released
to the community. Some (DuPont-Morales and
Harris 1994) call such disregard lackadaisical
and a damaging mistake(see also Tonry,
2004). Logan and Gaes (1993) contend that
prison’s primary role focuses on the fair
governance of prison institutions but does not
extend to the rehabilitation and reintegration
of former prisoners into the community. Others
contend that prison system performance can
be best measured by the lawful behaviour
of released prisoners (eg. Harding, 2001).
Correctional funding data precisely define
the prisons’ legislatively prescribed role: state
governments pay for security officers but not
for teachers, psychologists, treatment specialists,
mental health care or even basic constitutional
requirements for medical care systems (see, for
example, Plata et al v. Schwarzenegger et al,
2006). Prison staff cannot control, influence or
moderate the behaviour of released prisoners
any more than physicians can control the calorie
intake of obese patients outside of hospitals
and treatment centres. Despite this, recidivism
among former inmates remains a large issue.
Two studies have examined the effect of
gang membership on recidivism. Olson and
Dooley (2006) used data gathered from 3,364
probationers discharged from supervision and
2,534 prison releases/parolees in Illinois. Six
per cent of the probation sample and 24% of
the prison sample were reportedly gang active.
They found that within two years, 64% of gang
probationers (compared to 30% of non-gang
probationers) and 75% of gang prison releases/
parolees (compared to 65% of non-gang
releases/parolees) were rearrested for a new
crime. Huebner et al (2007) examined a sample
of 322 young male subjects released from prison
in a Midwestern state, using more sophisticated
analyses. Gang members comprised 37% of the
sample. Contrary to Olson and Dooley’s (2006)
findings, gang members were twice as likely
to be convicted; however, a five-year window
was allotted for reconviction. Gang members
Understanding and responding to prison gangs
21 Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research Volume 3 Issue 1 January 2011 © Pier Professional Ltd
on the street before entering prison. Fourth,
when leaving prison, gang members find a
changed landscape in their communities and
the gangs that they once belonged to. Finally,
as a consequence of this, gang members have
among the highest risks for return to prison.
While considerable effort is expended on
prevention of gang membership, promoting
gang desistance on the part of gang members
leaving prison needs careful scrutiny.
The existing knowledge base does offer the
basis to reflect on several theoretical issues of
importance to understanding the relationship
between prison gangs and the street. First, the
contrast between importation versus adaptation
remains salient. Clearly, the individuals who end
up in prison bring a large amount of ‘baggage’
with them. This baggage includes educational
and employment deficits, a history of substance
abuse, negative family relationships, and
friendships with peers who violate the law on
a regular basis, among other things. For a new
inmate, the presence of prior gang membership
also means that they have a ready source of
enemies and allies as they navigate their way
through prison life. The deficits imported
to prison by gang members are likely to be
greater than those of non-gang members,
largely because of the increased involvement
in crime especially violent crime that gang
membership brings with it. Prison socialisation
can be contrasted to importation. Clearly prisons
have their own cultures and subcultures, and
these can be powerful forces in shaping the
behaviour of inmates, choking off legitimate
opportunities for change, and opening doors to
misconduct within prison (Griffin & Hepburn,
2006). The street alliances and history that gang
members bring with them to prison makes their
socialisation into prison more difficult as they
bring a set of ready-made enemies through the
door of the prison. Yet, in prison, their street
gang alliance may neither protect them from
rivals nor provide easy alliances. But clearly,
street gang members are more likely to be
socialised into prison gang culture, owing to
their familiarity with ‘the life’ and commitment
generally to the norms of oppositional culture.
We believe that the life course conceptual
framework offered by Thornberry et al (2003)
can be integrated into an understanding of
prison gangs (see DeLisi et al, in press).
