Monday, June 13, 2011

Criminals & Gangs

Becoming a criminal is an individual choice and programs invented by well-intentioned academics, sociologists, and other social justice practitioners that claim anecdotal success without rigorous evaluation often have to be viewed skeptically, as our ongoing post of failed programs indicates.

These program ideas seem to be again promulgated in this article from the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIA)—though the theme noted in the final paragraph of the post does show promise if actually acted upon—and the reason for less gang members on the streets now than ten years ago is three-strikes sentencing and broken-windows policing.

When you have more criminals in prison there are less on the streets, and over the past few decades, three-strikes and broken-windows kept ahead of the criminal replacement curve, though current calls to empty prisons and change policing will bring us back to the future.

An excerpt from the JJIA article.

“ORLANDO, Fla, – Frontline practitioners working on gang prevention, intervention and suppression are gathered this week for the National Gang Symposium in Orlando, Fla. For prevention, think of the Boys & Girls Club. For intervention, think of the Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries, whose motto is “nothing stops a bullet like a job.” And for suppression, well, of course, think of the police.

“The number crunchers from the National Gang Center, using their own just released data, are telling symposium attendees today that gangs remain a substantial problem in the nation. However, gang levels are lower than the peak levels in the mid-1990s, and law enforcement agencies reported gang activity in their jurisdictions at about the same levels for five straight years – all this during a time when overall violence is way down.

“Arlen Egley, one of those National Gang Center number crunchers, is learning something in return from the police at the symposium. A common theme among law enforcement is, “We can’t arrest our way of this problem.” And Egley added, “It is reassuring to hear that.”

“The symposium’s clarion call is that total collaboration among prevention, intervention and suppression folks will make a difference. James “Buddy” Howell, also from the National Gang Center, said that to reduce gang activity the community at large will have to be better organized than the gangs themselves.

“Luis J. Rodriquez, speaker, author, and former Los Angeles gang member, said gang members call it “La Vida Loca” (the crazy life) because even they know it as a crazy existence. The brains of gang members in their teens and early 20s are not fully developed, he noted, and still can be molded for good or bad.

“Unfortunately,” Rodriquez said, “that’s the time we want to put them away.” Thus prison life often determines who they will become.

“Sticking with the dominant symposium theme of full community support, Rodriquez provided five prescriptions for helping kids break away from the crazy web of gang life: Provide help and community; aid them in making spiritual connections beyond gang loyalty; give them a cause bigger than themselves, which might simply be how to be a good mother or father; find the art within which could be the creative arts or the art of teaching or being a mechanic; and finally, they have to learn to run their own lives because “taking full responsibility is a powerful, liberating thing.”