Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Laurie  Frankel

Ashley  Wood 

A History of Gang Violence Inside California Prisons

Laurie Frankel: Societal Influence on the Individual Identity

Contemporary author Laurie Frankel explores the problems that individual characters face within societies that often reject them. In This Is How It Always Is, Claude Penn-Addams, a young boy, begins to show signs from an early age that he identifies as female. Attending school, where he is often bullied, make it difficult for Claude -- later called Poppy -- to express her true self and this eventually leads her and her mother to visit Thailand, where she meets new people and finds acceptance, love, and her true self. In the end, Poppy is able to overcome those societal judgements about gender that previously held her back, and is able to secure peace, happiness, and acceptance within her society. Although all heavily judged by society, all Frankel’s protagonists overcome their struggles and learn to adapt to their surroundings. In this way, Laurie Frankel critiques the judgmental nature of society through her depiction of characters who rise up against societal pressures to assert their true identities.

Similarly, men and women involved in prison gangs have a difficult time fitting into society, and officials struggle to maintain peace between incarcerated rival gang members. Over the years, California’s prison system has struggled greatly due to internal disturbances perpetrated by gang activity inside and outside of cell walls. In the United States, California has the highest gang related violence within their prisons. Outside of prison, gangs are a uniformed force of bloodshed that typically sell drugs, commit homicides, and defend their neighborhoods. In order to maintain a balance of power between rival gang members that are incarcerated, these gangs continue to communicate with those inside prisons. California lawmakers have passed legislation in an effort to decrease gang activity in prisons, but racial and ethnic tension between feuding gangs continues to create violent environments that have historically been mismanaged and undertreated. Although many attempts have been made to decrease the violence, gang activity inside and outside of prison walls have lead to high rates of incarceration, recidivism, drug dealing, and homicides. Major Works Consulted:

Blanco, Janell. “Prison Gangs: History, Types & Statistics.” Accessed February 13, 2018. academy/lesson/prison-gangs-history-types-statistics.html.
Frankel, Laurie The Atlas of Love. New York: St. Martin’s, 2010.
---. This is How it Always is. New York: Flatiron, 2017.
James, Gilligan. Violence in California Prisons. Sacramento: Senate Publications, 2000.
Photo Credit: “About.” Laurie Frankel Author Website.