Importation clearly is related to the importation
model of prison culture described by Clemmer
gangs, gang members engage in higher levels
of institutional misconduct. This misconduct can
take a variety of forms, including but not limited
to violence, extortion and the sale of drugs
and other contraband. The presence of white
hate groups in prison exacerbates institutional
tensions and conflicts in prison, multiplying the
opportunities for misconduct and the longer
prison sentences and isolation that accompany
such behaviour. Such patterns of conduct further
insulate gang members from opportunities to
learn skills and to have experiences that will
help them transition to legitimate society. As
a consequence of prison misconduct, there
are few programming opportunities directed
specifically at gang members. They are more
often the target of segregation, jacketing or
isolation, activities that may (or may not,
as our review documents) make it easier to
manage prisons, but are not likely to improve
the chances of gang members successfully
transitioning from the prison to the street. When
gang members are released back into their
communities, they find a different environment
in many ways. The labour market is certainly
dynamic and demands new skills, skills many
gang members lack entering prison and fail
to accumulate while in prison. The criminal
landscape, along with the power relationships
among and within gangs, also changes. A gang
‘leader’ who is incarcerated for several years
may return to their community only to find that
their gang has been absorbed into a new gang
with new leaders and new activities. Worse
yet, gang members returning from prison may
not be known by a new ‘generation’ of gang
members, as ‘generations’ of gang members turn
over with great frequency.
We know far more about how gang
members get from ‘the street to the prison’ and
far less about how they get from ‘the prison
to the street’. The evidence that does exist is
only suggestive, but several conclusions can be
drawn. First, gang members are ‘hard cases’;
that is, they are likely to become the targets
of institutional control through misconduct,
disciplinary hearings, segregation and
‘jacketing’. Second, and as a consequence of
such behaviour, they are isolated from routine
programming, educational and employment
opportunities available to the general prison
population. Third, while in prison gang
members are likely to form new alliances with
prison gangs that differ than the ones they had
Understanding and responding to prison gangs
22 Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research Volume 3 Issue 1 January 2011 © Pier Professional Ltd
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Scott Decker
Foundation Professor
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Arizona State University
411 Central Avenue
Phoenix AZ 85004
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... Although the latter in the context of usage may-to a large extent-be paralleled to street gangs, it is different from religious cults. Pyrooz et al. (2011), Mitchell et al. (2018 are of the opinion that members of prison gangs are not always members of street gangs, and that the two groups vary in the degree to which they continue to be active gang members upon their release. Implicit in this view is the fact that "prison and street gangs (the latter group shares many attributes with campus cults in Nigeria) can exist independently of each other and that theories used to understand (deviant or criminal) behaviour in the community may not always be directly transferrable to prison" (Butler et al., 2018, p. 2). ...
... The criminogenic values one finds within the walls of institution are precisely those values found on the streets, from where the offenders come. This also accentuated the societal role gang culture and street gang structures play in shaping prison gangs (Schrag, 1954;Irwin and Cressey, 1962;Wacquant et al.;Pyrooz et al., 2011;DeLisi et al., 2011;Butler et al., 2018). In other words, prison inmates imported cultism as a criminal value at the time of admission and thus institutionalised it for co-inmates to accept and internalise. ...
... The above findings are best captured by the theoretical framework which predicted the opinions of the respondents (see Schrag, 1954;Irwin and Cressey, 1962;Wacquant et al.;Pyrooz et al., 2011;DeLisi et al., 2011;Butler et al., 2018). The predictions of the theoretical framework are in consonance with the results, that campus secret cults/cultism was imported into the prison, and is responsible for the failure of reformation interventions with its attendant persistence in crime and criminality. ...
The violent crime of campus cultism is widespread in Nigeria and hence has attracted increasing policy attention and scholarly works. However, much of the literature has focused on cultists (perpetrators of cultism) in the free world—cultism among prison inmates has been largely underexplored. Therefore, this study uniquely examined the importation and subsistence of cults/cultism in Abakaliki custodial centre, Nigeria. Following a cross-sectional research design, snowballing and purposive sampling techniques were used to recruit 24 cultists, who participated in the in-depth oral interviews. Findings revealed that the campus secret cult tradition has crept into the correctional institution, where is perpetrated and perpetuated to attenuate the ‘pains of imprisonment’ and for survival (coping strategies) and adaptation (adjustment patterns). The problem has serious implications for prison security and reforms by frustrating treatment efforts. There is persistent desocialisation, manipulation and brainwashing of inmates through social contamination and learning of criminal thought patterns and hazing. Most of the activities of cultists are deeply shrouded in secrecy and regular use of argots (criminal jargons/slangs/coded languages) is widespread. The goal is to beat security and uphold group solidary, identity and proselytisation at all time and location, regardless of the associated risks and threats. Obtaining firsthand information in order to gain deeper insights into the modus operandi of cultists in the prison system promises a successful reformation of inmates and their reestablishment/reintegration upon release, which adds to increase custodial and public safety.
