by Victor M. Rios
A similar read to Gang Member for a Day, the book Punished – Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys studies Black and Latino boys in the Oakland, California area. It is written by another sociologist, Victor Rios, who himself comes from the life of the boys he studies, having committed crimes and being a ‘self-described’ delinquent as a teen. He was a member of a gang, witnessed murders, and was involved in illegal activities. In the book, Dr. Rios follows 40 young men from his home area. His main focus is to demonstrate that “punitive social-control” does not work. Having more police, who physically intimidate the youth, only forces them to resist more. Additionally, having teachers who aren't supportive and don’t create environments where kids are given multiple chances to prove themselves only pushes the students further away. Three-strikes-and-you’re-out laws don’t work and will lead to more funds spent on jails. Rios begins his book with definitions that explain ‘hypercriminalization’ (illustrating trends in how youth are punished today), the context of the area (the demographics and breakdown of diversity in the Bay area), and showing how few community programs exist as funding has been reduced. After the inputs, Rios shows the outputs (consequences), which include more jails, more arrests, and the low graduation rates of youth in the urban center. He provides a rich, qualitative voice from the youth who participated in his study. He puts a face on the kids who aren’t given a name but feel only the wrath of the local police. His data is substantial and once again proves the point that most government-led efforts, such as ‘attempting to help impoverished youth’ needs to be more than ‘carrying the heavy stick’ – more effort needs to be made to show the youth that getting out is possible. Congratulations to Dr. Rios for escaping his gang and for his work in telling the stories of those who can’t escape.