CJ Professor Receives Frederic Milton Thrasher Award
Sept. 8, 2020
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd
Mitchel Roth, criminal justice professor at Sam Houston State University, was recently awarded the Frederic Milton Thrasher Award for Superior Accomplishments in Gang Research for his recent book, “Power on the Inside: A Global History of Prison Gangs” and his article “Chasing Ghosts: Searching for America’s First Prison Gang.”
Candidates for the award are judged based upon superior scholarship, leadership, accomplishments and service contributions. Roth’s works both exemplify his superior accomplishments in gang research, as he broke new ground in his field.
In his book, Roth examines the historical development of prison gangs worldwide, ranging from the mid-nineteenth century to modern day. To do this, the book looks at the variables that influence the development of prison subcultures such as demographics, prison design and staff-prisoner relations. What makes the work unique is that it is the first to examine the historical development of prison gangs worldwide, leading to new areas of study for future researchers.
Roth was inspired to write about prison gangs by the lack of historical research methods used in previous prison gang research.
“Since I like to conduct comparative research on a global scale, I thought I would see whether there was any historical book on prison gangs from a global perspective and found there were none,” Roth said. “I saw this as a great opportunity. So, I thought I would write a book that filled a glaring gap in the existing literature.”
He did this by scouring microfilms and compiling information that led to the discovery that America has had prison gangs earlier than 1950. Roth’s findings and more details about this research can be found in his article, “Chasing Ghosts: Searching for America’s First Prison Gang,” in the next edition of the Journal of Gang Research.
Roth hopes that his work will influence people to think deeper about prison gangs and the role that these substructures play for inmates.
“First of all, the book demonstrates that any country that has an overcrowded prison system, shortage of correctional officers, and offers inadequate food, medical attention, hygiene, etc. presents openings for black markets and prison gangs that run them,” Roth said. “What’s more, in many prison systems, the existence of prison gangs and their informal governance reduces violence between convicts.”
He also believes that it will encourage other researchers to look beyond the Americas when it comes to the study of prison gangs, as they exist in other nations as well.
Roth explained that being a part of the highly ranked College of Criminal Justice at SHSU has been a big boost for his academic career and research.
“Being associated with the program has opened doors for me, not just in Texas, but around the world. As a result, I have been asked to write the history of the Houston Police Department (Houston Blue: A History of the Houston Police Department, with Tom Kennedy) and the history of the Texas Department of Public Safety for their various special yearbooks. It has also given me cachet to study in local prison archives, such as for my book, Convict Cowboys: The Untold History of the Texas Prison Rodeo, Roth said.
“Power on the Inside: A Global History of Prison Gangs” will be available through University of Chicago Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other sellers in November 2020. His other works are available for purchase through the same platforms.
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