Leaving the Gang A Critical Analysis

In looking at how psychologists can assist gang members in the process of leaving the gang there is two main problems that must be addressed. First, is how does one provide the gang member with a social support network that will replace what they feel they are being offered by the gang. Second, there is the problem of how to get gang members to leave the gang when they are faced by obstacles from all sides such as threats of violence from the gang, and prejudice once they have left the gang.

According to Decker (2009), one of the main problems that gang members face when leaving the gang is that they no longer have the social support network offered by the gang. In some cases they must leave behind, friends, family and their hometown in order to start a new life elsewhere. This can be difficult for former gang members who often, do not have the psychological, social, or educational resources to deal with life outside of the gang. Many have little education or vocational training, and former gang members also may have little in terms of impulse control, anger management skills, coping skills or social support networks outside of the gang.

There is no single solution to the problem of replacing the social support network that the gang members find in the gangs. The main goal of the psychologist should be to teach former gang members how to deal with stress, and anger issues in a positive manner. Secondary goals should include assisting the former gang member in finding a social support network to replace the gang and helping them to obtain educational and vocational training.

According to Spergel (2007), a second problem that many gang members face is the threat of violence if they attempt to leave the gang, and the bias they face if they manage to leave the gang successfully. In many cases the threats of violence are over-exaggerated by the media and by gang leaders who are looking to keep gang members in the gang. Gang members may also fear social rejection by friends and family if they leave. Finally, gang members may face bias and discrimination from society even after leaving the gang because, they will often be judged based on the presence of gang related tattoos and on their past criminal history and gang association rather than on the fact, that they are attempting to make a positive change in their lives.

Again there are no easy solutions for this problem. Psychologists can only hope to help gang members who wish to leave to confront the fear that fellow gang members will respond to their desire to leave with violence, and can only help gang members to deal with the inevitable bias that they will face as former gang members. This is part of the risk they take both in joining a gang, and in leaving the gang. The most a psychologist can hope to do in this case is to help a former gang member to develop the coping, stress management, and anger management skills that will help them to deal with and overcome the biases that they will face from society.

There is hope that these problems can be resolved. Psychologists must remember they are not alone in helping former gang members to deal with the issues they face on leaving the gang. Law enforcement officials, school officials and community members also have a great deal vested in reducing the level of gang violence in a community. Therefore, the psychologist should be working hand in hand with these groups to help gang members to leave the gang successfully.


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