Of gangs and guards

By Hugo van Lent

Thelen and Mahoney’s theory of actors and endogenous change can easily be applied to the dynamics inside a prison

The general prison regime – which determines which goods are considered contraband, how severe the punishments are et cetera – may be considered the primary formal institution of the prison. Gang leaders, of course, do not wish to follow these rules, and aside from setting up their own informal institutions, one would expect them to behave as insurrectionaries by openly opposing the prison regime, or as subversives by opposing the warden without open revolt.

It is obvious, however, that those particular strategies would result in the gang leaders losing the game; their sentences would just be increased. Instead, gang leaders operate as parasites within the system. They use the fact the prison environment to sell drugs at higher prices than on the street and expand the influence of their gang – you’re in for life after all. They are able to do so because the prison regime is very difficult to enforce, and they are therefore the main actors behind drift.

However, everyone wants to be the gang leader or start his own, and we may therefore find many opportunistic gang members, waiting for the ideal moment to strike. This often causes a lot of chaos and violence, and this ultimately benefits neither individual gang leaders nor the guards.

Therefore, the prison administration and individual gang leaders are in a – arguably unhappy – mutualistic relationship with one another. Aside from profiting from corruption, guards cooperate with gang leaders to keep opportunistic gang member in check and thus keep the peace. Therefore, the interaction between these three actors keeps the gang system in place, even if it directly contradicts for what prisons are designed.

Change in UEFA?

By Jan Bogaarts


The president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), Michel Platini is not convinced of the value of technology in football and therefore prefers to keep the decision making power in the hands of referees. Other football organizations such as FIFA and the English Premier League have already adopted what is called Goal Line Technology (GLT), a system that detects whether a ball has or has not fully crossed the goal line. Given that this technology is being implemented by other organizations and is more accurate than the human referee, will the UEFA implement it and, if so, when?

Institutions like the UEFA are often very stable (only two minor changes in the last 25 years). Unless there is some exogenous occurrence that affects football directly it is hard to imagine a change in the rules of the game. In this case there has been an exogenous change, namely the birth of GLT, but that has been available since 2006. Mahoney and Thelen (2010), propose that institutional change can also happen endogenously. They suggest that the internal power distributions are what trigger institutional change. So who has power in european football?

Football players and coaches work for clubs and national teams that are organized by each country’s football association. These football associations then come together at the UEFA congress that is led by a committee with its president. The committee and the president are the only actors who can change rules but they are voted in by the member associations every 4 years. The immediate decision making power is held by the committee but all the associations have the power to remove them.

The English Association has already decided for GLT but others have not. The power now lies in the hands of those that do not want the change. Only if the power distribution between associations shifts, such that Platini is no longer voted president, will GLT stand a chance in UEFA competitions such as the Champions League and the European Championships.