Max Weber's Sociology of Law Applied to a Case of Judicial Intervention into State-Sanctioned Inmate Abuse
Applying Weber's classical sociology of law as the theoretical lens, the author revisits a famous judicial intervention (Ruiz v. Estelle 1980) aimed at curtailing the cruel and unusual punishment suffered by indigent and uneducated inmates and perpetrated by prison staff and inmate overseers, known as "building tenders." Marquart and Crouch (1984; 1985) and Ekland-Olson (1986) wrote case studies of this intervention into the activity at a unit of an American state prison system on data they obtained from participant observation, formal and informal interviews with correctional officers and inmates, and institutional documents (e.g. log books, memos and inmate records). The following article follows the outline of the series of events described in these cases and adds a Weberian explanation of the changing forms of justice that are both rational and irrational, formal and substantive.
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