... The prison gang, as Buentello and colleagues defined it, maintains a centralized structure with governance functions and monopolies on protection and control. This is the type of group typically represented in key statements (and definitions) on gangs in prison (Jacobs 1977;Pyrooz, Decker, and Fleisher 2011;Skarbek 2014;Ortiz 2019;Gundur 2020;Roth 2020). ...
... 6 Obviously, women and feminisms also destabilise masculine cultures, including hegemonic masculinities (hence "hybrid" masculinities); conversely, women also play an important role in the legitimation and reproduction of heteronormative patriarchy. 7 These minority groups import masculine identities, values, and behavioural norms from their communities, thus adding to the local dynamics of renegotiated and hybridised in-prison masculinities ( Irwin & Cressey, 1962 ;Mears et al., 2013 ;Phillips, 2012 ;Pyrooz et al., 2011 ). 8 Even so, the prisoners shared their previous experiences from all sorts of penal institutions: young offenders' prisons, remand prisons, and maximum-security prisons, including death row, before it was abolished. ...
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Gender relations implicate power and male privilege. Prisons largely house underprivileged men. How then do incarcerated men negotiate masculinities when gender relations in society-at-large, power relations inside prisons, and masculine ideas and ideals continue to change? Drawing on a semi-ethnographic study in a men’s prison in Ukraine, I detail how the dynamic nature of gender normative ideals coexist with the more constant features of gender order: masculine surveillance, censure, and stratification. I highlight that notwithstanding the existence of alternative and subordinate masculinities, the power of hegemonic masculinities in prison is far from waning despite continuously shifting normative expectations and evolving masculine ideals. Whilst adding to the scholarship that questions the hypermasculine image of the men’s prison world, this chapter, by foregrounding the costs men in prison bear in their daily struggle to attain and maintain masculine status, explains how men in prison are simultaneously victims and perpetrators of patriarchy.
... In addition to rehabilitative difficulties, gangs also pose unique risk management challenges relating to serious misconduct and inter-group conflicts in correctional contexts (Decker, 2001b;Knox, 2000;Pyrooz & Decker, 2019). Accordingly, it is not uncommon for certain jurisdictions to make custodial decisions based on an individual's perceived gang status. ...
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Gangs are associated with a range of social, criminal, and economic harms. Yet, after almost a century of dedicated research, the development of effective and ethical responses to such harms has proven difficult. Recent attempts to address this have seen the establishment of the Eurogang Program; an international group of gang researchers and practitioners coordinated around a consensus definition of gangs. Since its recent inception, the Eurogang Program has quickly become the dominant framework of research and practice. While much is being staked on the success of the Eurogang Program, the suitability of such a programme for progressing gang research is yet to be thoroughly examined. In this thesis I therefore conduct a meta-theoretical examination of the state of gang research and particularly the Eurogang Program and its associated practices. By examining the frameworks underpinning gang research and drawing upon insights from the philosophy of science, I characterise the Eurogang approach as an attempt to coordinate gang research through means of unification (i.e., through the privileging of particular research perspectives and strategies to achieve coordination through consensus). I draw attention to some major limitations of these unificatory attempts and emphasise how the consensus Eurogang definition does not appropriately set up researchers to be able to develop the various kinds of conceptual and theoretical understandings of gangs required to improve gang policy and practice. Instead, I make the case for a framework known as epistemic pluralism, in which researchers do not pursue consensus but rather cultivate multiple systems of knowing to serve a variety of different research purposes. After establishing the benefit of epistemic pluralism, I examine how such a framework may be applied to the gang field. This involves specific discussion of the various aims of gang researchers and the roles that conceptual strategies (i.e., definitional, classificatory, and explanatory approaches) play in providing the pragmatic and epistemic (i.e., knowledge-related) insights required to meet them. These discussions offer a novel perspective on the roles of conceptual strategies in the process of knowledge production and justification. Having established the general kinds of strategies required for different research purposes, I then consider some specific examples of conceptual strategies that are relevant to meeting the various needs of gang researchers. This takes the form of the Conceptual Framework for Gang Research (CFGR). This novel approach offers greater opportunities for more meaningful kinds of research coordination and maximises the likelihood of establishing the conceptual and theoretical understandings of gangs required to improve gang policy and practice. The value of this thesis as a case study for pursuing epistemic pluralism in the sciences is also discussed.
