Gangs are groups of people who come together with an aim of committing socially unacceptable routines. Young people and adolescents usually enroll in Hispanic gangs in the US. This is due to the vulnerability that this group is susceptible to. The vulnerability of the group is increased by the social factors like dysfunctional families. The adolescents are also vulnerable because of lack of a social identity and lack of the proper role models. Joining the gangs leaves the boys very psychologically affected.
They feel alienated by the society. Many of them experience nightmares due to the heinous activities of killing and torturing people. The government has ceased form the forceful imprisonment of the gang members. Instead, it has emphasized on addressing the major issues that lure the youths into the gangs. This is aimed at addressing the cause to limit the youths enrolling into the gangs. Organizations like American Coalition for Prevention of Violence (IACPV) and USAID work hand in hand to educate the society how to help the gang members to become constructive members of the society. The government also joins towards the same initiative to ensure the youths are educated and employed. The immigration rules at the borders have also been emphasized to reduce illegal immigrants who mainly engage in gang activities.
The law enforcement societies define gangs as the groups that are geared together continuously to perform behaviors of anti social nature. The behavior which the gang engages in is usually termed as delinquent and antisocial. The delinquent behavior is considered to be a response to violence that exists in the structure of the larger society. The government statistics reveal that one sixth of the Latino citizens are gang members. In some areas, 40% of Latino population is involved in gang activities. More than 40 % of the Hispanic gangs’ members are under 18years of age. This paper addresses the Hispanic gangs and the conflict resolution put in practice to reduce them. It also addresses how the young boys are recruited in the gangs. Other issues discussed are the psychological effects that the youth go through while joining the gangs.
Increased Underage Enrolment in Gangs
Underage children have continually joined gangs because of the decreased supervision. The family ties that stretch continually have also caused this. Statistics reveal that students in middle school are the ones who are recruited most into these gangs (Fink, 2010). The gangs recruit underage people who are struggling in search of themselves (McMains & Wayman, 2010). These underage people normally have a poor self-image and are angry most times. The role models of these students are normally people who have served long sentences in prison. Students involved in gangs also perform poorly in their schoolwork and have poor interpersonal skills (Safty, 2003). This is especially with their peers in school where they have no stable relationships. In most cases, these students have a history of drug use in their families, and, thus, they are prone to the use of drugs. The kids get no attention from their parents, and they are poverty-stricken (Mallec, 2008).
The initiation process that they go through usually takes from two weeks up to two months. This period is normally known as the courtship process and it is ranges from being highly seductive to being highly innocent. During courtship, the recruit is taught to behave like the rest of the gang members. This is normally through the dressing style and the walking style teachings. The members are also taught how to be separated from the the rest of society (Fink, 2010). This is mainly in their gait and hairstyle and their mentality. They are also taught to develop a fear and an absolute respect for the gang. They are then tested for their loyalty to the gangs to ensure that they will not let out the secrets of the gang (Mallec, 2008). The members are also given nicknames that are used to identify them in their gangs. Full induction of the initiated youths is normally done using such qualities like the conviction of the members. Their courage and strength is also used to test their viability to the gangs, the test of loyalty, however, remains the most crucial part of the initiation and induction process. The event of induction is then followed by a celebration in which the new member is given drugs and tattooed (McMains & Wayman, 2010).
The young boys are chosen because they are immature and they can murder without much guilt as compared to older boys. They are also chosen due to their identity crises. These boys are in the quest of looking for somewhere they can belong. Adolescents are in the process of self-search, and each wants to find a place where they can be recognized (Roy, 2003). Furthermore, the target is those with low self-esteem, as they have no goals or believes. These boys are also extremely vulnerable, and they are easy to pull into the gangs to perform immoral and illegal activities (Paul, 1997).
The 18th street gang is a Hispanic gang that is based in California. It has also extended its operations to other states like Colorado and New Mexico. It also has troops in Texas, Iowa, Georgia, and other American States (Fink, 2010). It is normally called the children’s army due to the high number of underage people that have membership. The members are told that if they ever leave the gang they will be killed. They are also threatened that all the members of their families will be killed, which forces them to be loyal to the group. It is multiracial in composition, although it was initially Hispanic. They market drugs like cocaine, rock, tar heroin, and marijuana among others. The members are also involved in other criminal activities like rape, murder, carjacking, and auto theft. They also engage in illegal acts like drug trafficking and carjacking. These members also collect taxes form businesses illegally (McMains & Wayman, 2010). Failure to pay tax to this group leads to the murdering of the defiant business people. The dress code of this group is usually black pants and white t-shirts. They also sometimes wear sportswear from professional teams. They also use graffiti to announce their presence. They are known to be ruthlessly violent, and, most times, carry arsenal weapons. They have a reputation for using firearms in most of their contacts (Fink, 2010).
The government has put in place the immigration law enforcement that tries to address the gang violence right from its roots. The government initially used the social control mechanisms to curb the gang activities. The government also traditionally used physical coercion as a means of stopping the gang activities. This was mainly done by use of anti gang laws that were exceedingly tough. However, these were not healing the infection that under laid joining these gangs. There was, thus, no long-term solution to the infectious gangs.
The question which the law enforcement has delved in is why Latinos continuously join these gangs. Answering this question is viewed by the law enforcement society as a way of curbing the behavior. Addressing the cause as to why the youths engage in the gangs helps the law enforcement societies to come up with agendas that help to stop others from joining.
The research by the agencies reveals that 60 % of the Latino gang members are above 18 years of age. The 40% of their members are the adolescents and kids who are as young as ten years of age. The psychological issues that are faced by Latino adolescents as they join the gangs are key among the subjects studied by the researchers. The understandings of these psychological issues aids the agencies understand Latino Gang formation and the violent culture they adapt (Fink, 2010).
The identity formation develops from childhood and continues throughout one’s life. The development of identity is affected by the internal development in individuals, as well as the social circumstances that surround them, as described by social and physiological findings. This period is viewed as particularly critical for adolescents, as it is when they draw a line differentiating them and other people. At this stage, the adolescents develop their identity. The adolescent must identify his or her personal goals, beliefs, roles and values. The research indicated that the adolescents who join the gangs find that they are in an unstable environment. They are also surrounded by a physiological and social reality that is not structured. This causes the youths to have a strong desire for social bonding by forming a clique.
The clique feels as an in-group or clique serves to give the boys an ability to socialize and feel at home. The research indicates that the Latino adolescents who have grown up in the United States grow in a place where they are termed as outsiders. Thus, they often find themselves desiring to find an identity in the social setting that is somewhat unstable for them. The social cultural disconnection that exists causes the Latino youths to be in a context that is culturally challenging. The cultural disconnection also occurs because they are expected to behave in the traditional Latino way and still act in the culture of the American setting. This serves to disconnect them from culture, and at the end of the day, the Latino youths are lost. The youths in this stage tend to look for a group which can give them familiarity, as well as sense of belonging. They also seek for power and respect, which makes them feel them stronger. The gangs are, thus, a choice that the youths mark as an outlet of depression and stress that result from the void (Fink, 2010).
The youths in this stage take the gang as a religion that they must hold on to ardently. They slowly disconnect from other factions of their lives as these gangs act as their families. They, in turn, marginalize themselves from their various schools, as they feel they do not fit in. Instead, they spend more and more time with the gangs where they normally get a sense of belonging. The final acceptance into the gangs is through concrete rituals and violent acts that give the youth the affirmation of belonging to a group. The gang member identity serves to make the youths socially and emotionally satisfied. They then begin to do drugs and get the tattoos, as well as change the dress code. Other notable characteristics include engagement in violent behavior, as well as criminal activities. They find their identity in violent activities as this now turns to be their new identity. The new identity tends to erode the former dilapidated Hispanic youths’ identity. Leaving the gangs is extremely difficult for youth and, at most times, the gangs become their full time occupation.
