Analysis Of Prison Gangs

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In this article, David Skarbek refutes the widespread assumption that prisons are filled with violent thugs who cannot act irrationally. He demonstrates how criminals who break the rules and have been sentenced to long-term or life sentence are capable of creating rules, explicit and implicit, to establish an informal governance system that would serve them. Precisely, Skarbek attempts to explain “state-making” and systems of governance based on prison gangs in California. He argues that the Mexican Mafia gang, a Mexican-American criminal prison organization, has set up a governance system that facilitates drug trafficking conducted by Hispanic drug dealers in the streets of Los Angeles. In other words, Skarbek claims that order has been instituted …show more content…
However, the originality of Skarbek’s article is to look at prison gangs who provide protection to inmates from rival gangs and maintain order outside by extorting “gang taxes” from drug-traffickers. In an environment where there is no possibility to appeal to the state to protect illegal activities, the author explains how the Mexican Mafia has become this state-like governance institution that protects gang members from their rivals when in jail, but also prevents turf wars by enforcing the respect of territories of drug-trafficking gangs and reducing drive-by shootings outside prisons. Here, the author outlines the two main activities of the Mexican Mafia gang inside and outside of prison: the Mexican Mafia established a governance system that taxes criminal activities and, in exchange, enables market exchange by protecting property, enforcing agreements and solving disputes between rival street gangs. Like Olson’s theory, violence is underlying the governance institution because if a street gang refuses to give the Mexican Mafia a share of the proceeds from its drug trafficking, jailed associates of the gang or members of the gang would get killed in prison. The stability of this governance system, Skerbak argues, lies on the firm willingness of the Mexican Mafia to enforce punishment in case of defection. In other words, it …show more content…
The third hypothesis explains the non-payment of the gang tax if the individual can provide for his own protection. This is often the case of non-Hispanic gang members, such as Black Guerilla Family, that usually avoid meddling in the activities of Hispanic gangs. If incarcerated, they would receive protection from their own jailed gang associates. The fourth hypothesis explains non-payment of the tax by individuals who neither expect incarceration nor do they have associates in jail. This is probably the weakest hypothesis because it does not fit the incarcerated bandit theory. Most of those to whom hypothesis 4 applies are ordinary citizens who conduct legal ventures and activities. Therefore, they already pay taxes to the legitimate state that provides legitimate protection. In case of non-payment of their taxes, they could be fined or jailed, but would not owe their protection to a gang. As for those who engage in illegal activities that is not drug-related and that is conducted outside of the scope of Hispanic street gangs, they do not fall under the “jurisdiction” of the Mexican Mafia, because they have broken the state law only and are, thus, punished by the

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