About this project, Zaidi writes, It took me two years to make this work. I worked with a fully staffed admin team on the ground in El Salvador. On my behalf, they would write to government authorities, police delegations and public institutions across the country to grant me access to show me what was actually going on at ground level, and more importantly, how they were trying to drive out gangs and financially diminish their control over the territories. Those who visit El Salvador for a few days will see a seemingly normal place. When you start talking to people, you discover the darker side - a total breakdown of trust in society at large, and a people living out each day in absolute fear. The ubiquity of violence is devastating. This is what is so terrifying to other Salvadorans: the extent to which this violence is normalised.
The formation of gangs in Latin America, especially ones that are constituted by young adults or adolescents, has been an on-going research topic and a phenomenon that sparks many debates (Schuberth, 2016). Some argue that the gang phenomenon started out, in countries with dominant rates of internal migration, as an alternative method for survival. In parts of society where treatment towards citizens is marginalised, young adults that are predominantly men, have formed gangs due to their sense of disconnection or removal from the society (Jones and Rodgers, 2009).
Despite the risk of falling into generalisation, Jones and Rodgers (2009) proposes that commonly, there are three types of gangs that can be differentiated depending on their criminal activities. The first is a street-based gang that consists a relatively small number of people who participate in illegal activities in a small scale. The second type is more commerce driven, through drug business or territorial domination. Lastly, the third is a transnational gang that transcends the borders in Latin America, which is often linked to organised crime that may possess political goals. However transnational gangs do not form suddenly, but rather any small street gangs carry the potential to evolve into a larger network. Thus these three types represent the different stages of a particular gang with varying degrees of crimes committed. Regardless of the types, few similar characteristics can be noted: 1) Extensive use of violence; 2) consolidation of territorial control; 3) linkage towards illegal activities; and 4) ongoing conflicts with the system and rival gangs (Rodríguez et al., 2016). Considering these similar elements and through the exploration of a specific gang in depth, can perhaps provide a few insight about the phenomenon, which can aid in deriving better methods in handling the gangs. Central American gangs, widely known as maras, are significant because of their strong ties with the trafficking of drugs, arms and even humans.
These gangs, particularly the 18th street gang and Mara Salvatrucha, are generally considered to have gone through the three stages and now possess a transnational gang traits (Franco, 2008). Thus, as the mano dura policy is proven ineffective through recent Latin American history, revision and rectification of it seems imperative and the new policies should be devised through further research, backed with evidence and statistics.
Gangs are dangerous groupings aimed at committing crimes on the territory of the country. Many people are sure that when a gang is imprisoned, its activity is finished. In many cases it is so, but there are cases when gangs which were active at freedom may continue their activities in prison. Prison gangs are special gangs which operate on the territory of prisons.
Their main activities are limited by the territory, but their affect is great. These gangs protect its members and have the power to punish those who committed unethically in relation to prison norm of morality. Drug, tobacco, and alcohol are the issues controlled by the prison gangs. Such activities are illegal and should be punished. Much has already been done in order to limit the activities of gangs on the territory of prisons, still, there is much to be done in order to make corrections safe and protected from lawlessness.
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I met Juan through Valeria, whose NGO was trying to help gang members like Juan get on the straight and narrow. But it was tough going for her and her staff to make the case. As Juan had explained to me, a member who refused to do the bidding of the gangs could be killed for his failure to cooperate.
Since the 1980s, there has been a propagation of youth gangs across the states of the United States of America which have powered the publics fear and amplified their erroneous beliefs about youth gangs. A study conducted recently has shown that over one million juvenile gangs exist in the United States of America. An article Gang membership between ages 5-17 in the US, defies myriads of popular social, economic and political stereotypes about gangs (Alarcon).
The study established that typically, 2% of the youth in America belong to a gang. The frequency of joining or becoming actively involved in a gang is at the age of 14 years. An assistant professor of criminal justice David Pyrooz demystified the fallacy that the public holds true with respect to gang members being mostly men who are Black or Latino and once they joined gangs they do not have a caveat to leave the gang (Huff).
A youth gang has no formal definition, but it can be perceived to have certain distinguishable characteristics such as identifiable leadership, consistent meeting pattern, collective actions to commit illegitimate activities, recognizable symbols and insignias, a geographical territory and a unique gang name. A survey of a sample of youth from urban regions indicates that 14-30% of juveniles join gangs at some point in their lives.
In their research, Gibbons, perceive pool and push factors to be the impetuous driving youths to join gangs. The pull factors represent the attractiveness of a gang to juveniles and how it can enhance their prestige and status among their peers. Another pill factor of joining gangs by juvenile sis the potential of engaging in exciting activities such as peddling drugs and making money. Based on these factors many juveniles rationalize the decision to join a gang. Push factors comprise of cultural, economic and social tendencies that compel and entice adolescents in the direction of gangs.
The community in which the juveniles live in may define the potential of adolescents to join gangs. A community which has a heavy presence of gangs in the neighborhood experiences a high number of juveniles joining the gangs. This degenerates when the said community is socially disorganized, wallowing in abject poverty and experiences occasional residential mobility. The juveniles in these communities are vulnerable to joining gangs to seek a solution to their social adjustment problems. Some are coerced and intensively recruited to join the gangs and because of their social status they usually have no choice (OBrien).
Communities identifiable by the lack of economic and social opportunities are fertile grounds for juveniles to join gangs. These communities often have cultural tendencies and norms that support gang behavior. Eventually, juveniles are virtually born into youth gangs as a result of these cultural norms sympathizing with the gangs and perhaps their parents earlier involvement with gang activities. A community like this lacks social capital to impact the moral standings to their kids and ease persistent conflicts with institutions that offer social control. Juveniles in these communities are brought up devoid of any fiber of morality and a constant penchant to break the law making them easy targets of being conscripted into youth gangs.
The stability of a community and its stand on moral, social and religious beliefs will decide whether the juveniles will join gangs or not. Communities that work closely with the police administration and religious organizations to create a moral and social standpoints that foster a socially acceptable moral upbringing of its young ones will experience a low incidence of gang recruitment. However, in America the abundance spread of communities that have no respect for morality that have accepted the existence of illegal firearms in their neighborhoods that tolerate high crime by juveniles and are indifferent to the availability and peddling of drugs in their vicinity has prompted the proliferation of youth into gangs (Short Jr.).
Juveniles in America are joining gangs because if the broken system of family across the country. Many families are disorganized with broken homes and parents who abuse drugs and alcohol on excess. Their children feel marginalized and are prone to join gangs to have a sense of social belonging. Violence within families including incest and troubled families have slowly driven juveniles manacles of youth gangs to mask their shame and emotional disorientation.
There is a noted increase in juveniles joining gangs in families of low social, economic status and those devoid of parental role models. The economic status of these families will not ensure that the kids are provided with the necessary commodities such as food and clothing. Therefore, these kids join gangs and start committing petty crimes to obtain these necessities. The lack of parental guidance to guide them on the dangers of joining a gang further worsens the situation.
The increased numbers of gangs and members in these gangs can be attributed to increased family management problems with parents who have violent attitudes, families that are experiencing extreme economic deprivation and languish in abject poverty together with sibling antisocial tendencies. These factors are responsible for pushing adolescents into gangs to promote their social and economic wellbeing. Such families deny their young kids any tangible form of social relationship that provides them with the pride of a sense of identity. Therefore, the young adolescents become exposed, defenseless and helpless when the gangs come calling with their promise of strongly bound relationships, friendship, and comradeship that they so dearly crave (Catalano and Hawkins). 2b1af7f3a8