After a recent wave of violence ordered by prison gangs in Brazil, Benjamin Lessing details the difficulties lawmakers must face in trying to control them:
Because [prison gangs] keep order among prisoners, they often win a degree of informal control over inmate life. This gives them leverage over anyone on the outside with a reasonable chance of incarceration. … Paradoxically, policymakers’ go-to responses—anti-gang sweeps, longer sentences, and harsher prison conditions—can make prison gangs stronger. The key is that unlike street gangs, prison gangs can best reward (or punish) their street affiliates after they are imprisoned.