Nasty, Brutish, and Short

The lives of gang members in Canada

by Mark Totten

with Daniel Totten

An expert takes us inside the dark world of youth gangs in Canada

An expert takes us inside the dark world of gangs in Canada.

Dr. Mark Totten has spent fifteen years learning all about these gangs and the young men and women who belong to them. He has interviewed over 500 gang members across the country, traced their lives from infancy to adulthood, and explored the roots of their involvement in crime and their reliance on violence.

Nasty, Brutish and Short offers a groundbreaking picture of the reality of gangs in Canada. Much of what Dr. Totten has to say is at odds with popular ideas. His research leads him to believe that breaking through the circumstances that produce young criminals is far more difficult than most people think. For most individuals caught up in gang life, exiting that world is next to impossible -- in fact, the most common way out is an early death from violence or suicide. This book opens the door on a way of life unknown to most Canadians.

About the Authors

Mark Totten
Mark Totten

DR. MARK TOTTEN's research focuses on gangs, sexual exploitation and trafficking, crime prevention, mental health, child maltreatment and family violence, bullying and harassment, corrections and policing, and gender identity. He has worked on eight major studies in this area during the past fifteen years, in research funded by public agencies like the Department of Justice Canada and the National Crime Prevention Centre. Many of his projects involve partnerships with Aboriginal and ethno-racial communities.

In 2011-2012, he collaborated with groups in Ontario and Western Canada in the development and evaluation of multi-year gang prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies.

Mark Totten is past Director of Research at the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa (1987-2007) and has worked with high-risk children, youth, adults, and families for over thirty years. A well-known expert witness for both Crown and Defence Counsel on gangs and criminal subculture, he has written many books, academic articles, and government reports, including Guys, Gangs and Girlfriend Abuse (2000), When Children Kill: A Social-Psychological Study on Youth Homicide (2002), and Promising Practices for Addressing Youth Involvement in Gangs (2008).

DANIEL TOTTEN is a graduate student in psychology at Carleton University.


Mark Totten interviewed at
Open Book Ontario
Read Jeffrey Simpson's interview with Mark Totten at
Halifax Chronicle Herald
"Totten...has spent the past 15 years studying Canada's gangs in an attempt to take an unprecedented look into the problem...The recently published Nasty, Brutish and Short: The Lives of Gang Members in Canada is the book that resulted from his extensive efforts."
Jeffrey Simpson, Chronicle Herald

Subjects (BISAC)


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