Self-governing prisons: prison gangs in an international perspective

Michelle Butler*, Gavin Slade, Camila Dias

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
331 Downloads (Pure)


This paper finds qualified support for the use of Skarbek’s (2011, 2014) governance theory to understand the emergence of prison gang-like groups in Kyrgyzstan, Northern Ireland and Brazil. However, Skarbek’s (2011, 2014) governance theory has little to say about how many prison gangs emerge and how they organise comparatively outside the US context. This paper argues that variation in the number of gangs and their monopolization of informal governance can only be explained by considering importation and deprivation theories alongside governance theories. These theories factor in variation in prison environments and pre-existing societal divisions imported into prison, which affect the costs on information transmission and incentives for gang expansion. In particular, the paper pays particular attention to the wider role social and political processes play in influencing whether monopoly power by prison gangs is supported and legitimized or not.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-442
Number of pages16
JournalTrends in Organized Crime
Issue number4
Early online date30 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2022


  • Prison Gangs
  • Brazil
  • Northern Ireland
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Prison Governance
  • Monopoly Power
  • Gang Consolidation


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