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Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys

Victor Rios

Publication Year: 2011

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 policing. Punished examines the difficult lives of these young men, who now face punitive policies in their schools, communities, and a world where they are constantly policed and stigmatized.

Rios followed a group of forty delinquent Black and Latino boys for three years. These boys found themselves in a vicious cycle, caught in a spiral of punishment and incarceration as they were harassed, profiled, watched, and disciplined at young ages, even before they had committed any crimes, eventually leading many of them to fulfill the destiny expected of them. But beyond a fatalistic account of these marginalized young men, Rios finds that the very system that criminalizes them and limits their opportunities, sparks resistance and a raised consciousness that motivates some to transform their lives and become productive citizens. Ultimately, he argues that by understanding the lives of the young men who are criminalized and pipelined through the criminal justice system, we can begin to develop empathic solutions which support these young men in their development and to eliminate the culture of punishment that has become an overbearing part of their everyday lives.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xvi

"An old, rusty refrigerator had been knocked over on the side of Pelon’s garage. It was white and dented on the edges and looked like it had not been used in a decade. Its metal cooling rods faced the open sky. A twenty-four case of Corona beer filled with empty bottles sat on top..."

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pp. xvii-xviii

"It takes a village to write a book. I am grateful to everyone that took part in the collective sowing to see this project flourish. The following colleagues and mentors read or discussed parts of my manuscript and provided me with crucial feedback: Elijah Anderson, Randol..."

Part I

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pp. 3-23

"Fifteen-year-old Slick, a Latino kid born and raised in Oakland, showed me the 'hotspots': street intersections and sidewalks where life-altering experiences linger, shaping young people’s perspectives of the area. As he walked me through the neighborhood, he pointed to the corner of International Boulevard and 22nd Avenue, where a few months before..."

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pp. 24-42

"On any given sunny afternoon, one can find a concentration of hundreds of young people hanging out along an eighty-four-block span of International Boulevard, the main thoroughfare in Oakland, that streams through the four-mile heart of the poor and working-class districts of the..."

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pp. 43-73

"Tyrell, a Black youth, and Jose, a Latino youth, both sixteen years old, sat on a splintered wood bench at the bus stop on the corner of 35th and International, in front of Hernandez Meat Market. Right above them, a pig and the head of a cow, painted on the meat-market wall, stared..."

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pp. 74-94

"I drove to Spider’s house late one afternoon after a long day of discussing inequality with urban sociologists at the University of California, Berkeley. Some claimed to have found answers to the problematic questions they asked: 'Why do African Americans commit disproportionate..."

Part II

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pp. 97-123

"Ronny was called in for a job interview at Carrows, a chain restaurant that served $9.99 sirloin steak and shrimp. He called me up, asking for help.1 I lent him a crisp white dress shirt, which I had purchased at a discount store when I worked as a server at a steak house during my undergraduate years."

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pp. 124-141

"One late afternoon, Spider, Big Rob, and Bullet passed the time behind a warehouse that bordered the neighborhood park. Bullet made fun of Spider’s haircut. Spider had shaved off all his hair except for the back end of his head, where he left a long ponytail. The boys referred to this..."

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pp. 142-156

"J.T., an African American sixteen-year-old, was a good student: 'I get like A’s and B’s and sometimes C’s, but I try to stay on top,' he explained. I saw two of his report cards to verify this. His mother worked for the City of Oakland as a clerk. He described what she does:..."

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pp. 157-168

"On a hot summer day in the Bay Area in 2006, I found myself at San Quentin State Penitentiary, infamous for hosting California’s only execution chamber. I stood between two rusty iron gates, anxious and claustrophobic, as the bars appeared to inch closer toward me."

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pp. 169-174

"Although I would like to pretend that this study was objective, from an outsider’s perspective that could bring to light the issues that young people face in a fair and balanced way, I acknowledge that this study is affected by my own experience. Nevertheless, as a social scientist, I..."


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pp. 175-192


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pp. 193-204


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pp. 205-217

About the Author

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pp. 218

E-ISBN-13: 9780814769324
E-ISBN-10: 0814769322
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814776377
Print-ISBN-10: 081477637X

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Punishment -- California -- Oakland.
  • African American boys -- California -- Oakland -- Social conditions.
  • Hispanic American boys -- California -- Oakland -- Social conditions.
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