Lewis Yablonsky, 89, a former associate professor of sociology who later gained national prominence as sociologist, criminologist and author, died Jan. 29 at his home in Santa Monica, Calif.
Yablonsky taught sociology from 1958-61 before accepting a position at the University of California, Los Angeles, In 1963, he joined the faculty at California State University, Northridge, where he taught until his retirement in 1994,when he was appointed Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Texas A&M University-Commerce.
A leading figure in sociology in the 1960s and ’70s, Yablonsky was known for his practical approach. He worked with members of New York street gangs in the “West Side Story” era of the 1950s, producing a socio-psychological study of “losers trying to be winners” in his first book, “The Violent Gang” (1962), according to the Los Angeles Times.
His work treating drug addicts in Santa Monica with reformed alcoholic Charles Dederich resulted in “The Tunnel Back: Synanon” a provocative early study of the rehabilitation program before it took on cult overtones and became associated with violence. He also worked extensively in prisons to rehabilitate inmates and in later decades testified in court cases as an expert witness.