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Social Science and Public Policy

The Puzzle of Prison Order: Why Life Behind Bars Varies Around the World

February 24, 2020 at 12:00pm1:30pm EST

Eggers Hall, 341

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Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs

Sovereignty, Order and Conflict

David Skarbek
Brown University
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science

Political Theory Project

The Puzzle of Prison Order: Why Life Behind Bars Varies Around the World

Why does prison social order vary around the world? While many of the basic characteristics of prisons are similar globally, the extent and form of informal inmate organization varies substantially. This article develops a governance theory of prison social order. Inmates create extralegal governance institutions when official governance is insufficient. The size and demographics of the prison population explain why inmates produce extralegal governance institutions in either decentralized ways, such as ostracism, or through more centralized forms, such as gangs. Comparative analysis of Brazil, Bolivia, England, Scandinavia, and men’s and women’s prisons in California  provide empirical support.

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This event was published on February 18, 2020.

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