Prison Gangs Through the Lens of Tuckman’s Theory of Group Formation
Money, narcotics, and protection, what more could a prisoner ask for? If that question is ever solved then the answer to the prison gang epidemic may be found. Prison gangs, by nature, are a group just like any other, and thus go through the same group formation process as any other group. A key part of this process is adjourning, the stage where group members are satisfied with the group and leave. However, the adjourning stage hasn’t occurred as much in prison gangs as people would like. By showing that prison gangs go through the rest of the stages of group formation, it will be shown that they could go through the ...view middle of the document...
In general, forming is the stage in which group members orient themselves to the interpersonal relations and tasks of the group (Tuckman 1965).
The storming phase can be best described as the phase in which the group members resist the constraints put on them by the group. Group members resist the constraint of the group structure by expressing their individuality through hostile actions within the group (Tuckman 1965). Group members resist the constraint put on them by the task by reacting emotionally towards it (Tuckman 1965). In general, the resistance to the constraints of the group is achieved through emotional reactions and conflict toward the group.
The next stage, norming, occurs when the group finally becomes its own entity. Group members accept the group and begin to desire to maintain and perpetuate it, as well as establish norms (Tuckman 1965). Group members also participate in the open sharing of relevant ideas that relate to the group task, and act upon this information to arrive at a better understanding of the task (Tuckman 1965). The norming stage sees the transformation of individual members into a single unit.
In the performing phase of group formation the group becomes functional, and is able to carry out its tasks. Members take on roles that will enhance the task activities of the group, and the structure of the roles of the group becomes an instrument that can be directed at the task (Tuckman 1965). In this stage constructive action is emphasized and the group undergoes attempts at successful task completion (Tuckman 1965). Performing is purely about completing the task.
The final stage, adjourning, is the separation of the group. This stage is important not because of what happens, but because of what it tells us about group development; groups follow a life cycle (Tuckman and Jensen). The life cycle is important because it realizes that neither groups nor its membership last forever, they only last until every member is satisfied with the group. It is important to note that groups can go through the different stages multiple times. It is also important to note that individual members go through these stages as they join and become part of the group. The group and its members will repeat these five stages until every member has been completely satisfied or dies.
Prison gangs have been around since the 1950’s and early 1960’s, starting in California, Washington, and parts of the Southwest (Wood and Gannon). Some of the earliest gangs include the Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Aryan Brotherhood, and the Black Guerilla Family (Wood and Gannon). A prison gang can be defined as “an organization which operates within the prison system as a self-perpetuating criminally oriented entity, consisting of a select group of inmates who have established an organized chain of command and are governed by an established code of conduct. This prison gang will usually operate in secrecy and has as its goal to...