skip navigation


Abstract Database

Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

To download this abstract, check the box next to the NCJ number then click the "Back To Search Results" link. Then, click the "Download" button on the Search Results page. Also see the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 203462 Find in a Library
Title: Keeping Quiet or Going Nuts: Some Emerging Strategies Used by Young Black People in Custody at a Time of Childhood Being Re-constructed
Journal: The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice  Volume:42  Issue:5  Dated:December 2003  Pages:411-425
Author(s): David Wilson
Date Published: December 2003
Page Count: 15
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: This article presents an ethnographic study, from a social constructionist perspective, of how young Black men in prison deal with life in confinement.
Abstract: Recent academic discussions of the construction of childhood argue that children are not simply passive subjects of social forces, but can actively engage in the social construction of their lives. Through an ethnographic study of 15 young Black men in a young offender institution, this article explores how these young people actively construct their lives under conditions of confinement. The author explores the blurring of the boundaries between children and adults that is currently occurring within society. Within this blurring of the boundaries falls society’s current response to youth who commit crimes. The article describes the societal perception of youthful offenders as “dangerous dogs” that should be strictly controlled. The current criminal justice stance of confining youthful offenders to institutions is born out of this desire to control these offenders and is not based on evidence led practice. Next, the article turns to the results of the ethnographic study of the 15 confined youth, which demonstrated that these youth do actively construct their lives in prison by employing one of two strategies: “keeping quiet” or “going nuts.” The participants referred to prison life as “the game” and described “keeping quiet” and using each other as sources of support as how they successfully play “the Game.” The other strategy of “going nuts” is used sparingly and only after other options had been exhausted. The author points out how children can actively participant in the construction of their social lives even while in prison. Finally, it is argued that the line between “child” and “adult” is being blurred at the same time that society is striving to construct childhood as a precious time worth protecting. Notes, references
Main Term(s): Adjustment to prison; Youthful offenders
Index Term(s): Correctional institutions (juvenile); Juvenile social adjustment; Personal interviews; Theory
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.