Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-59df476f6b-vzrsj Total loading time: 0.714 Render date: 2021-05-19T03:45:17.478Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true }

Legitimacy in Criminal Governance: Managing a Drug Empire from Behind Bars

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 February 2019

BENJAMIN LESSING
Affiliation:
University of Chicago
GRAHAM DENYER WILLIS
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Corresponding

Abstract

States, rebels, and mafias all provide governance beyond their core membership; increasingly, so do prison gangs. US gangs leverage control over prison life to govern street-level drug markets. Brazil’s Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) gang goes further, orchestrating paralyzing attacks on urban targets, while imposing a social order throughout slums that sharply reduces homicides. We analyze hundreds of seized PCC documents detailing its drug business and internal disciplinary system. Descriptively, we find vast, consignment-based trafficking operations whose profits fund collective benefits for members’ families; elaborate bureaucratic procedures and recordkeeping; and overwhelmingly nonviolent punishments for debt-nonpayment and misconduct. These features, we argue, reflect a deliberate strategy of creating rational-bureaucratic legitimacy in criminal governance. The PCC’s collectivist norms, fair procedures, and meticulous “criminal criminal records” facilitate community stigmatization of infractors, giving mild sanctions punitive heft and inducing widespread voluntary compliance without excessive coercion. This has aided the PCC’s rapid expansion across Brazil.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2019 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

Footnotes

For their thoughtful comments, we thank Peter Andreas, Desmond Arias, Marcelo Bergman, Thomas Grisaffi, Stathis Kalyvas, Mark Kleiman, Beatriz Magaloni, Roger Myerson, Robert Pape, Robert Powell, Jacob Shapiro, David Skarbek, Paul Staniland, and Lisa Wedeen, and three anonymous APSR reviewers. We also thank the participants of the National Bureau of Economic Research Summer Institute, workshops at University of Cambridge, University College London, and the America Latina Crime and Policy Network (AL CAPONE). Douglas Block and Wenyan Deng provided invaluable research assistance. All errors are our own.

We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Social Science Research Council/Open Society Foundations, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge, the Center for International Social Science Research and the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflict at the University of Chicago, and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Benjamin Lessing received additional support from award W911-NF-1710044 from the US Department of Defense and US Army Research Office/Army Research Laboratory under the Minerva Research Initiative. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to any of these agencies or foundations. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/QVY8JO.