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O fenômeno social que envolve a atuação organizada de grupos criminosos no país, tanto dentro quanto fora das prisões, ganha importância e relevância dentro de diversas áreas do conhecimento. Propomos aqui um conceito operacional de ‘facção criminosa’ e a partir dele mapeamos a produção acadêmica dos programas de pós-graduação (dissertações e teses) no Brasil. Foi utilizado o Catálogo de Teses e Dissertações CAPES para o levantamento das produções disponíveis. Foram encontradas 212 referências entre 2000 e 2022. Essas referências foram agrupadas e analisadas levando-se em conta as dinâmicas regionais e também as respectivas áreas de conhecimento. As produções que compõem as Ciências Sociais, incluindo Antropologia, Sociologia e Ciência Política somaram 67 referências. Há uma diversidade nas questões abordadas, destacam-se os estudos sobre jovens, periferias, disputas territoriais, formas de enfrentamento do estado e relações de gênero. Quanto aos aspectos metodológicos há o predomínio de uma perspectiva indutiva e de técnicas qualitativas. O crescimento e diversidade temática das questões tratadas mostra o desafio na construção do diálogo com diferentes campos do conhecimento, além de incorporar as diferentes contribuições existentes nas áreas das Ciências Sociais.
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Despite interest in the subject, the study of prison gangs has been meagre since the late 1980s. Occasional studies appear, but they tend to focus on only the largest prison systems in the US. This introduction to this special issue, Prison Gangs as Organized Crime, provides an overview of notable literature on the emergence and evolution of prison gangs, their relationships with protection, and their organized criminal activities. Moreover, the articles in this special issue explore important questions: How might we study prison gangs at a large scale? How do prison administrators’ responses to prison gangs cause prison gangs to adjust their power structures? How do prison gangs seek to establish protection arrangements? And what happens when prison gangs successfully establish protection arrangements beyond prison walls?
Datasets of offender attributes, both pre-custody and in-custody, were provided by the Correctional Service of Canada with the goal of exploring whether Security Threat Group (STG) offenders (informally, gang members of various kinds) differ in any systematic way from other offenders. For pre-custody attributes, we show that the entire offender population varies along two almost independent axes, one associated with affinity for violence, and the other with affinity for substance abuse. Within this structure, STG offenders are characteristically less extreme, in either direction, than the general offender population. For approximately two dozen attributes, STG offenders, as a group, tend to have higher values; for a few, they tend to have lower values. For in-custody attributes, the entire offender population forms a triangular structure whose vertices represent: passivity; violence and troublemaking; and involvement in programs leading to partial release. The differences between the STG offender population and the general offender population are small. An offender who is placed at the high end of the propensity for violence axis and/or the high end of the substance abuse axis based on pre-custody attributes is much more likely to be involved in incidents, grievances, and violence while in custody. This may have implications for risk stratification of incoming offenders.
This chapter explores the evolution and variety of social order and governance arrangements in prisons in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic provides a unique case study for prison research: it is a non-Western, high-crime, and low-resource context, but has made a major investment in reforming prisons to align with international human rights standards. Half of its prisons are “new” and reformed—with new buildings, staff, and programs—and half remain in the “old” conditions, with deteriorated infrastructure and police/military authority. In the “old” prisons, governance arrangements have shifted over the past decade, from a “provó” system where individual powerful prisoners ran facilities with near-total control, to a form of negotiated authority in which both prisoner “representatives” and prison staff share power. In contrast, in the new prisons, the new corrections professionals have dismantled any form of prisoner-led governance and have imposed formal authority on all aspects of daily life. These contrasting governance arrangements stem from material and social circumstances and from deliberate policy decisions by government officials. In each setting, prisoners expressed appreciation for certain aspects of daily life under a given regime, and express frustration with other aspects. Based on surveys and interviews with prisoners and interviews with staff and other actors, this chapter describes the history, key components, and mechanisms of the current governance arrangements in old and new prisons. It also explores the reasons for prisoners’ mixed perceptions. I argue that the Dominican examples show the need to integrate key insights from the principal theoretical frameworks of prison governance. Specifically, the Dominican case illustrates the salience of blending two frameworks: Skarbek’s emphasis on the provision of material goods and safety and of Pérez Guadalupe & Nuñovero’s emphasis on the nature of dialogue between prisoners and formal authorities.
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This article employs a theoretical framework of disparate origin I term Structural Disorganization to analyze the apparent inverse relationship between the emergence of inmate organization hegemony and the rate of serious inmate violence in California prisons demonstrated by over 3 decades of inmate violence data collected from 1975 to 2006, suggesting the mitigating effect of inmate organization structure on serious violence in the carceral community. While the limitations of the data available preclude definitive proof of causality in the positivistic sense, the structural disorganization framework provides an intriguing analytical perspective for the seeming anomaly in the data regarding the effects of inmate organization hegemony and rates of serious inmate violence. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications for the wider Kingpin Strategy employed by the US government and its proxies, followed by speculation on how the structural disorganization framework can be employed in future research and analysis to explain the relationship between organizational structures and rates of serious criminal violence in criminalized communities, both domestic and international.
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Addressing a need for carceral geographical research conducted from inside prison gates, we discuss the spatial context in which racialisation occurs, including its relationship to the performance of prison “politics”. We argue that the convoluted and contentious racial categorisation of prison inmates that begins with “racial priming” and results in “racial sorting” possesses a spatial logic derived from institutional partitioning and street‐level cordoning of individual and group identities. We reveal how racialisation is relied upon through both a self‐segregation and institutional classification system at the micro scale. Based on autoethnographic reflection as formerly jailed and incarcerated individuals, and through a reading of sociological, criminological, and geographical literatures, we argue that the logic of everyday micro‐scale racial identity formation has more to do with location, gang alliances, antagonisms, and the necessary navigating of prison “politics” and protocol than with conceptualisations of “race” engendered by racial capitalism and enforced by the racial state.
This study is based on three years of field work with 99 active gang members and 24 family members. The book describes the attractiveness of gangs, the process of joining, their chaotic and loose organisation, and their members' predominant activities - mostly hanging out, drinking, and using drugs. The authors also discuss gang members' rather slapdash involvement in major property crime and their disorganised participation in drug traffic, as well as the often fatal consequences of their violent life-style. Although the book focuses on the individual, organisational, and institutional aspects of gang membership, it also explores gang members' involvement with other school and neighborhood structures. Extensive interviews with family members provide groundbreaking insights into the gang members' lives. As much as possible, however, the story is told in the gang members' own words.
The Eurogang Paradox is the first comprehensive collection of original research reports on the status of street gangs and problematic youth groups in Europe, as well as a set of special, state-of-the-art reports on the current status of American street gang research and its implications for the European gang situation. Seven American papers are joined with reports from England, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Russia, Holland, Belgium, France, and Slovenia. Summary chapters by the American and European editors provide overviews of the street gang picture: the associated issues and problems of definition, community context, comparative research procedures, and implications for prevention and intervention. Professionals and students will find these papers easy to comprehend yet fully informative on comparative street gang studies.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of jailed Americans leave prison and return to society. Largely uneducated, unskilled, often without family support, and with the stigma of a prison record hanging over them, many, if not most, will experience serious social and psychological problems after release. Fewer than one in three prisoners receive substance abuse or mental health treatment while incarcerated, and each year fewer and fewer participate in the dwindling number of vocational or educational pre-release programs, leaving many all but unemployable. Not surprisingly, the great majority is rearrested, most within six months of their release. As long as there have been prisons, society has struggled with how best to help prisoners reintegrate once released. But the current situation is unprecedented. As a result of the quadrupling of the American prison population in the last quarter century, the number of returning offenders dwarfs anything in America's history. A crisis looms, and the criminal justice and social welfare system is wholly unprepared to confront it. Drawing on dozens of interviews with inmates, former prisoners, and prison officials, the book shows us how the current system is failing, and failing badly. Unwilling merely to sound the alarm, it explores the harsh realities of prisoner re-entry and offers specific solutions to prepare inmates for release, reduce recidivism, and restore them to full citizenship, while never losing sight of the demands of public safety. As the number of ex-convicts in America continues to grow, their systemic marginalization threatens the very society their imprisonment was meant to protect.
Within the past 25 years, the prison population in America shot upward to reach a staggering 1.53 million by 2005. This book takes a broad, critical look at incarceration, the huge social experiment of American society. The authors investigate the causes and consequences of the prison buildup, often challenging previously held notions from scholarly and public discourse. By examining such themes as social discontent, safety and security within prisons, and impact on crime and on the labor market, Piehl and Useem use evidence to address the inevitable larger question, where should incarceration go next for American society, and where is it likely to go?.