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Prison gangs, norms, and organizations

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  • Skarbek, David

Abstract

Much of the order that exists in the inmate social system is not the result of government action. How do prisoners create order? Inmates use a combination of norms and organizations to provide governance privately. Norms rely on decentralized information transmission and enforcement mechanisms. Organizations, on the other hand, have well-defined memberships and create explicit information transmission and enforcement mechanisms. Inmates cannot rely on norms for governance when the inmate population is large, increasingly crowded, and when fewer inmates arrive with a prior prison commitment. When norms fail, inmates create organizations to protect themselves and provide governance. Once these groups have the power to deter predators, they prey on others. Contemporary and historical evidence from California correctional facilities provide support for these claims and suggest an explanation of the origin and growth of prison gangs.

Suggested Citation

  • Skarbek, David, 2012. "Prison gangs, norms, and organizations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 96-109.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:82:y:2012:i:1:p:96-109
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2012.01.002
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    7. Peter Leeson, 2014. "Pirates, prisoners, and preliterates: anarchic context and the private enforcement of law," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 365-379, June.
    8. Gershman, Boris, 2015. "The economic origins of the evil eye belief," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 119-144.
    9. Clifford G. Holderness & Jeffrey Pontiff, 2012. "Hierarchies and the Survival of Prisoners of War During World War II," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(10), pages 1873-1886, October.
    10. David Skarbek, 2014. "Prisonomics: Lessons from America's Mass Incarceration," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(3), pages 411-421, October.
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    12. T. Randolph Beard & Richard Alan Seals Jr. & Michael L. Stern, 2014. "Security and Government Credibility," Auburn Economics Working Paper Series auwp2014-07, Department of Economics, Auburn University.
    13. O’Flaherty, Brendan & Sethi, Rajiv, 2015. "Urban Crime," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Governance institutions; Norms; Organized crime; Prison; Prison gangs;

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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