Much of the order that exists in the inmate social system is not the result of government action. How do prisoners create order? Inmates use a combination of norms and organizations to provide governance privately. Norms rely on decentralized information transmission and enforcement mechanisms. Organizations, on the other hand, have well-defined memberships and create explicit information transmission and enforcement mechanisms. Inmates cannot rely on norms for governance when the inmate population is large, increasingly crowded, and when fewer inmates arrive with a prior prison commitment. When norms fail, inmates create organizations to protect themselves and provide governance. Once these groups have the power to deter predators, they prey on others. Contemporary and historical evidence from California correctional facilities provide support for these claims and suggest an explanation of the origin and growth of prison gangs.
Find article at Science Direct.