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Radical culture change instigated by conflict among diverse cultural groups has had adverse social and psychological effects witnessed by the rise of youth gangs. A close look at the processes of gang formation in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City illustrates that rapid changes in core cultural systems had a chilling effect on ethnic groups’ core cultural practices, such as adolescents’ rites of passage to adulthood. In the absence of culturally prescribed, ritual activities, adolescents have not been prepared to assume their culture’s prescribed adult roles. That radical loss in a core cultural tradition has adversely affected adolescents’ behavior. Research in the early decades of the 20th century in Chicago reported that adolescent gang members experienced depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and addictions as consequents of violence clashes between Chicago’s native white population and European immigrants and black migrants. Over the decades of gang research in America and Europe, sociologists and anthropologists have come to agree on cultural elements in theories of gang formation: American and European youth gangs are derivative of cultural clashes, which engender racism and fundamental antagonistic changes in cultural systems’ economic production and social control. Effects of hostile culture change include social discord, unemployment, gang, and violence. Social network research on adolescent gangs has shown that gangs are not closed social groups limiting gang members’ interpersonal contact to co-group members. Gang and non-group adolescents differ in attributes (sex, age, education), but structural measures of adolescent gang groups and non-groups are similar. Network research has carefully examined gang and non-gang adolescents’ personal networks. A personal network of male and female gang members includes people they know who know them. A personal network’s composition can include a few friends, close friends, and best friends, and numerous others inside a gang group as well as members of other gangs and non-gang members. Personal network relations connect gang adolescents to their families, friends, and neighborhoods, despite gang membership. Gang ethnography describing youth gang members and their families has shown that gang youth have been victims of domestic and intimate partner violence, experience periods of episodic homelessness away their natal and extended kin, as well as fictive families, and suffer adverse mental health consequences.

Article

Marisa Omori and Oshea Johnson

There have been two major approaches to studying racial and ethnic inequality in punishment: The first approach comes from the sociology of punishment and social inequality literatures, and considers how the carceral state, including criminal justice institutions, create racial inequality through policies and practices broadly, or how racialized narratives are embedded in these policies and practices. This includes how scholarship has been drawn from institutional racism and other race literatures and integrated these ideas into how punishment policies and practices are racialized, as well as how the criminal justice system is both a consequence of and a contributor to increasing racial inequality. In particular, the social inequality literature has also been concerned with the rise of mass incarceration and its consequences for racial inequality in individuals, families, and communities. The second approach is drawn from the criminology literature on courts and sentencing, and generally focuses on the magnitude and location of racial disparities for individuals being processed in the criminal justice system, with a particular attention to sentencing outcomes. There are several complementary frameworks that have been used to frame racial inequalities in punishment outcomes; most of them focus on individual-level decisions and decision-makers, with some considerations of organizational-level factors. Most often, this literature also quantitatively tests racial disparities of court processing and court case outcomes, with a particular focus on sentencing of convicted defendants, including whether a defendant was sentenced to prison or not (the “in/out” decision), and the length of prison sentence. The two perspectives can inform each other; the sociology of punishment focuses on policies and practices that drive racial inequality, and the courts and sentencing literature focuses on the consequences of these factors in case processing outcomes.

Article

Critical race theory (CRT) concerns the study and transformation of relationships among race, (ethnicity), racism, and power. For many scholars, CRT is a theoretical and interpretative lens that analyzes the appearance of race and racism within institutions and across literature, film, art, and other forms of social media. Unlike traditional civil rights approaches that embraced incrementalism and systematic progress, CRT questioned the very foundations of the legal order. Since the 1980s, various disciplines have relied on this theory—most notably the fields of education, history, legal studies, feminist studies, political science, psychology, sociology, and criminal justice—to address the dynamics and challenges of racism in American society. While earlier narratives may have exclusively characterized the plight of African Americans against institutional power structures, later research has advocated the importance of understanding and highlighting the narratives of all people of color. Moreover, the theoretical lenses of CRT have broadened its spectrum to include frameworks that capture the struggles and experiences of Latinx, Asian, and Native Americans as well. Taken collectively, these can be regarded as critical race studies. Each framework relies heavily on certain principles of CRT, exposing the easily obscured and often racialized power structures of American society. Included among these principles (and related tenets) is white supremacy, white privilege, interest convergence, legal indeterminacy, intersectionality, and storytelling, among others. An examination of each framework reveals its remarkable potential to inform and facilitate an understanding of racialized practices within and across American power structures and institutions, including education, employment, the legal system, housing, and health care.

Article

Tackling racism in prisons has a relatively long policy, practice, and research history in England and Wales. However, clear evidence of success in reducing racism in prisons has been, and still is, difficult to find. This article is based on a unique study that was carried out either side of the new millennium (late 1999 to mid-2001), but no equivalent exercise has been repeated since. Due to a unique set of circumstances at the time the study was carried out, it became possible to employ an action research approach that required policymakers, practitioners, volunteers, and researchers to agree on: an emergent research design; implementation; intervention; and measurement. There are many forms of action research, but this study could best be defined as a “utilization-focused evaluation, which is particularly applicable to the criminal justice environment. This approach also included elements of participatory action research.” The emphasis here is to show how the action research approach can be both more systematic and more flexible than traditional social science approaches. This applies to both epistemological and research methods considerations, because, by combining theory and action, action research can provide a more viable way of ensuring that policy works in practice, and is sensitive to unique institutional exigencies. Throughout, discussion is contextualised using policy, research and methodology texts from the period when the research was commissioned, but given an overall methodological context by referencing more recent methodology text books. The article first outlines the context in which the action research study was commissioned, before providing a summary of the international research findings on race relations in prisons, from which key concepts for the project were initially operationalized. The chapter then explains how the specific participatory action research approach was selected as the most appropriate design, the extent to which the approach was successful, and why. The article ends with a discussion of the implications of findings and conclusions from this study for current policy and methodological approaches.

Article

As we begin to think about the United States as a carceral state, this means that the scale of incarceration practices have grown so great within it that they have a determining effect on the shape of the the society as a whole. In addition to the budgets, routines, and technologies used is the culture of that carceral state, where relationships form between elements of its culture and its politics. In terms of its visual culture, that relationship forms a visuality, a culture and politics of vision that both reflects the state’s carceral qualities and, in turn, helps to structure and organize the society in a carceral manner. Images, architecture, light, presentation and camouflage, surveillance, and the play of sight between groups of people and the world are all materials through which the ideas of a society are worked out, its politics played out, its technology implemented, its rationality or common sense and identities forming. They also shape the politics of freedom and control, where what might be a free, privileged expression to one person could be a dangerous exposure to another, where invisibility or inscrutability may be a resource. In this article, these questions are asked in relation to the history of prison architecture, from premodern times to the present, while considering the multiple discourses that overlap throughout that history: war, enslavement, civil punishment, and freedom struggle, but also a discourse of agency, where subordinated peoples can or cannot resist, or remain hostile to or in difference from the control placed upon them.