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Apartheid Justice: Gang Injunctions and the New Black Codes

Race, Ethnicity and Law

ISBN: 978-1-78714-604-4, eISBN: 978-1-78714-603-7

Publication date: 25 May 2017



In 1987, the City of Los Angeles instituted the first gang injunction in the country. Gang injunctions are pursued through the civil courts to seriously restrict the activities and movement of suspected gang members and affiliates. People who have been served with a gang injunction are often prohibited from everyday activities, such as wearing sports jerseys, talking to other gang members, and being out in public past curfew, regardless of age. Though often justified by law enforcement as a necessary tool to fight gang violence, we argue that gang injunctions are similar to Slave Codes, Black Codes, and Jim Crow laws, which established a separate system of justice based on race. As such, gang injunctions serve as an extension of an apartheid-like system of justice that seriously limits the life opportunities of people of color within gang injunction territories.


This chapter draws upon the oral histories of people targeted by gang injunction laws within California, paying particular attention to how gang-identified individuals are surveiled, controlled, and confined.


Gang injunctions operate on an apartheid-like justice system that punishes perceived gang members harsher than non-gang members. These laws affirm the legal tactics that maintain racial boundaries and promote a system of justice that mirrors the Black Codes following the end of slavery. The evidence suggests that gang injunctions solely target low-income youth of color, who have been identified as gang members and served with injunctions.


Despite the ubiquity of gang injunctions within California, there is little research on gang injunctions, and even less literature on how these injunctions shape the life course of suspected gang members. We attempt to address this gap in the literature by showing how gang injunctions are not simply about fighting crime, but rather they are a tool used to control and corral communities of color.



Santos, X. and Bickel, C. (2017), "Apartheid Justice: Gang Injunctions and the New Black Codes", Race, Ethnicity and Law (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 22), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 27-38.



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