Inside Out: The Challenges Of Prison-Based Criminal Organizations


Lessing (2016)


This paper considers the phenomenon of prison gangs and its implications for social order. The paper argues that typical responses to gangs, like anti-gang crackdown, can have unintended consequences and help prison gangs establish authority outside of prison, organize criminal markets, and orchestrate mass violence.

In addition, since these gangs have developed institutions, it is unclear that reducing sentences or improving prison conditions will put a stop to these gangs.

Finally, it is not obvious that the state can replace the order provided by these gangs if it is successful in neutralizing them. The paper recommends a containment approach that strikes a balance between hardline repression and accommodation.


This is not an experiment, but rather an analysis of prison gangs.


Policymakers should aim to:

1) Increasingly acknowledge gang presence and power, rather than deny or obfuscate it;

2) Set rules of the game that take advantage of gang leaders’ ability to pacify criminal markets while demarcating realms where the state can slowly supplant gangs;

3) Use repression more strategically to enforce these rules, creating incentives for gang leaders to avoid violence and anti-social behavior; and

4) Put greater state, civil-society, and international resources into recuperating state authority in non-criminal areas where gangs currently hold sway

Full document here

#Prison #Gangs

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags