Prison Gang Fights


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Before the rise of large, formal prison gangs, political scientists and researchers found that inmates had already organized around an understood "code" or set of norms. For example, political scientist Gresham Sykes in The Society of Captives, a study based on the New Jersey State Prison, claims that "conformity to, or deviation from, the inmate code is the major basis for classifying and describing the social relations of prisoners". Prisoners achieved a social equilibrium around unwritten rules. The code may include an understanding of prison yard and dining hall territory based on rank, race, ethnicity, religion, or crimes committed, or it could simply be loyalty between inmates and against guards. Sykes writes that an inmate may "bind himself to his fellow captives with ties of mutual aid, loyalty, affection, and respect, firmly standing in opposition to the officials. " Hostility between wardens and prisoners, restrained freedom, and, some argue, the lack of access to heterosexual relationships shaped prison social environment and political dynamics.