References

Alves, Jaime Amparo. 2015. “‘Blood in Reasoning’: State Violence, Contested Territories and Black Criminal Agency in Urban Brazil.” Journal of Latin American Studies 48 (1): 6187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Arias, Enrique Desmond. 2006. “The Dynamics of Criminal Governance: Networks and Social Order in Rio de Janeiro.” Journal of Latin American Studies 38 (02): 293325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Arjona, Ana, Kasfir, Nelson, and Mampilly, Zachariah, eds. 2015. Rebel Governance in Civil War. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barbieri, Cristiane. 2014. “Os Negócios Do PCC.” Época Negócios (December).Google Scholar
Biderman, Ciro, M.P. De Mello, João, S. De Lima, Renato, and Schneider, Alexandre. 2018. “Pax Monopolista and Crime: The Case of the Emergence of the Primeiro Comando Da Capital in São Paulo.” Journal of Quantitative Criminology. Online First: November 2018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Biondi, Karina. 2016. Sharing This Walk: An Ethnography of Prison Life and the PCC in Brazil. Durham: University of North Carolina Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Biondi, Karina. 2018. Proibido Roubar Na Quebrada: Território, Hierarquia e Lei No PCC. São Paulo: Terceiro Nome.Google Scholar
Blok, Anton. 1974. The Mafia of a Sicilian Village, 1860–1960: A Study of Violent Peasant Entrepreneurs. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Campana, Paolo. 2016. “Explaining Criminal Networks: Strategies and Potential Pitfalls.” Methodological Innovations 9: 110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Campana, Paolo, and Varese, Federico. 2018. “Organized Crime in the United Kingdom: Governance of Markets and Communities.” British Journal of Criminology 58 (6): 1381–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Denyer Willis, Graham. 2014. The Gun Library. Boston Review (April 8).Google Scholar
Denyer Willis, Graham. 2015. The Killing Consensus. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dias, Camila Nunes, and Salla, Fernando. 2013. “Organized Crime in Brazilian Prisons: The Example of the PCC.” International Journal of Criminology and Sociology 2: 397408.Google Scholar
DJSP. 2015. “Public Presentment of Indictment.” Diário Oficial de Justícia de São Paulo 1815: 394405.Google Scholar
Evans, Peter B. 1995. Embedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Feltran, Gabriel de Santis. 2010. “Crime e Castigo Na Cidade: Os Repertórios Da Justiça e a Questão Do Homicídio Nas Periferias de São Paulo.” Caderno CRH 23 (58): 5973.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Feltran, Gabriel de Santis. 2018. Irmãos: Uma História Do PCC. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras.Google Scholar
Gambetta, Diego. 2009. Codes of the Underworld. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geddes, Barbara. 1990. “Building ‘State’ Autonomy in Brazil, 1930–1964.” Comparative Politics 22 (2): 217–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Godoy, Marcelo, and Paes Manso, Bruno. 2014. “20 Anos de PCC—o Efeito Colateral Da Política de Seguranc; a Pública.” Interesse Nacional 6 (24), 26–35.Google Scholar
Grillo, Carolina C. (2013). “Coisas Da Vida No Crime: Tráfico e Roubo Em Favelas Cariocas.” Ph.D. Dissertation: Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro.Google Scholar
Gutiérrez Sanín, Francisco. 2008. “Telling the Difference: Guerrillas and Paramilitaries in the Colombian War.” Politics \& Society 36 (1): 334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hagedorn, John M. 1994. “Neighborhoods, Markets, and Gang Drug Organization.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 31 (3): 264–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hirata, Daniel V. 2010. “Sobreviver Na Adversidade: Entre o Mercado e a Vida.” Ph.D. Dissertation: Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo.Google Scholar
Johnson, Bruce D., Hamid, Ansley, and Sanabria, Harry 1991. “Emerging Models of Crack Distribution.” In Drugs, Crime, and Social Policy: Research, Issues, and Concerns, ed. Thomas Mieczkowski. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 5878.Google Scholar
Kalyvas, Stathis N. 2006. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
King, Roy D., and Valensia, Bruna. 2014. “Power, Control, and Symbiosis in Brazilian Prisons.” South Atlantic Quarterly 113 (3): 503–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leeds, Elizabeth. 1996. “Cocaine and Parallel Polities in the Brazilian Urban Periphery: Constraints on Local-Level Democratization.” Latin American Research Review 31 (3): 4783.Google Scholar
Leeson, Peter, and Skarbek, David. 2010. “Criminal Constitutions.” Global Crime 11 (3): 279–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lessing, Benjamin. 2008. “As Facções Cariocas Em Perspective Comparativa.” Novos Estudos CEBRAP 27 (1): 4362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lessing, Benjamin. 2017. “Counterproductive Punishment: How Prison Gangs Undermine State Authority.” Rationality and Society 29 (3): 257–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lessing, Benjamin. 2018. “Conceptualizing Criminal Governance.” Paper presented at Criminal Governance in the Americas Conference, University of Chicago, October 26, 2018.Google Scholar
Levitt, Steven D., and Venkatesh, Sudhir A.. 2000. “An Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang’s Finances.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 115 (3): 755–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ley, Sandra, Mattiace, Shannan, and Trejo, Guillermo. 2018. “Indigenous Resistance to Criminal Governance.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, September 1.Google Scholar
Lima, William da Silva. 1991. Quatrocentos Contra Um: Uma História Do Comando Vermelho. Rio de Janeiro: ISER.Google Scholar
Marques, Adalton. 2010. “‘Liderança’, ‘Proceder’ e ‘Igualdade’: Uma Etnografia Das Relações Políticas No Primeiro Comando Da Capital ‘Leadership.” Etnográfica 14 (2): 311–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mendez, Juan E., O’Donnell, Guillermo, and Pinheiro, Paulo Sérgio, eds. 1999. The (Un)Rule of Law and the Underprivileged in Latin America . South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
Milgrom, Paul R., North, Douglass C., and Weingast, Barry R.. 1990. “The Role of Institutions in the Revival of Trade: The Law Merchant, Private Judges, and the Champagne Fairs.” Economics and Politics 2 (1): 123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Misse, Michel. 2011. Crime e Violência No Brasil ContemporâNeo. Rio de Janeiro: Lumen Juris.Google Scholar
Olson, Mancur. 1993. “Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development.” American Political Science Review 87 (3): 567–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Paes Manso, Bruno, and Dias, Camila Nunes. 2018. A Guerra. São Paulo: Todavia.Google Scholar
Robertson, Graeme B. 2007. “Strikes and Labor Organization in Hybrid Regimes.” American Political Science Review 101 (4): 781–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scott, James C. 2009. The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google ScholarPubMed
Shapiro, Jacob N., and Siegel, David A.. 2012. “Moral Hazard, Discipline, and the Management of Terrorist Organizations.” World Politics 64 (1): 3978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Skaperdas, Stergios, and Syropoulos, Constantinos. 1997. “Gangs as Primitive States.” In The Economics of Organised Crime, eds. Fiorentini, Gianluca and Peltzman, Sam. New York: Cambridge University Press, 6178.Google Scholar
Skarbek, David. 2011. “Governance and Prison Gangs.” American Political Science Review 105 (4): 702–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tilly, Charles. 1985. “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime.” In Bringing the State Back In, eds. Evans, Peter B., Rueschemeyer, Dietrich, and Skocpol, Theda. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 169–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tyler, Tom R. 2003. “Procedural Justice, Legitimacy, and the Effective Rule of Law.” Crime and Justice 30: 283358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weber, Max. 1946. “Politics as a Vocation.” In Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 77128.Google Scholar
Weber, Max. 1968. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretative Sociology. eds. Hans Heinrich Gerth and C. Wright Mills. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Wedeen, Lisa. 2015. Ambiguities of Domination, 2nd edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weinstein, Jeremy M. 2006. Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: Link

Lessing and Willis Dataset

Link
Supplementary material: File

Lessing and Willis supplementary material

Lessing and Willis supplementary material 1

Download Lessing and Willis supplementary material(File)
File 17 KB

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Legitimacy in Criminal Governance: Managing a Drug Empire from Behind Bars
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Legitimacy in Criminal Governance: Managing a Drug Empire from Behind Bars
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Legitimacy in Criminal Governance: Managing a Drug Empire from Behind Bars
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *