Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

Hard times: exploring the complex structures and activities of Brazilian prison gangs

Novis, Roberta (2013) Hard times: exploring the complex structures and activities of Brazilian prison gangs. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Download (2MB) | Preview


This research examines the presence of organised criminal groups in prison and its influence on inmate’s interaction and on the prison system of Rio de Janeiro. Information collected from a series of in-depth interviews with prisoners and ex-prisoners, members and non-members of the criminal groups and authorities of the criminal justice system, suggests that the current social organisation of prisons is working favourably towards the further development of organised crime and deviant behaviour. Prisoners are subordinated not only to the prison administration but also to the gang leaders. If a convict had no links with drug trafficking prior to incarceration, they definitely create one behind bars. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of interviewees from the sensitive sample engaged in drug trafficking while in prison. Off-brand inmates, those who are the less conspicuous convicts, end up engaging in illegal activities to avoid retaliation, perpetuating then a cycle of violence in a fragmented geopolitical gang space behind bars. Political pressure towards the validity of the classification system stratified by gang affiliation has impacted on the prison administration to create multiple categories of prisoners, which are mutually exclusive. This has had pervasive impacts on penal affairs such as allocation of sentences, lack of vacancies and disruption of prisoner’s routine. The research shows that the State goes beyond classification of inmates by gang affiliation; it has incorporated elements of gang’s violent tradition to assess and influence justice and prisoner’s progression. This study offers an interesting scope for a comparative analysis through the study of anti-prison gang strategies. Experiences around the globe have been driven to target gangs with racial and ethnical rivalries. Prison gangs in this study are devoted to a more capitalist goal: the monopoly of illegal drug markets in the streets. Such understandings and contextualizing make a significant contribution to re-examining the role of inmate culture as well as the value of contemporary penal reforms designed to making the penal institutions more responsive and interventionist in addressing inmate needs.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Roberta Novis
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Hobbs, Richard

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics