Gang Intervention in the United States: Legal and Extra-Legal Attempts at Peacemaking
Peacemaking: From Practice to Theory, Susan Allen Nan, Zachariah Cherian Mampilly, Andrea Bartoli, Eds., Praeger (2011)
18 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2010 Last revised: 28 Feb 2014
This chapter examines legalistic interventions in criminal justice as well as non-legal community and cultural forces including music, religion, and the work of current and ex-gang members, all of which have been tapped to help broker peace in the annals of American gang history at one time or other. Although such peacemaking efforts have proven popular, they can be counterproductive. Criminal justice intervention has proven suppressive and suspect in communities where police brutality and racial profiling are systemic. Likewise, cultural strategies can complicate peacemaking efforts and can even provide justification for violence. Music and religion have been used to justify divinely willed destruction, which seemingly contradicts the idea of “intervention.” The chapter concludes by commenting on future prospects for peacemaking through gang-intervention efforts. As a normative note of caution, this part tempers faith in intervention strategies since, the very forces propagating peace can just as easily provoke violence. Moreover, peacemaking is complicated by criminal justice policies at both federal and state levels; some of the war in gangland is due to government policies which directly contribute to increased gang membership and activity. Finally, in addition to these obstacles, the chapter asserts that intervention strategy must contend with prison gangs and how they factor into peacemaking on the streets. The role of prison gangs has been overlooked in long-term strategies for interventionist success, yet it may be that peacemaking is possible only under an arrangement that works in tandem with prison gangs.This proposition is not a capitulation to collusion with gang structures, but encapsulates the raw power of prison gangs to disrupt any interventionist strategy at will, the acknowledgment of which might lead to more effective intervention strategies based on a more holistic understanding of the gang problem.
Keywords: Gangs, Intervention, Criminal Justice, Culture, Prison Gangs, Peacemaking
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