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ICFRC: Good Governance? Prison Gangs and Informal Order in the Former Soviet Union

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Gavin Slade is a lecturer at the University of Glasgow, who works on questions of criminal justice reform in the former Soviet Union. He has worked at Ilia State University, Tbilisi and the University of Toronto. Directly prior to coming to Glasgow, Slade was a Research Fellow at the Freie Universitat, Berlin. Slade's work as a criminologist is underpinned by an interest in the social organization of violence in the former Soviet Republics and has focused particularly on organized crime, policing, prison reform and the politics of crime. His first book was published with Oxford University Press in 2013 entitled 'Reorganizing Crime: Mafia and Anti-Mafia in Post-Soviet Georgia.'

The concept of 'governance' has become salient in the study of organized crime. Recent US literature on prison gangs suggests that gangs emerge to meet demands for governance of social and economic interactions where the state cannot or will not do this. As such, prison gangs, far from being a symptom of dysfunction in fact are highly complex organizations that produce public goods, including the control of violence.

Gavin's research analyses data from a research project that analyses penal reform efforts that target prison gang structures in former Soviet prisons, specifically in Georgia, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova. His research utilizes a survey and interview data of prisoners in Moldova to analyze the problem of prison subculture and its links to prison violence. Gavin's research finds that, contrary to some claims in the US literature, where prison gangs are present in Moldova, this correlates with a poorer prison environment and greater insecurity among prisoners and staff.

For more information on the Foreign Relations Council visit their website at www.icfrc.org.

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