State Making, And Systems Of Governance Based On Prison Gangs

1499 Words Oct 25th, 2014 6 Pages
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 in several California prisons precisely by those who are assumed to be the source of disorder: the Mexican Mafia gang provides governance in a brutal but effective way by acting as a “stationary bandit”, or what Skarbek calls the “incarcerated bandit.”

Skarbek borrowed the stationary bandit theory from Mancur Olson’s Power and Prosperity. The theory explains that unlike roving bandits who sack village after village and take everything they could find without leaving anything behind, stationary bandits try to remain nearby the village to regularly extort small revenue. The stationary bandit tries to plunder as much wealth as possible without exhausting his source of future revenue. As a rational actor, the stationary bandit seeks…

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