Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Doing Time in the DepressionEveryday Life in Texas and California Prisons$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Ethan Blue

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814709405

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814709405.001.0001

Show Summary Details

Shifting Markets of Power

Shifting Markets of Power

Building Tenders, Con Bosses, Queens, and Guards

Chapter:
(p.100) 4 Shifting Markets of Power
Source:
Doing Time in the Depression
Author(s):

Ethan Blue

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9780814709405.003.0004

This chapter describes the braided overt and covert economies of cash, favors, contraband, sex, and sexual violence through which Texas and California institutions functioned. Select prisoners played lynchpin roles in each state. In Texas, building tenders (prisoners appointed by guards to keep order in the dormitories where inmates slept) were the key figures, but in California, prisoners called “con bosses” were the most important. As the heads of prison departments and managers of productive processes, con bosses cultivated political and economic relationships to their personal advantage, often to the detriment of other prisoners. Building tenders and con bosses linked the official productive forces of the prisons to their informal economies, where markets of economic, sexual, violent, symbolic, and bureaucratic capital combined in dense networks of authority. Each of these systems undermined the possibilities of inmate solidarity, as prisoners frequently found themselves pitted against one another, rather than against the keepers of their institutions. To this end, the building tender and con boss systems undermined the “con ethic” that midcentury sociologists identified and romanticized, which suggested that prisoners supported each other against their keepers.

Keywords:   prison economy, California prison, Texas prison, informal economies, building tenders, con bosses, inmate solidarity

NYU Press Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.