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Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys
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Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  615 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Victor Rios grew up in the ghetto of Oakland, California in the 1980s and 90s. A former gang member and juvenile delinquent, Rios managed to escape the bleak outcome of many of his friends and earned a PhD at Berkeley and returned to his hometown to study how inner city young Latino and African American boys develop their sense of self in the midst of crime and intense pol ...more
Paperback, 218 pages
Published June 27th 2011 by New York University Press
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 ·  615 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Start your review of Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys
Tough book to review. The topic is incredibly promising: that Black and Latino boys in Oakland (and to a large extent more generally) are pipelined into juvenile justice and prisons by a complex matrix that assumes their criminality over their humanity. Everywhere they turn, they are treated like criminals, even when they've done nothing wrong, or even while actively trying to stay out of criminal activity. Their whole lives, their whole childhoods, are criminalized by police, schools, the media ...more
Dec 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is "...a snapshot of the complicated world of some boys growing up in Oakland, California, in the midst of a system of punishment which, from their perspective, maintains an ironclad grip on their everyday lives." Victor Rios follows forty Black and Latino teenage boys in Oakland for a few years, in the process getting searched by police, arrested, and being subject to interrogation by police officers many times, simply for hanging out with them in public, on the streets of Oakland, do ...more
This book provides such terrific insight into hypercriminalization for those who have not experienced it personally. Rios is incredibly skilled at explaining in accessible ways the social processes by which young men's identities and characteristics (black or brown, poor; certain styles of dress or speech; living in a certain neighborhood or housing development) create stigmas and labels that limit their opportunities in concrete and harsh ways. Before even arrest or direct juvenile justice inte ...more
Brad Kent
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a readable but dense ethnography, and reads like the author's dissertation - so be forewarned if you were hoping for an easy read. That said, this is really good. One major point from this book that was new for me: the enforcement/corrections apparatus has invaded the education system. If young people (accurately) think of school as part of the carceral state, how do we move forward? This isn't the most prominent point of the book, but it made the biggest impression on me.
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and heartbreaking, this is a good examination of how the school to prison pipeline plays out, though that pipeline includes the neighborhood and has a strong race factor. There are many eye-opening anecdotes, especially related to job-seeking, but the opening anecdote of police harassment that requires the dropping of newly-purchased food to comply, when there is no crime and no charges... it makes you want to sing NWA songs, though that really isn't the answer.

I find it to be an int
Megi Diasamidze
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book! Rios demonstrates how punitive social control, criminalization and stigmatization affect lives of many young people in Oakland, California. This book made me think of sociological imagination and how realizing that our personal issues require structural changes might help us unveil the reality of mass incarceration.
Apr 20, 2020 rated it liked it
P good. Eye opening, made me think about stuff.
Lance Eaton
Rios's dissertation work-turned-book is a fantastic and powerful read that feels like a perfect counterpart to The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Over several years, Rios situates himself among a group of Latino and Black young men in Oakland, California to learn from their vantage what life is like when society deems you a problem or menace. From his observations, interviews, and analysis, Rios highlights the many ways in which young people of color are stuck bet ...more
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very well-written book on how approaches by law enforcement, the criminal justice system and current legislation socialize our children and youth of color to believe there's not a place for them to be successful citizens within society, as well as stigmatizes them as criminals, especially the impoverished. A must read. The first time that I've read the term "hypermasculinity" and it makes perfect sense. I've taught and worked for a community reentry program with incarcerated men from impoveris ...more
Patrick Cook
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this for anyone who wants to understand the almost complete breakdown that exists in much of America between the police and communities of color. Rios is a scholar with a PhD from one of the most prestigious universities in the world (UC Berkley). He also grew up poor in Oakland, dropped out of school at one point, and spent time in a juvenile correction facility when he was 15. This is a book informed by the fieldwork he did when he returned to Oakland as a PhD student, to sha ...more
Jul 02, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2016-17
I first read about Sudhir Venkatesh and his ethnographic endeavors into inner-city Chicago and it's low-income housing developments in Stephen J. Dubner’s work “Freakonomics”. Dubner covered a brief part of Venkatesh’s work and explained the hierarchies of gang life and the economic model of drug dealing.

At the time I was a senior in college and reading a book called “Punished: Policing The Lives of Black and Latino Boys” by Victor Rios, a professor of Sociology at UC Santa Barbara. In this wor
Aaron Schoen
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Criminalization of deviant behavior and style among marginalized youth across many social institutions and relations has helped create the youth control complex of today. Mass Incarceration has been a catalyst and supporter of this dehumanizing process. The young men in this ethnography and within our society are willing to fight for both their dignity and their freedom, however, the powers that be must provide the positive resources, chances, and opportunities to do so. The solution, unfortunat ...more
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book for advanced undergrad or graduate level students. Rio does a great job of focusing on social processes and not relying on sensationalist stories. The problems here are complex and you could use any chapter as a meaningful learning opportunity on its own, but taken together this is a great example of grounded theory in action. Rios incorporates seminal scholars (past and present) but also offers fresh insight into the over policing - and under valuing - or urban adolescent boys. Worth ...more
Sarah Dineen
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this book after joining a BLM Book Club through my employer. This book was very eye-opening for me working with black and brown children from a variety of different backgrounds. It was especially insightful to read a book from the perspective of someone who was raised in Oakland, CA and was directly impacted by the way of life there and the over policing and hyper-criminalization of Black and Latino boys within that area. Highly recommend for any educator to read as we learn ot ...more
Osmara Rico
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: info-bios
This books was wrote by Victor R. He was a gang member, but after a few years he could leave it. He finished high school, and went to college. Besides that now he has a PhD. He wanted to do a study on the relationship of blacks and Latinos boys with the police, so he returned to his old neighborhood, to talk with several gang members, and thus be able to understand why most gang members do not study, and do not work. This is a great reading for high school students.

