Human Targets: Schools, Police, and the Criminalization of Latino Youth

University of Chicago Press
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At fifteen, Victor Rios found himself a human target—flat on his ass amid a hail of shotgun fire, desperate for money and a place on the street. Faced with the choice of escalating a drug turf war or eking out a living elsewhere, he turned to a teacher, who mentored him and helped him find a job at an auto shop. That job would alter the course of his whole life—putting him on the road to college and eventually a PhD. Now, Rios is a rising star, hailed for his work studying the lives of African American and Latino youth.

In Human Targets, Rios takes us to the streets of California, where we encounter young men who find themselves in much the same situation as fifteen-year-old Victor. We follow young gang members into schools, homes, community organizations, and detention facilities, watch them interact with police, grow up to become fathers, get jobs, get rap sheets—and in some cases get killed. What is it that sets apart young people like Rios who succeed and survive from the ones who don’t? Rios makes a powerful case that the traditional good kid/bad kid, street kid/decent kid dichotomy is much too simplistic, arguing instead that authorities and institutions help create these identities—and that they can play an instrumental role in providing young people with the resources for shifting between roles. In Rios’s account, to be a poor Latino youth is to be a human target—victimized and considered an enemy by others, viewed as a threat to law enforcement and schools, and burdened by stigma, disrepute, and punishment. That has to change.

This is not another sensationalistic account of gang bangers. Instead, the book is a powerful look at how authority figures succeed—and fail—at seeing the multi-faceted identities of at-risk youths, youths who succeed—and fail—at demonstrating to the system that they are ready to change their lives. In our post-Ferguson era, Human Targets is essential reading.
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About the author

Victor M. Rios is professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys and Street Life: Poverty, Gangs, and a Ph.D.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Mar 10, 2017
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9780226091044
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Secondary
Social Science / Criminology
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / Hispanic American Studies
Social Science / General
Social Science / Sociology / Urban
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Victor M. Rios
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.

David Garland
The past 30 years have seen vast changes in our attitudes toward crime. More and more of us live in gated communities; prison populations have skyrocketed; and issues such as racial profiling, community policing, and "zero-tolerance" policies dominate the headlines. How is it that our response to crime and our sense of criminal justice has come to be so dramatically reconfigured? David Garland charts the changes in crime and criminal justice in America and Britain over the past twenty-five years, showing how they have been shaped by two underlying social forces: the distinctive social organization of late modernity and the neoconservative politics that came to dominate the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1980s.

Garland explains how the new policies of crime and punishment, welfare and security—and the changing class, race, and gender relations that underpin them—are linked to the fundamental problems of governing contemporary societies, as states, corporations, and private citizens grapple with a volatile economy and a culture that combines expanded personal freedom with relaxed social controls. It is the risky, unfixed character of modern life that underlies our accelerating concern with control and crime control in particular. It is not just crime that has changed; society has changed as well, and this transformation has reshaped criminological thought, public policy, and the cultural meaning of crime and criminals. David Garland's The Culture of Control offers a brilliant guide to this process and its still-reverberating consequences.
Victor M. Rios
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.

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