A distinctive feature of the conflict in Northern Ireland over
the past forty years has been the way Catholic and Protestant
paramilitaries have policed their own communities. This has mainly
involved the violent punishment of petty criminals involved in
joyriding and other types of antisocial behavior. Between 1973 and
2007, more than 5,000 nonmilitary shootings and assaults were
attributed to paramilitaries punishing their own people. But
despite the risk of severe punishment, young petty offenders--known
locally as "hoods"--continue to offend, creating a puzzle for the
rational theory of criminal deterrence. Why do hoods behave in ways
that invite violent punishment?
In "The Hoods," Heather Hamill explains why this informal
system of policing and punishment developed and endured and why
such harsh punishments as beatings, "kneecappings," and exile have
not stopped hoods from offending. Drawing on a variety of sources,
including interviews with perpetrators and victims of this
violence, the book argues that the hoods' risky offending may
amount to a game in which hoods gain prestige by displaying
hard-to-fake signals of toughness to each other. Violent physical
punishment feeds into this signaling game, increasing the hoods'
status by proving that they have committed serious offenses and can
"manfully" take punishment yet remained undeterred. A rare
combination of frontline research and pioneering ideas, "The Hoods"
has important implications for our fundamental understanding of
crime and punishment.
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