Gangs on Trial

Challenging Stereotypes and Demonization in the Courts

John M. Hagedorn, with a Foreword by Craig Haney
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2231-6
Publication: Jan 22

HC: $110.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-2230-9
Publication: Jan 22

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2232-3
Publication: Jan 22

246 pages
6 x 9
3 figs., 7 halftones, 1 maps

Exposes how stereotypes replace evidence in gang related trials


Hagedorn has written an extremely courageous book, one in which he is willing to assert hard moral truths that cut against the grain of what passes for common knowledge about who commits crime and why.”
From the Foreword by Craig Haney

Prominent gang researcher John Hagedorn reveals that what transpires in the trials of gang members is a far cry from what we would consider justice. In Gangs on Trial, he uses stories from the 73 gang related court cases he consulted on to vividly describe how stereotypes are a prosecutor’s best friend. He shows how gang members are dehumanized in order to secure the most punitive sentences.

The Black Lives Matter movement exposed racism in policing. Gangs on Trial exposes racism in the courts. Hagedorn gives examples of how to combat stereotypes in trials and sentencing hearings, though he acknowledges this is an uphill struggle.

Hagedorn’s lively stories from the courtroom apply concepts from social psychology to understand injustice. He describes how jurors’ minds are subconsciously “primed” to transform a gang member on trial into a “prototype” of a violent monster. Rather than consider the social context of a crime or the real biography of the defendant, the prosecutor convinces the court that violence is part of the defendant’s nature and circumstances are less important or even irrelevant.

Hagedorn argues that dehumanization is the psychological foundation of mass incarceration. Gangs on Trial advocates for practical sentencing reforms, humanizing justice, and supports the movement for progressive prosecutors.

About the Author(s)

John M. Hagedorn is Professor Emeritus of Criminology, Law, and Justice and James J. Stukel Faculty Fellow, Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is the author or editor of seven books, including The In$ane Chicago Way: The Daring Plan by Chicago Gangs to Create a Spanish Mafia, A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture, and People and Folks: Gangs, Crime, and the Underclass in a Rustbelt City. Of his 73 gang-related court cases, 60 are for homicide, and 17 of which, the accused faced the death penalty.


In the Series

  • Studies in Transgression edited by David Brotherton

    Studies in Transgression, edited by David Brotherton, publishes books at the intersection of sociology and critical criminology. This series challenges the normative conventions of the broader study of crime to produce a fuller accounting of a society’s responsibilities for and complicity in the threats and wrongdoing that come to be seen as police-able crimes. The series examines behaviors understood as transgressive by looking at the cultural assumptions that contextualize that reading and the structural factors that underlie those behaviors. Books in the series will examine marginal lifestyles and their relationship to crime around the Unites States and the globe.  Perspective authors should contact the series edtior David Brotherton or Temple University Press Editor Ryan Mulligan to discuss their work in progress for inclusion in the series.