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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Gangs, Race, and Other Personal Issues: An Examination of Violence from the Incarcerated Youth Perspective

  • Author(s): Scott, Daniel Walter
  • Advisor(s): Maxson, Cheryl L
  • et al.

Violent behaviors under different contexts have become prominent topics in criminological scholarship. Violence is common among gang youth (Thornberry et al, 2003) and scholarship has also found that violence occurs due to race issues (Carson and Esbensen, 2014; Iadicola & Shupe, 1998). Research also shows that violence in adult correctional settings also stems from other personal issues (Cunningham, Sorenson, Vigen, & Woods, 2010), but there has been little research addressing the characteristics of violent incidents related to gang, race and other personal issues within youth correctional facilities. The current project fills this research gap by utilizing interviews from over 260 incarcerated male youth, which include over 600 violent incident narratives. The project also applies subculture of violence concepts, research on violence at the situational level and Routine Activities Theory to the analyses.

The first section of my dissertation qualitatively analyzes the relationship between the institutional setting and violence, whether there is a distinct violent subculture, as well as the existence and relationship between respect norms and violence. The next section compares gang and race motivated violent incidents. Quantitative analyses are conducted on the relationship between whether an incident is gang or race related and the presence of select situational characteristics. Qualitative data are analyzed to better understand the context in which gang and race related violence occurs and to compare the similarities and differences between these incident types. The last section of my dissertation examines violent incidents that are motivated by other personal issues. Quantitative analyses assess the association between select situational characteristics with whether or not the incident is related to other personal issues. Qualitative methods provide an improved comprehension of the context in which violence motivated by other personal issues occurs compared to gang and race violent incidents.

The results highlight significant differences in situational characteristics and dynamics of violent incidents motivated by gang, race, and other personal issues. Furthermore, the findings reveal a complex relationship between violent incidents that are gang and race related. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of the implications for institutional policy and programs.

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