Critical Analysis Leaving the Gang

Gang members are faced with many difficult choices when they choose to leave the gang. They may face threats of violence, community bias, lack of employment and education, and lack of social support networks. Each of these problems must be overcome in order for a gang member to successfully escape the gang life however few gang members have the coping skills, stress management skills, social skills, or educational and vocational training to confront each of these problems as they occur. The main role of the psychologist is to help the former gang member focus on learning the skills that they will need in order to survive life outside the gang.

According to Spergel (2007), real and imagined threats of violence are one of the most significant problems faced by former gang members who choose to leave. While much of the violence is exaggerated by the media, gang leaders use this exaggeration to their advantage in order to frighten young and impressionable gang members into complying with the Gangs rules and regulations, and into remaining in the gang life. While cases of true violence may be exaggerated, the juvenile gang members fear that themselves, or their families will be threatened with violence is real. This can affect the choice of a gang member in one of two ways. First, a former gang member will feel that they must completely uproot their life in order to successfully leave the gang. Second, a juvenile gang member may choose not to leave the gang out of fear of the potentially violent actions of their fellow gang members.

The second major problem that juvenile gang member face when trying to leave the gang is community bias that may cause them to be discriminated against in terms of employment and educational opportunity. Community bias occurs because the juvenile has a reputation in the community for being in a gang and participating in gang related activities. According to De Placedo, Simon, Witte, Qu, and Wong (2006), this bias may be difficult for a youth to overcome. This community bias may have similar affects to threatened violence in that it may have the effect of causing the youth to either leave the community entirely, or to remain in the gang since, they will be discriminated against because of their gang membership anyways.

The third major obstacle faced by juvenile gang members wishing to leave the gang life is lack of education and vocational training. According to Decker and Van Winkle (1996), juvenile gang members often come from the poorest urban neighborhoods throughout the world. They come from areas where the schools are underfunded, and where what little employment there is, is often reserved for the adults. There are two main effects of this. First, a juvenile gang member may be led to drop out of school and to remain in the gang life because they see very few positive chances for educational and vocational achievement in their lives. Second, gang members may choose not to leave the gang because the illegal activities that the gang participates in such as drug dealing, robberies and prostitution may provide the juvenile with a means of securing financial stability for themselves and their families.

The final major issue is the lack of social support networks. According to Decker (2009), one of the main reasons that juveniles join gangs is that they are not receiving the social support that they need from the school systems, their families, or the community. The gang forms a sort of social support network. They provide companionship, and in general provide the social support (albeit negative) that the juvenile feels they are missing in their life. In terms of how this affects gang members who wish to leave, one of two things can occur. First, a gang member will remain with the gang, feeling that they would not find the social support that they feel they have within the gang anywhere else. Second, if they choose to leave the gang, they may seek out positive social support networks such as church groups, sports teams, or community groups to replace the social support network that they had in the gang.

In true many of these problems could have been prevented. For instance, if a juvenile had the educational and vocational training and the social support networks that they needed in order to succeed in life, they would not have joined the gang to begin with.  It is simply tragic that so many causes of gang violence are solvable by encouraging better schools, providing job training, developing social support networks for youth from broken homes, and encouraging tolerance and respect within the community.


Post a Comment