Trinity College Hosts Lecture on Prison Gangs and the American Penal System

Professor David Skarbek of King's College Discusses 'The Social Order of the Underworld'

Hartford, Connecticut, October 28, 2015 –

What: David Skarbek, author of The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System (Oxford U. Press) and senior lecturer in political economy at King’s College, London, will speak about prison gangs’ governing structures and draw valuable insights from this rather unusual topic to the way our societies are governed. 

This event is part of the Shelby Cullom Davis Endowment lecture series and is presented in collaboration with the Cesare Barbieri Endowment for Italian Culture. The talk is free and open to the public.

When: Thursday, October 29, 2015 – 4:15 p.m.

Where: McCook Auditorium, Trinity College, 300 Summit St., Hartford, CT 06106. (For directions and a map of the Trinity College campus, click here.)

Background: David Skarbek is a world-class scholar in research about gangs and informal social control. His research uses comparative institutional analysis to examine how extralegal governance institutions form, operate, and evolve, and in particular, how people define and enforce property rights and trade in the absence of strong, effective governments. For his book Skarbek visited several prisons, where he conducted research directly with prisoners. In this discussion he will explain some of the implications of studying penal institutions as governing organizations. For more information, please visit

The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System is a fascinating look into the seemingly irrational, truly astonishing, and often tragic world of life among the society of captives. As David Skarbek argues, gangs form to create order among outlaws, producing alternative governance institutions to facilitate illegal activity. He uses economics to explore the secret world of the convict culture, inmate hierarchy, and prison gang politics, and to explain why prison gangs form, how formal institutions affect them, and why they have a powerful influence even over crime beyond prison walls. The book was the winner of the International Association for the Study of Organized Crime’s 2014 Outstanding Publication Award, and was shortlisted for the 2014 Thinking Allowed Ethnography Award by the British Sociological Association and the BBC. For more information, please visit