Youth gangs are a serious issue in modern society, creating several social, economic, legal, and cultural problems. The complexity and resilience of the problem require an equally encompassing response involving multiple stakeholders. The following paper lists the common consequences of joining a gang, suggests the main approaches to addressing the issue, and outlines the laws intended to aid the ordinance.
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Young people join gangs for a variety of reasons, including the need for a sense of fellowship or family, search for protection, and establishment of identity, among others. As can be seen, many of these reasons can be fulfilled using other approaches. Thus, it would be reasonable to suggest several alternatives that would help to keep young people from joining a gang. First, it is possible to facilitate support by creating gang prevention school initiatives. This alternative would include workshops for students of 6 to 9 grades. The initiatives are expected to appeal the sense of identity, peer support, and fellowship, thus decreasing the need for joining a gang. Second, it is recommended to develop a summer program. The program is expected to include educational, recreational, and sports activities to cover the needs of youth. Third, after-school groups can be formed to promote social skills among students that experience a deficit of trust and self-esteem.
Fourth, parents may participate in a family support program which would provide them with the necessary skills and knowledge to prevent their children from becoming gang members. Fifth, community-based initiatives may be introduced that would offer the possibility of social interaction while at the same time provide development opportunities. Of the alternatives identified above, an in-school program is the most feasible option. The main reason for this is the flexibility it offers to the stakeholders. The program will provide first-hand data necessary for developing other alternatives and adjusting the existing school practices. Also, schools have access to resources to facilitate further development. Finally, schools usually maintain contact with parents, which would allow for the dissemination of essential information on the matter.
On a legislative level, two laws can be proposed to address the issue of juvenile gangs. The first law is meant to suppress the current criminal activities. Thus, it will target the issues that are currently apparent in the community and are related to the existing gang. The said law may target specific activities, such as thefts, assaults, and drug trafficking by adjusting the criteria and introducing strict punitive measures. In some instances, it is possible to review the status of some violations and change it to a more severe case, such as a felony. The described law is expected to stop current members from committing unlawful acts, thus decreasing the overall crime rate in the short term. The second law is intended to discourage undesirable activities such as graffiti drawing. For instance, it is possible to suggest that the prohibition of selling paint to minors will serve as an effective graffiti prevention measure without disrupting regular activities. Alternatively, it is possible to account for the recurrence of undesirable actions. For example, an act of vandalism may be classified as a felony when repeated several times by the same person. This law is expected to prevent potential members from joining the gang, thus ensuring that the phenomenon will not expand in the long term.
An arrest for crimes committed while being a part of a gang has profound consequences on the lives of the individuals. The most evident outcome is disrupted academic performance. It has been reported that a proportion of students that are unable to graduate from high school is significantly higher among the group that was subject to arrest on charges of gang activity (Burdick-Will, 2016). Another widely reported consequence is substance abuse. The social and psychological implications of undergoing a legal prosecution create a highly stressful environment that, combined with the influence of peers, greatly increases the risk of engaging in abusive behavior. Finally, the negative effect on academic performance combined with several minor factors contributes to undesirable socioeconomic status and puts the individual’s family at risk. The latter consequence is the most important for several reasons. First, it has been determined that the severity of the effect increases as a result of longer membership in a gang (Pyrooz & Sweeten, 2015). Second, its influence can be observed many years after the incident, making it difficult to determine and address. Finally, its impact goes beyond individual considerations and affects family members and, to some degree, communities.
The long-term impacts of joining a gang can be observed on a social, psychological, and physical level. First, similarly to the consequences of arrest, gang members are subject to alcohol and drug abuse. This factor is a major contributor to the state of mental and physical health of the individual since its adverse consequences can be observed throughout one’s life. Also, alcohol and drug abuse have major negative effects on an individual’s ability to interact with peers and, by extension, engaging in relationships. In other words, gang members are less likely to form healthy families. Third, it is necessary to acknowledge that former gang members may lack important social skills and proficiencies that are necessary for normal interactions with peers.
As a result, they will likely experience difficulties in social interactions. Next, it is common for gang members to neglect school activity, which hurts the development of skills necessary for becoming a functional member of society. Finally, as a result of poor academic performance and lack of social skills the impacted individual will experience difficulties in finding and retaining employment, leading to low socioeconomic status (Gass & Laughter, 2015). While all of the identified factors are important, it is possible to suggest that a compromised academic performance has the most impact on an individual’s life, since the delay in development at a young age requires a disproportionate amount of time and resources to address in adulthood. Thus, its effects are both profound (as illustrated by the employment issue above) and difficult to mitigate.
The suggested ordinance is expected to be successful for three reasons. First, a comprehensive gang prevention program requires an assessment that can be facilitated with the support of school staff. The obtained data may later be used to sustain the effort and expand the program to other areas. Second, the school setting is highly favorable for facilitating social activities among students, which will ensure that they are equipped with essential knowledge regarding the risks of joining a gang and familiarized with the possibility of alternatives. Third, it is expected to find support within the community. The public will likely perceive the ordinance as creating new opportunities within the community. Admittedly, some members may also perceive it as ineffective due to the focus on prevention rather than elimination. Nevertheless, responsible communication is expected to eliminate this misconception, ensuring the success of the ordinance.
Burdick-Will, J. (2016). Neighborhood violent crime and academic growth in Chicago: Lasting effects of early exposure. Social Forces, 95(1), 133-158.
Gass, K. M., & Laughter, J. C. (2015). “Can I make any difference?” Gang affiliation, the school-to-prison pipeline, and implications for teachers. The Journal of Negro Education, 84(3), 333-347.
Pyrooz, D. C., & Sweeten, G. (2015). Gang membership between ages 5 and 17 years in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health, 56(4), 414-419.