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Games Prisoners Play: The Tragicomic Worlds of Polish Prison

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Games Prisoners Play: The Tragicomic Worlds of Polish Prison Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

On March 11, 1985, a van was pulled over in Warsaw for a routine traffic check that turned out to be anything but routine. Inside was Marek Kaminski, a Warsaw University student who also ran an underground press for Solidarity. The police discovered illegal books in the vehicle, and in a matter of hours five secret police escorted Kaminski to jail. A sociology and mathematics major one day, Kaminski was the next a political prisoner trying to adjust to a bizarre and dangerous new world. This remarkable book represents his attempts to understand that world.

As a coping strategy until he won his freedom half a year later by faking serious illness, Kaminski took clandestine notes on prison subculture. Much later, he discovered the key to unlocking that culture--game theory. Prison first appeared an irrational world of unpredictable violence and arbitrary codes of conduct. But as Kaminski shows in riveting detail, prisoners, to survive and prosper, have to master strategic decision-making. A clever move can shorten a sentence; a bad decision can lead to rape, beating, or social isolation. Much of the confusion in interpreting prison behavior, he argues, arises from a failure to understand that inmates are driven not by pathological emotion but by predictable and rational calculations.

Kaminski presents unsparing accounts of initiation rituals, secret codes, caste structures, prison sex, self-injuries, and of the humor that makes this brutal world more bearable. This is a work of unusual power, originality, and eloquence, with implications for understanding human behavior far beyond the walls of one Polish prison.

Synopsis:

"Games Prisoners Play is not just a superb description of prison life but also a provocative analysis of why the choices prisoners make under difficult circumstances are rational. The lens through which Kaminski views these choices is elementary game theory, which he uses to elucidate the subtleties of different strategic situations in a highly imaginative way. This book ranks with only a handful of works I know of that apply game theory, in depth, to unusual subjects and end up enriching both the subject and the theory."--Steven J. Brams, New York University, author of Theory of Moves and coauthor of Fair Division: From Cake-Cutting to Dispute Resolution

"An exceptionally interesting book, and a very engaging read, Games Prisoners Play is bound to make a major impact on scholarship in the field. I would be very surprised if it did not become a staple reference for any study of prison life for years to come."--Diego Gambetta, author of The Sicilian Mafia

"A terrific achievement. Marek Kaminski combines a unique 'fieldwork' in Polish prisons with insightful models of prisoners' behavior. This is an exceptional contribution to the ethnography of prison life and an imaginative application of game theory. It is also a memoir in its own right."--Federico Varese, author of The Russian Mafia

Synopsis:

On March 11, 1985, a van was pulled over in Warsaw for a routine traffic check that turned out to be anything but routine. Inside was Marek Kaminski, a Warsaw University student who also ran an underground press for Solidarity. The police discovered illegal books in the vehicle, and in a matter of hours five secret police escorted Kaminski to jail. A sociology and mathematics major one day, Kaminski was the next a political prisoner trying to adjust to a bizarre and dangerous new world. This remarkable book represents his attempts to understand that world.

As a coping strategy until he won his freedom half a year later by faking serious illness, Kaminski took clandestine notes on prison subculture. Much later, he discovered the key to unlocking that culture--game theory. Prison first appeared an irrational world of unpredictable violence and arbitrary codes of conduct. But as Kaminski shows in riveting detail, prisoners, to survive and prosper, have to master strategic decision-making. A clever move can shorten a sentence; a bad decision can lead to rape, beating, or social isolation. Much of the confusion in interpreting prison behavior, he argues, arises from a failure to understand that inmates are driven not by pathological emotion but by predictable and rational calculations.

Kaminski presents unsparing accounts of initiation rituals, secret codes, caste structures, prison sex, self-injuries, and of the humor that makes this brutal world more bearable. This is a work of unusual power, originality, and eloquence, with implications for understanding human behavior far beyond the walls of one Polish prison.

About the Author

Marek M. Kaminski is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Mathematical Behavioral Science at the University of California, Irvine. Between 1982 and 1989 he managed Solidaritys underground publishing house STOP.

