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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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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Governance institutions; Norms; Organized crime; Prison; Prison gangs;
    All these keywords.

    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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