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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

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  495 ratings  ·  37 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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4.24  · 
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 ·  495 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was an amazing read. So many people have this ideology that whatever misfortunes we experience in life are our own faults, without taking into account the external factors that guide and shape our decisions, our future.

Mainstream society likes to make out that it knows everything and so I grew up with this preconceived notion about gangs and those who imitate or are exposed to gang life. I also had terrible thoughts about people of color (though I myself am a person of color). Rio
Akash Pandey
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you are looking to understand the heavily policed world that youth of color live in today and the agency they show in creatively responding to the social control that surrounds them: READ THIS BOOK. Rios balances telling stories about the lived realities of Black and Latino boys in Oakland with structural analysis and meticulous sociological research. His work is no doubt an advance in the field of urban ethnography and should be read by teachers, policymakers, probation officers, and other a ...more
Kindle Classroom Project
Many of my students have read *Street Life,* but few have read this research study. I recommend it. Dr. Rios argues that "delinquent" youth are caught in a system of criminalization whereby they sacrifice dignity over freedom. Instead of no-excuses discipline policies, schools should invest more in giving students second chances. Also, the punishment arm of society, Dr. Rios contends, should steer clear of the supportive arm, so that the police do not get confused with guidance counselors. Altho ...more
Elizabeth  Higginbotham
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book by an insider who was caught in the school to prison pipeline, but with support gets out and to college. He return to his Oakland community to study 40 young men. This book has to be part of the conversation about the criminal justice system, since it is honest about how schools and community centers are part of the problem. The punitive social control, even encouraged in families, makes criminalization a phenomenon that shapes the lives of young men, including non-delinquents in ...more
Oct 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great sociology book looking at the criminalization of Black and Latino young men. Interesting exploration of the challenges young men have to navigate, including:
- the "youth control complex" - how youth-serving programs, agencies, schools, etc., even well-intentioned ones, become part of a complex that controls and criminalizes young men
- discourses of working-class masculinity which often push young men toward the "hypermasculinity" of street violence
- (for some) learning how to be an agent o
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology
I can't remember when my students have been so interested in a book. Rios is an amazing author and his ability and willingness to truly turn a sociological lens on his own life and success is the strongest sign of his caliber as a researcher and thinker. It was fascinating to teach this book in a class of students for whom Rios' informants are not "exotic others" but rather so much like themselves and like others in their communities in terms of their experience of the hypercriminalization Rios ...more
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I think this is a great book i really don't like reading but when my 9th grade teacher suggested for me to read street life another book by him as well it just graved my attention it drag me to read this book and i feel like he give the back ground info on what is Oakland as a city non as a kill city. he also attracts other people from oakland to read this book and teaching others about this as well
Trevor Gardner
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Rios' study offers powerful and important information into the realities lived and endured by many young men of color living in Oakland and similar urban areas today. This book is a significant extension to the recent work The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. It should be read by anyone working with urban youth in the fields of education or criminal justice. Punished transforms ones understanding of the justice system and how it impacts and even shapes the lives of young men of color.
Kenneth Hinton
Nov 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This sociological study novel is a precursor to Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblind Racism. Victor Rios focuses on the school to prison pipeline when African American and Latino boys are growing up in a lower socio-economic area (Oakland), whereas Michelle Alexander focuses on the adult incarceration across the U.S. in regards to African American males and how once they have been incarcerated they can no longer exercise the right to vote.
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Students, Criminologists
This was a book I read for class. It centers on the criminalization of a group of youth in Oakland California. It was for a class I am taking in Criminology and even though the class is over I finished the book. For anyone that is interested in how youth become criminalized this book is a must read. It is a bit dense if you are not familiar with criminological theory but should work for a non-academic reader. If this subject interests you I highly recommend this book.
Laura Shavers
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book has to be one of the best on this subject that I've ever read. So many things that I never thought of were brought up in this book as to the causation of young men and crime. I had a lot of "A-HA" moments while reading this book. A must read for parents, teachers, anyone in the criminal justice system, or anyone who cares about the state of our incarceration rates.
Nov 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Rios empirically shows how governing through crime creates blocked opportunity and negative credentials for youth in Oakland. Crimnalization leaves them with very few choices, crime and violence being some of the few resources for feeling dignity and empowerment. According to the author, these youth are agents not victims.
Sheri Fresonke Harper
Victor Rios shares the result of his study of the a group of young men growing up in a bad neighborhood and how they get involved in the drug scene. He describes how their community including teachers, police, businesses make assumptions act on them, affecting their lives. He uses a small sample but provides good descriptions of individuals as well as what he witnessed.
C Lynn
Aug 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great read. Important message. I'm making my deviance & conformity class read it.
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-school
Amazing and upsetting.
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What did you all think? 1 4 May 17, 2016 06:21PM  

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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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