The Collateral Consequences of Mass Incarceration on Urban Youth Cultures

Patrick Lopez-Aguado
UC Santa Barbara

This project examined the collateral consequences of mass incarceration on urban youth cultures in California’s Latino/a communities. Racial sorting policies implemented in state prisons facilitate radical divides between inmates, necessitating affiliations that are expressed through specific cultural presentations. These define one’s position within a complex system of race relations, regional alliances and gang rivalries in the prison. The identities shaped by this system influence the Latino/a communities disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration, visible in the reproduction of prison rivalries in these neighborhoods. The grantee questioned how barrio youth incorporate the ideologies of prison groups into their own cultural presentations. Studying how this unfolds is necessary for understanding what role the justice system plays in producing cultures and identities that are regulated as criminal. Using ethnographic methods and a multi-generational narrative analysis, the project examined the meanings youth in a probationary alternative school recognize within social practices of street culture.