Power on the Inside: A Global History of Prison Gangs

Reaktion. Nov. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781789143232. $35. CRIME
Academic criminologist Roth (Fire in the Big House) offers an unprecedented historical and global perspective on prison gangs. He challenges stereotypes and misconceptions—not all prison gangs are harmful; some provide a sense of order that staff cannot. Roth explores a wide range of gangs, from the Bladebaaz gangs in India to the Camorra in Italy to South Africa’s Numbers gangs; he also looks at gangs in North America, Latin America, Oceania, and Europe. His scholarly, meticulous analysis of the various types of organizations and comparisons will give readers a stronger understanding of these prison subcultures—for instance, in the Philippines, the Sigue Sigue groups are considered to be of higher status than the Visayan gangs (Manilan housekeepers tend to come from the Visayan-speaking demographics). Roth illuminates the motivations, behavior, and activity of the organizations both inside and outside of prison and discusses how members function within the prison environment.
VERDICT Roth’s well-written, deeply researched work is a must for those in the criminology and criminal justice fields, but interested general readers will find it accessible as well.
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