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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Two Models of the Prison: Accidental Humanity and Hypermasculinity in the L.A. County Jail


This Article considers what can be learned about humanizing the modern American prison from studying a small and unorthodox unit inside L.A. County’s Men’s Central Jail. As a formal matter, this unit—known as K6G—is the same as every other in Men’s Central, but for one key difference: its residents are exclusively gay men and transgender women. In reality, however, life in the unit contrasts dramatically with life in the rest of the Jail. Most notably, whereas the Jail’s general population (GP) is almost entirely governed by rules created and violently enforced by racially stratified gangs, K6G is wholly free of so-called “gang politics” and the threat of collective violence (a.k.a. riots) that gang rule creates. K6G is also relatively free of sexual assault—no small feat given that the people housed in this unit would otherwise be among the Jail’s most vulnerable residents. Although very far from ideal, in these and other ways, life in K6Gis markedly safer and more humane than elsewhere in the Jail.

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