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Article

Christian L. Bolden and Anna Q. Iliff

Gang desistance refers to the cessation of gang activities and disentanglement from gang identity. Despite the widespread myths concerning an inability to leave a gang without severe consequences, most individuals will desist from gang activities in a passive manner. Although passive exits may be common, gang desistance is both a social and a psychological phenomenon that defies an oversimplified event of sudden cessation. Studies have revealed theoretical patterns and processes that involve a wide variety of motivations and exit strategies that are not mutually exclusive from each other. Although the majority of gang-involved individuals will eventually leave the gang, the paths toward desistance are not always straightforward, sometimes resulting in ambivalent and ambiguous behaviors, such as regression back to gang involvement, and residual attributes of street lifestyles rather than abrupt cessation of gang affiliation. For concerns of outside observers, the nebulous boundaries of gangs further complicate understanding of gang exit. Motivators of desistance include push factors such as personal and vicarious experiences of violence and victimization, disillusionment with gang life, dissolution of gangs and membership attrition, and incarceration. Pull factors that motivate gang desistance are maturing or aging out, parenthood, family and prosocial support, and religion. Despite the rhetoric surrounding a violent requirement for gang exit, it is more common for an individual to cease gang activity without a violent incident. Nonviolent exits are accomplished through walking away, fading out of the gang scene, and geographic relocation. Despite the varied regional contexts, studies on gang desistance have resulted in similar findings.

Article

Haley Bullard and Shannon Reid

Much of the ongoing concern about the presence of gangs and gang members in the community has to do with the association between street gangs and violence. Decades of research on street gangs demonstrates the complexity of the violent perpetration and victimization of gang members. Although the violence attributed to gang members reached its peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s, gang members continue to be disproportionately involved in violence, both as perpetrators and victims. Understanding gang violence requires careful consideration of the overlapping and intersecting relationships between violence and gang identity, victimization, perpetration, gender, and space. Violence plays an important role in the creation and maintenance of gang identity. Research on violence participation by gang members has demonstrated that gang violence can have both symbolic and instrumental purposes, and that this violence helps the gang build a collective identity and makes violence more normative. Despite some continued misconceptions about the role of female gang members and their presence in gangs, women make up a substantial portion of gang members, and any discussion of the relationship between gangs and violence must also consider the impact of gender on violence participation and victimization. Both male and female gang members are impacted by violence, but levels of participation and types of risk can vary by gender. The complex and gendered aspects of gang violence can make the prevention, intervention, and suppression of gang violence difficult tasks for law enforcement and policymakers. There are a range of perspectives on how best to reduce gang violence. Some researchers advocate early prevention programs to keep youth from joining gangs; others focus on ways to pull youth out of gangs at critical moments, such as when they enter emergency services. Other programs and policies are aimed at reducing gang violence that is ongoing in the community. These programs, such as Operation Ceasefire and Project Safe Neighborhoods, have utilized a focused deterrence framework to curb gang violence. All of these programs are aimed at reducing the amount of violence gang members participate in an attempt to minimize the risk of future violent victimization. Research on gang violence continues to grow and includes new avenues of research. The utilization of innovative methodologies, such as social network analysis, and new areas of research, such as examining the impact of social media on gang violence, continue to advance our knowledge of gang violence and its causes, correlates, and impact.

Article

Justin Berk, Ann Ding, and Josiah Rich

Since 1976, incarcerated individuals in the United States have an established right to healthcare. This has created a national system charged with addressing the unique challenges of healthcare delivery in jails and prisons. As incarcerated populations are often excluded from large research studies, evidence-based practices must often be extrapolated from community data. There is a wide variation in care delivery across institutions nationwide. Challenges in correctional settings include a “dual loyalty” to patients’ health and facility security and the toxic effects of disciplinary practices including solitary confinement, violence, communicable disease control, an aging population, discharge planning for community reentry, and a high prevalence of substance use disorder and mental health disease. Although incarceration may offer a unique opportunity to address chronic health issues of a difficult-to-reach population, the net health effects in the United States seem to be mostly negative. Mass incarceration in the United States has led to significant health consequences at the individual, family, and community levels and has exacerbated health, socioeconomic, and racial disparities. As most incarcerated individuals return to the community, healthcare delivery during incarceration plays a substantial role in the health of communities at all levels.

Article

Allison Ann Payne and Denise C. Gottfredson

School violence, drug use, bullying, theft, and vandalism are costly and interfere with academic achievement. Beyond the cost of personal injury and property damage and loss, school crime is costly because it interferes with academic achievement and reduces the ability of schools to carry out their educational mission. Fear of victimization influences students’ attendance, such that students are more likely to avoid school activities or places, or even school itself, due to fear of attack or harm. Teachers in disorderly schools also spend a large proportion of their time coping with behavior problems rather than instructing students, resulting in lower levels of student academic engagement, academic performance, and eventually graduation rates. Student misbehavior is also one of the primary sources of teacher turnover in schools. Responses to school crime have become increasingly formal since the 1990s, with greater recourse to arrest and a turn toward juvenile courts rather than school-based discipline, furthered by zero-tolerance policies and increased hiring of uniformed officers to police the schools. The shift has been from administrative discretion to mandatory penalties and from in-school discipline to increasing use of suspension or arrest. At the same time, there has been a considerable investment in the use of surveillance cameras and metal detectors. There is no evidence to suggest that this tightening of school discipline has reduced school crime. By contrast, considerable evidence supports the effectiveness of alternative strategies designed to prevent youth crime and delinquency. Several school-based programs targeting student factors such as self-control, social competency, and attachment to school have been demonstrated in rigorous research to be effective for reducing crime and delinquency. In addition, several aspects of the way schools are organized and managed influence crime and disorder. The term “school climate” encompasses several school characteristics that influence crime and disorder. Evidence supports the importance of the discipline management of a school, including both the fairness and consistency of rules and rule enforcement as well as the clarification and communication of behavioral norms in reducing crime and disorder in schools. The social climate within the school, specifically the existence of a positive and communal climate among all members of the school community, is also important. Research demonstrates that is possible to manipulate these aspects of school climate. Rigorous research shows that efforts to increase clarity and consistency of rule enforcement and to clarify norms for behavior are effective for reducing crime and disorder. More research is needed to test a fully comprehensive intervention aimed at creating a more communal social climate, but preliminary studies suggest positive effects. Several challenges to creating more positive school climates are discussed, and possible solutions are suggested.