Audio book.
Sage Kampitsis
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Victor Rios is one of those scholars I want to be like when I grow up. His analysis in Punished is well put together, and the section on labeling stuck with me so much that I cited it numerous times in my undergraduate thesis. I've also listened to interviews with him about the book and was blown away by those as well. This book is a must-read for anyone teaching or considering teaching urban education.
Denise Lauron
I had to read this for class. It had a lot of good information, but the audiobook version was awful! No one coached the narrator on how to pronounce certain things like the names of cities or the local public transportation system. Bart and San Ramon and San Leandro are not difficult! It bothered me the whole time I was listening.

I would recommend it to explain some of the things that are going on in the world right now, but definitely not the audiobook version.
Sten Leinasaar
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
It offered an insightful perspective into the lives of Black and Latino Boys. It also offered reasons why these boys end up in such situations and how institutions around us are not to help the boys, rather criminalize them.

I would recommend watching a documentary, Feminist in the Cellblock Y, to further enhance your understanding and experience in this topic.
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
An academic analysis can be engaging as is Dr. Rios' study of the criminalization of black and brown young men in 2010s Oakland. This book can provide insights for educators, social workers, and parents into the importance of seeking nurturing alternatives to our punitive systems of control. Deep, rigorous but much needed reading
Kelli Rushek
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book offered an excellent intersection between Foucault and my teaching experience as a resource for the paper I'm writing. For those who do not understand the shit that goes down, read it. For those that do, it's nothing we don't know, but it's an excellently worded reference.
Collin Whalen
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Had to read for my sociology class, for a book I'm supposed to read it was good and provides a glimpse in the life of youth struggling in essentially a ghetto. Made me think about how I am lucky to grow up in a middle class area.
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Very insightful book, as it gives a glimpse of the structural forces that shape the lives of these young men.
Evelyn Beavers
May 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
Yet another read for RC&J that was ok ...more
Kevin Fulton
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This ethnography gives an intimate view of the process of overcriminalization and how it impacts kids. It is well worth reading.
Feb 07, 2019 added it
Shelves: bowdoin-reads
Reader in group - The book I read was Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys. The book describes Black and Latino boys' experience with the criminal justice system and how it can limit the future of these boys. All the boys in the book are from Oakland and it is shocking how they are treated by their families, schools, and law enforcement. I highly recommend the book because it discusses the issues of race, masculinity, justice and resistance.
Derrick Nguyen
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Powerful ethnography providing valuable and important stories from a marginalized community. I read this book for my Sociology class at Pomona College and it definitely made an impact on me—the only other book besides Hunger Games (note: I read HG in 8th grade) that made me sob.
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was very informative.. it truly opened my eyes. I would recommend that teachers, police officers, and anyone who works with marginalized youth read this book.
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a really powerful read. My Youth and Society professor assigned this new for this year, and I think it has added a lot to my experience with the course and outlook on the sociology and issues surrounding hypercriminalization of disadvantaged teens. This has really influenced my interests and made me feel even more strongly that I am doing the right thing in going into Social Policy. When I go to San Francisco this spring break I hope to connect with some organizations that are perhaps w ...more
Feb 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology
This is a solid work of urban sociology, looking at Latino and African American youths in Oakland and their interactions with the criminal justice system. Or perhaps more accurately, it's about how the lives of his subjects are criminalized by how the criminal justice system operates. It's a good book and provides valuable insight into the negative role that policing and criminal justice plays in the lives of America's urban poor and racial minorities. However, I do think that it is limited in t ...more
Gaetano Venezia
Apr 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: wgs
This book exhibits why the imperative statements "work harder and you'll succeed," and "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" are utter bullshit. Victor Rios examines 40 young men in the ghetto of Oakland in this book, set-up as part case study, part analysis. These young men of Oakland are in a catch-22, damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation. They live in a system where schools, media, families, gangs, peers, and society at-large are against them, what Rios calls the "youth control com ...more
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“In attempting to maintain the existing order, the powerful commit crimes of control. … At the same time, oppressed people engage in … crimes of resistance. —Meda Chesney-Lind and Randall G. Shelden, Girls, Delinquency, and Juvenile Justice, 1992” 0 likes
“There is a way to transform punishment, to generate creative means of social control, which provides viable rehabilitation for delinquent youths and which does not spill over and affect young people who have yet to commit crime. It will take imagination and the courage to adopt successful models that attempt to transform the punitive way in which young people are treated in marginalized communities. There are a few individuals, such as my teacher, Ms. Russ, and Officer Wilson, who have broken away from punitive social control and aim to change the way young people are treated, and they can serve as examples. Maybe then a new generation of former gang members and delinquents will read names from an old refrigerator and celebrate multiple high school graduations and college” 0 likes
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