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"We have to take these guys out": Motivations for Assaulting Incarcerated Child Molesters

Rebecca Trammell and Scott Chenault
Symbolic Interaction
Vol. 32, No. 4 (Fall 2009), pp. 334-350
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction
DOI: 10.1525/si.2009.32.4.334
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/si.2009.32.4.334
Page Count: 17
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Abstract

We know very little about how incarcerated men justify assaults against at-risk inmates such as child molesters. For this article, we fill this gap in the literature by examining how men describe these assaults as a way to align their own violent behavior with more conventional mores. We find that formerly incarcerated men justify violence as a way to raise their own social status and promote cultural norms against child abuse. When inmates attack someone convicted of child molestation, they do so to punish him and provide a "service" to their community. Furthermore, they elevate their own social status and distance themselves from these offenders. Theoretically, this work broadens our understanding of verbal justifications for violent action.

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