Table of Contents

List of Figures xi

List of Tables xiii

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

Chapter One

Entry 16

Chapter Two

The Constraints of Prison Life: An Overview 21

Material Constraints 22

Administrative Constraints 29

Subcultural Constraints: A Glimpse at the World of Grypsmen 34

Note on Importation versus Deprivation 37

Chapter Three

Becoming a Grypsman 38

Initiation Tests 38

First Screening: Fag-Making and Baptism 41

Little Games 46

Hidden Tests 51

Prison University 54

Chapter Four

Prison Code of Behavior 56

The Semi-Secret Code 58

The Secret Code 65

Sanctions and Intercaste Mobility 76

Chapter Five

Argot 82

Argot Vocabulary 82

Argot Roles 85

Secret Argot Grammar 89

Language Games 95

Chapter Six

Everyday Life 101

Random Walk through the Cell Archipelago 101

Information and Trade Markets 104

Coalitional Structures and Resource-Sharing 111

Arenas of Art and Entertainment 116

Fights and Exploitation 124

Chapter Seven

Sex, Flirtation, Love 130

Masturbation 131

Fags 134

Women 138

Chapter Eight

Strategic Ailment 145

Goals of Strategic Ailment 147

Techniques of Strategic Ailment 149

Cases of Self-Injury 155

Cases of Faking 163

Chapter Nine

Exit 169

Postscriptum Variants and Evolution of Grypsmen Subculture 172

Local Variants and Modifications 172

The Evolution of Grypsmen Subculture 178

Appendix

Prison Playground: Games and Decisions 183

Glossary

Essential Argot 191

Notes 197

References 205

Index 209

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691149325
Author:
Kaminski, Marek M.
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Subject:
General
Subject:
Penology
Subject:
Sociology
Subject:
Political Science and International Relations
Subject:
Biography - General
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20100831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
28 line illus. 4 tables.
Pages:
248
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 13 oz

Related Subjects

Biography » General
History and Social Science » Crime » Prisons and Prisoners
History and Social Science » Economics » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
History and Social Science » World History » General
Science and Mathematics » Featured Titles in Tech » Mathematics & Physics
Science and Mathematics » Mathematics » Modeling

Games Prisoners Play: The Tragicomic Worlds of Polish Prison New Trade Paper
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Product details 248 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691149325 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "Games Prisoners Play is not just a superb description of prison life but also a provocative analysis of why the choices prisoners make under difficult circumstances are rational. The lens through which Kaminski views these choices is elementary game theory, which he uses to elucidate the subtleties of different strategic situations in a highly imaginative way. This book ranks with only a handful of works I know of that apply game theory, in depth, to unusual subjects and end up enriching both the subject and the theory."--Steven J. Brams, New York University, author of Theory of Moves and coauthor of Fair Division: From Cake-Cutting to Dispute Resolution

"An exceptionally interesting book, and a very engaging read, Games Prisoners Play is bound to make a major impact on scholarship in the field. I would be very surprised if it did not become a staple reference for any study of prison life for years to come."--Diego Gambetta, author of The Sicilian Mafia

"A terrific achievement. Marek Kaminski combines a unique 'fieldwork' in Polish prisons with insightful models of prisoners' behavior. This is an exceptional contribution to the ethnography of prison life and an imaginative application of game theory. It is also a memoir in its own right."--Federico Varese, author of The Russian Mafia

"Synopsis" by , On March 11, 1985, a van was pulled over in Warsaw for a routine traffic check that turned out to be anything but routine. Inside was Marek Kaminski, a Warsaw University student who also ran an underground press for Solidarity. The police discovered illegal books in the vehicle, and in a matter of hours five secret police escorted Kaminski to jail. A sociology and mathematics major one day, Kaminski was the next a political prisoner trying to adjust to a bizarre and dangerous new world. This remarkable book represents his attempts to understand that world.

As a coping strategy until he won his freedom half a year later by faking serious illness, Kaminski took clandestine notes on prison subculture. Much later, he discovered the key to unlocking that culture--game theory. Prison first appeared an irrational world of unpredictable violence and arbitrary codes of conduct. But as Kaminski shows in riveting detail, prisoners, to survive and prosper, have to master strategic decision-making. A clever move can shorten a sentence; a bad decision can lead to rape, beating, or social isolation. Much of the confusion in interpreting prison behavior, he argues, arises from a failure to understand that inmates are driven not by pathological emotion but by predictable and rational calculations.

Kaminski presents unsparing accounts of initiation rituals, secret codes, caste structures, prison sex, self-injuries, and of the humor that makes this brutal world more bearable. This is a work of unusual power, originality, and eloquence, with implications for understanding human behavior far beyond the walls of one Polish prison.

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