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Published in Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 39, Number 1, January/February 2011.


Objective: The primary aim of the study is to document the prevalence and variation in types of pre-incarceration gang membership among a sample of incarcerated felons. The second goal is to consider if and how pre-incarceration gang involvement affects institutional behavior. Materials and Methods: This study builds on the existing literature by considering if and how different types of pre-incarceration gang involvement effect prison misconduct. This relationship is examined while controlling for attitudinal measures and pre-prison social characteristics that may condition entrance into gangs and involvement in serious prison misconduct. The study includes a sample of 504 youthful adults incarcerated in a large Midwestern state in 1996. Results: The results highlight that there is a high degree of variation in pre-incarceration gang involvement. Moreover, involvement in different types of gangs also is a significant predictor of prison misconduct. Individuals involved in organized/criminal gangs at the point of incarceration experienced significantly more serious misconduct reports than their non-gang counterparts, but similar findings were not evident for those involved in unorganized gangs. Conclusions: Even among a relatively serious population of youthful adult offenders, pre-incarceration gang involvement is uncommon. Pre-incarceration involvement in organized gangs represents a significant risk factor for prison misconduct.

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