Code of the Suburb: Inside the World of Young Middle-Class Drug Dealers

University of Chicago Press
Free sample

When we think about young people dealing drugs, we tend to picture it happening on urban streets, in disadvantaged, crime-ridden neighborhoods. But drugs are used everywhere—even in upscale suburbs and top-tier high schools—and teenage users in the suburbs tend to buy drugs from their peers, dealers who have their own culture and code, distinct from their urban counterparts.

In Code of the Suburb, Scott Jacques and Richard Wright offer a fascinating ethnography of the culture of suburban drug dealers. Drawing on fieldwork among teens in a wealthy suburb of Atlanta, they carefully parse the complicated code that governs relationships among buyers, sellers, police, and other suburbanites. That code differs from the one followed by urban drug dealers in one crucial respect: whereas urban drug dealers see violent vengeance as crucial to status and security, the opposite is true for their suburban counterparts. As Jacques and Wright show, suburban drug dealers accord status to deliberate avoidance of conflict, which helps keep their drug markets more peaceful—and, consequently, less likely to be noticed by law enforcement.

Offering new insight into both the little-studied area of suburban drug dealing, and, by extension, the more familiar urban variety, Code of the Suburb will be of interest to scholars and policy makers alike.
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About the author

Scott Jacques is assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. Richard Wright is professor of criminal justice and criminology in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
May 8, 2015
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Pages
208
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ISBN
9780226164250
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Criminology
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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Coffeeshops are the most famous example of Dutch tolerance. But in fact, these cannabis distributors are highly regulated. Coffeeshops are permitted to break the law, but not the rules. On the premises, there cannot be minors, hard drugs or more than 500 grams. Nor can a coffeeshop advertise, cause nuisance or sell over five grams to a person in a day. These rules are enforced by surprise police checks, with violation punishable by closure.


In Grey Area, Scott Jacques examines the regulations with a huge stash of data, which he collected during two years of fieldwork in Amsterdam. How do coffeeshop owners and staff obey the rules? How are the rules broken? Why so? To what effect? The stories and statistics show that order in the midst of smoke is key to Dutch drug policy, vaporising the idea that prohibition is better than regulation. Grey Area is a timely contribution in light of the blazing reform to cannabis policy worldwide.


Praise for Grey Area


‘This book is original and highly topical. Logical and well structured, the discussion is firmly located in a large body of contemporary theory. The writing style is conversational, open and accessible. The quality, amount and depth of the empirical work that Jacques has undertaken made me feel that I was there, visiting the coffeeshops with him. Rarely have I seen something as careful and detailed as this work.’ 

Ronald V. Clarke, Rutgers University, USA


'This book examines the intricacies of operating between law and rules in Amsterdam coffeeshops. Based on an extensive fieldwork, it is arguably the most comprehensive criminological analysis of the issue to date. This is an important work, from an excellent writer, that I warmly recommend to both students and researchers.’ 

Kim Møller, Malmö University, Sweden

Criminological theory texts typically follow a conventional format. Diverse writings are neatly packaged into schools of thought, which are given clear labels and conveyed a chapter at a time, with topics like control theory in one chapter and strain theory in another. The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory takes a different approach across the criminological landscape. The volume is organized not around schools of thought but around themes that shape much thinking about and research on crime. This more unconventional approach seeks to show that criminological theory is not static but dynamic. In fact, most prominent scholars do not spend their time commenting upon and retesting theoretical propositions that have existed for many years. Rather, they move into more novel areas--areas often located in the interstitial junctures between more traditional theories. This Oxford Handbook presents a series of essays that captures not the past of criminology, but where theoretical explanation is headed. As a result, the volume is replete with new ideas, discussions of substantive topics with salient theoretical implications, and reviews and interpretations of literatures that illuminate promising avenues along which theory and research should evolve. Special attention is paid to how criminal participation is shaped intimately by individual traits, diverse social contexts, the situations in which the choice of crime is made, and exposure to coercive experiences. Each chapter can be read on its own--as furnishing an important analysis of a given theoretical issue--yet read as a whole, The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory offers a unique and deep understanding of criminology at its cutting edge.
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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