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Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys (New Perspectives in Crime, Deviance, and Law) Paperback – June 27, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this compelling sociological narrative, Rios describes the problems facing black and Latino youth as they come of age. A former gang member who went on to earn a Ph.D. at Berkeley, Rios returned to his old Oakland neighborhood to shadow 40 young men as they dealt with poverty, violence, and institutionalized racism. As he recounts their life stories, Rios deftly balances analysis with vivid anecdotes about uninterested educators, struggling parents, police brutality, and gang victimization. From elementary school on, teachers and law enforcement mark these boys as "dangerous" or "difficult," and harshly punish them for petty infractions. Once they accumulate "negative credentials," the young men are subject to increased surveillance—and are consequently more likely to end up in prison. Rios terms this criminalization "the youth control complex," and explains how it systematically deprives boys of their dignity and their ability to succeed at school or in the job market. He examines how the culture of punishment pushes young men into the very criminality that the punishment is meant to deter, and makes a compelling argument that better financed social programs and positive reinforcement could make all the difference. (July)

Review

"This is a well overdue and important contribution to our understanding of urban street youth and gangs. Rios turns the table on traditional gang researchers by showing how the process of criminalization and the youth control complex is biased against young boys of color."-Diego Vigil,author of The Projects: Gang and Non-Gang Families in East Los Angeles

"With Punished, Rios joins an expanding cadre of social scientists who lament the directions that juvenile justice has taken in the United States in recent decades. He argues that in an era when the Unites States has achieved world-record levels of incarceration, of you people as well as adults, the widespread adoption of severe, hastily adopted get-tough-on-crime policies of the 1980s and 1990s has gone hand in hand with the vilification and persecution of black and Latino youths."
-Peter Monaghan,The Chronicle Review

"Rios provides numerous conceptual innovations, noted below in italics, that should soon find their way into all of our introductory, deviance, and race/ethnicity texts."-Robert Garot,American Journal of Sociology

"Rios's book is a valuable contribution to the field because it is an interdisciplinary work that addresses fundamental and ongoing concepts of juvenile delinquency and gang participation."-Madeleine Novich,Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Book Review

"Accessible, engaging and thought provoking, Punished presents unique data and compelling analytical insights, opening what should prove to be a fruitful line of research.  For this reason and other reasons…this important book is a worthwhile read for anyone within or outside the academy who is looking to understand the punitive turn in American society from the perspective of those who are most heavily policed, punished and criminalized.”-Social Forces
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Product Details

  • Series: New Perspectives in Crime, Deviance, and Law
  • Paperback: 237 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (June 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814776388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814776384
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Deborah F. Lustig on July 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Based on three years of research with 40 Black and Latino boys in Oakland, California, Victor Rios provides just the right blend of the boys' personal stories, his own critical analysis (and perspective as a former gang member from this community), and social science theory. He illuminates the processes of punitive social control that are taking place nation-wide, but focuses on the specific political-economic context of Oakland. His central claim is that the "youth control complex" systematically criminalizes young people; police harassment, while pervasive, is only part of the youth control complex. Families, schools, businesses, community centers, and probation officers, even while they are trying to help young people, are integrated into a web of punishment. As I read, I was caught up in the stories of the young men and gained new insight into their daily lives and struggles. Rios doesn't romanticize their lives or excuse their bad behavior, but he does show how limited their options are and how their efforts to turn their lives around are often undermined by the same individuals and institutions that are telling them to change. He shows that seemingly self-destructive behavior makes sense once we understand that the teens are striving for dignity, even when they know it will result in a loss of freedom. While all of the boys understand the processes of criminalization that enmesh them, some of them become activists protesting police brutality and mass incarceration. Rios ends on a hopeful note, calling for a "youth support complex" to nurture the great potential of the young people in our society who currently face not only enormous odds against them but also a system that is actively pushing them into criminality.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L. Genung on January 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
A phenomenal scientific analysis of the social contexts surrounding "gang-associated" young men. The book reads well on many levels; a good account of social theory, yet easily read by a layperson. Rios balances deep narratives of the boys' lives with a larger understanding of the world around them. Although his 3 year study provides snapshots of the lives of young men in Oakland, CA, their stories are understood on a much broader scale of criminal justice and social reform.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jocelyn on February 1, 2014
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"Punished" is written beautifully!

This study, conducted by author Victor M. Rios, focuses on the institutional injustices faced by Black and Latino male youth. Although, as a minority, I was already aware of such injustices, Rios' work provided me with the vocabulary necessary to further comprehend "the system." Overall, my opinions were changed. I once dubbed my low-achieving, male peers as lazy wanna-be delinquents. After reading "Punished," I realized these boys are not to blame. There are so many outer forces prohibiting these boys from realizing their full potential.

Everyone should give this book a read! It'll definitely teach you something new.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Akinyele on October 18, 2014
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A compelling story which needed to be told. I especially value that this book was written by an academic who is person of color who has experienced the over policing/under policing contradiction that is endemic in inner city communities, rather than by a well meaning "white anthropologist" researcher.

Excellent book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nikkia Tyler on September 27, 2014
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Booked shipped quickly, so I cant complain. Rios' book is also brilliant. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down & speak with him about his studies when he visited my university and came to appreciate all the work put into this book even more. Anyone interested in violence and the justice system surrounding youth of color, you'll enjoy this read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By UCSB 2010 Soc & Eng Graduate on January 17, 2012
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A vivid revelation of the physical and mental malnourishment of our marginalized youth in the inner-city. Dr. Rios analyzes the detrimental effects and inevitable failures of criminalization and punitive social control as it operates in our present day juvenile justice system and community spaces. His graphic account of daily life in the inner-city for Black and Latino boys begs one to ponder the clear violation of basic human rights that are denied to marginalized youth on a regular basis. At the same time, Rios offers alternative means that prove more dignified, healthy, and efficient than the current noxious setup. As a researcher, Dr. Rios does not attempt to defend or condemn; instead, his research seeks to find answers that are linked to the complex life stories of the youth involved in this study. This book retrospectively details the deficient state of justice in the inner-city and is a call for much needed reform. A must read for anyone in an influential role in the lives of youth, especially youth involved in the juvenile justice system.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CN on January 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Had to read this book for my sociology class and I'm glad it's not one of those dry book. This book provide a lot of insight to the urban neighborhood. The author also skyped us on the last day of class which is really cool.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By SouthernCaliScholar on January 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
Dr. Victor Rios is an amazing scholar and grounded theoretician who relies on his methodological, theoretical, and lived experiences within gangland culture to write this timely and important book. Rios incorporates Bay Area youth in his study, which allows us to better understand the youth in global cities/communities (under-studied). His work captures the voices of the youth who navigate and struggle with the Youth Control Complex. The Black and Latina/o youth according to Rios get hyper-surveiled by schools, family, community centers, and the like. Rios ablity to draw you into the story is eclectic and impressive. My college students love this book and unequivocally praise his unique ability to juxtapose real life with the social sciences. This book is one of the fastest growing titles in criminology, gender, youth, and ethnic/race studies. This is a wonderful book and I would like to see how Rios can advance his theory to other social contexts and social groups (queer youth, white and Asian gangs, girls, and immigrants). Nevertheless, the merit of this book will continue to push the baundries of how we understand the youth and the biased police community.
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