Young people living in Britain’s deprived communities risk
becoming trapped in a “deadly symbiosis” where prison
culture increasingly takes hold on the street, an academic has
warned, writes Simeon Brody from Community Care
And the growing convergence between prison and gang culture
makes young people feeling more alienated from mainstream society,
more likely to carry guns and increasingly seeing themselves as
“soldiers”, John Pitts, University of Luton professor
of socio-legal studies, told Community Care Live this week.
The deadly symbiosis theory was originally proposed by a US
academic to describe gang culture in Chicago, but Pitts said
research he was doing with ethnic minority communities in south
London suggested it could take hold there.
He described young people who did not see their life going on
beyond 25 and expected to “go out in a blaze of glory, and
they don’t expect it to hurt”.
Pitt said groups involved in gun crime in south London had their
origins in the penal system and brought the “cognitive
landscape” of the prison system to their everyday life.
They needed support to help them break the loop they were stuck
in and engage them in educational and vocational opportunities, he
In a presentation on racism in the criminal justice system, Pitt
said crime was not disproportionate among black and minority
communities but was chiefly related to poverty and