Engaging in these activities by the Latino youth is also explained by the conflict theory of John Burton (McMains & Wayman, 2010). In this theory, the development of an individual is largely defined by an identity. The identity gives any particular being a sense of wholeness. However, identity is tied to other needs of the human being. These needs include respect, freedom, love, social security self esteem and self-actualization. The needs also include connectedness, meaning, rationality stimulation, and distributive justice. Failure to meet these needs leads the human being’s identity to suffer (McMains & Wayman, 2010). The economic disparity that is evident in the Latino youth contributes to their unmet needs too (Fink, 2010). The law enforcement agencies report that most of the members of the gangs are extremely poor and illiterate. Lack of skills and economic status makes them find an identity in the gangs. The need occurs as the youth are in a context where the American dream is emphasized. The American dream insinuates that there are equal chances for all to be rich and for all to prosper.
The Latino youths, however, find themselves in a cocoon where they are made believe they cannot make it. They, thus, involve in conflict with others, who are prospering while they struggle to make ends meet. They slowly drift into a hole where they believe they will never make it. So they vent up their anger and insecurities in the gangs where they find their identity. This is attributed to the fact that they feel ashamed of themselves, and their lives lack meaning, because they are excluded from the society.
Cultural assimilation also plays an enormous role towards the joining of these gangs by the Latino youths. This results because they do not fit in their schools and they are not accepted. The lack of remedial sessions in their public schools as they are marginalized in education and the social cultural structures makes the dropout rates among the Latino students high.
The kids also lack supervision in their homes. Given the economic status of the Latinos, the parents work two or three jobs to make ends meet. The parents as such have no time to counsel their kids or to know what they do after school. This gives the youth time to attend the gang activities, as they are unsupervised after school. The young kids also lack recreational alternatives, and, thus, they easily engage in uncomely activities like gang involvement.
The Latino youths suffer more psychologically eventually than they did before they joined the groups. This results from the fact that once the society identifies one is in the gang, he is treated as an outcast within those societies. Such people are stigmatized, and they lack connection within the society (Fisher & Perez, 1998). This is extremely ironical as the youths join the gangs in search of acceptance. When they get this ironic result, they tend to draw deeper into self-destructive mechanisms like the illegal activities. This is viewed as a negative expectation fulfillment among the Latino youths. The youths then develop a delinquent achievement orientation. This antisocial behavior is rewarded among the youth. They are motivated by the gain of the surrogate family provided by the gang. This satisfies both their emotional and psychological needs.
The youths also engage in gang activities due to the popularization of delinquent behaviors via the media, mainly in music, TV programs, and video games. The gangs also draw the youth to join them by using the phrases and images that were popular in the Latino culture. An example is La Raza, which was the celebration of the Mexican culture. Now a gang name makes the youth to be easily drawn to the gangs (Fisher & Perez, 1998).
The individual gang members go through sessions of trauma due to their involvement in the delinquent activities. Trauma also results due to the initiation process where one is put through purely violent tests (Levin, 2009). This acts to affect the psychology of the victims. The trauma due to the gang activities is especially deep if there wer acts of murdering. The youths involved confess that sometimes they get substantial instances of nightmares with bloody scenes. Many times, they kill victims who beg them for mercy. Other victims utter their final words that the gang members will pay for their actions (Fisher & Perez, 1998). This makes the youths to be highly tormented in their daily lives (McMains & Wayman, 2010). They are constantly stressed out due to much pressure that is placed on them by their duties. The pressure is further heightened by the fear that they will be put under bar. They are constantly running and hiding from the authority. In some instances, they are put behind bars and sentenced to severe punishments. This works to heighten their stress and trauma.
The desire to leave the gang also traumatizes some young people (Reid & Attwooll, 2007). They want to leave, but other gang members threaten them with death. Due to fear of death, they are confined within these gangs. They are also threatened that their family members will be killed and being young boys, they are forced to stay to protect their families (Fisher & Perez, 1998). The results are that the boys and youths are constantly in fear. They also have high instances of moodiness. Many get very easily irritable while others fall into depression. In some instances, they commit suicide due to the intense pressure that they face on a daily basis.
The solution would be to get these youths out of the shame that easily eats them away. The shame results from marginalization that the Hispanic community faces (Roy, 2003).The gang members should be provided with means of maturing themselves. These include such factors as educating them and giving them employment opportunities (Levin, 2009); these lead to the rise of the self-esteem of these youths. They also find meaning in life and an identity that serves to lift them away from the gang activities. The society should also be educated of being non-discriminative towards this youth. This results from the fact that they engage in gang activities to seek for recognition and acceptance.
The programs that are set in place to prevent the delinquent behavior mainly decrease the economic disparity gap in the Latino families. The Latino families’ struggle economically, making them have a little time to stay together. The parents do not have sufficient time for their kids, as the primary desire is to fulfill the family needs. Addressing this gap would have solved one of the major contributions to the youth’s delinquent behaviors (Fisher & Perez, 1998). The other solution is educational programs by community organizations that promote peace. The promotion of a culture of peace within a violent culture will help to draw away the youths from their delinquent activities. It will further help those that are affected negatively by the delinquent behaviors. The culture of peace links the society, the government, and the delinquent families in a human development.
The local authorities and youths work together to identify the strengths of the gang. These are then natured to ensure they use their strength to achieve a larger goal (Fisher & Perez, 1998). These goals can be used to benefit the community other than to cause destruction. The youths are also put under educational systems where they are taught the ill effects of taking drugs. They are also taught the damaging effects of their delinquent behaviors like murdering people; this works to help the youths not to engage in delinquent activities. They are then given alternative sources of income so as not to fall back into the same gang activities. Rehabilitation programs are also ran to help those that are largely affected (Fisher & Perez, 1998).
The law enforcement efforts also ensure that communities involve the youths and give them a sense of respect an inclusion. These activities are geared towards building the identity of these youths. It gives them a feeling of belonging within the community and it transforms the destructive behavior by the youths (Levin, 2009). The law enforcement agencies also offer counseling sessions for the youths to draw them out of the gangs. They are given time to air their grievances and experiences within the gangs. This serves as a means of relieving them from their tension (McMains & Wayman, 2010).
They are also allowed to vent out their frustrations and offered protection from the gangs that would otherwise try to kill them. The youths are also given support in their journey of recovery love time and guidance. Patience is also essential as rehabilitation may take years according to the years that the youth spent in the gangs. The culture of peace promotion helps to rebuild an infrastructure that aids communities to move from the cycles of violence. This gives them a culture of respect and inclusion, where they are considered as normal human beings.
Several organizations are focused on ending the gang activities. These include such organizations like the USAID (Fisher & Perez, 1998). It worked with Justice Department in El Salvador to create an educative program. A similar program is also underway in Guatemala. The organizations set these programs as a means of promoting judicial reform and as a means of promoting education among the youth (Reid & Attwooll, 2007). They also established a model gang home where all the former members of gangs are given education and employment opportunities. Another organization that takes part in this is the Inter American Coalition for Prevention of Violence (IACPV). This organization helps in violence prevention at the local level and the national level. The organization also addresses social and economic needs that are at the roots of the gang activities. The government also reserves money that is geared towards ensuring the rehabilitation of the youths in gangs is done.
More than this, there are programs that make the children aware of the prices that it will cost them to join a gang. This ensures that children are taught of the importance of never joining gangs. These include letting them know of the jail possibility and the fact that they will never get jobs due to criminal records (Fisher & Perez, 1998).
Other programs that have been set in place include Head Start, which is an educative program for preschool children that are disadvantaged and marginalized. The government has also put in place programs that have learning strategies that are individualized. These programs explore the cultural and historic realities. These programs also study the heritage of the youths to ensure that the school relates with their homes. This cites the earlier disparity between the two that left the youths confused.
Illegal migrants have also received status of citizenship as long as they work in the US. Many illegal immigrants enter the United States in search of Amnesty. The Mexican Passports are also legal in some parts of America. This makes it easy for Mexicans to operate in the nation. The U.S customs and Border Protection serves to apprehend any individual who tries to cross the border. There are also separation barriers to ensure only legal migration works.
Conclusively, addressing the cause of the gang activities has proved to be effective as opposed to the former harsh treatment that the youths were subjected to initially. The harsh treatment only tended to draw the Hispanic youths more into their repulsive gang activities. The warm and accommodative measures, however, help them to feel supported and, thus, they change easily. The establishment of education that assimilates the Hispanic culture also serves to help them to feel more accommodated. If the programs employed by the government and other institutions are put in place, the gangs might eventually fade out.