Race making in a penal institution

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35 Scopus citations


This article provides a ground-level investigation into the lives of penal inmates, linking the literature on race making and penal management to provide an understanding of racial formation processes in a modern penal institution. Drawing on 135 days of ethnographic data collected as an inmate in a Southern California county jail system, the author argues that inmates are subjected to two mutually constitutive racial projects—one institutional and the other microinteractional. Operating in symbiosis within a narrative of risk management, these racial projects increase (rather than decrease) incidents of intraracial violence and the potential for interracial violence. These findings have implications for understanding the process of racialization and evaluating the effectiveness of penal management strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1051-1078
Number of pages28
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 2016

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