Anti-gang legislation and police crackdowns are failing so badly that they strengthen criminal organizations and make U.S. cities more dangerous, asserts a Justice Policy Institute study reported by the Associated Press. Mass arrests, stiff prison sentences often served with other gang members, and other strategies that focus on law enforcement rather than intervention actually strengthen gang ties and further marginalize angry young men, says the institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank that advocates alternatives to incarceration.
“We’re talking about 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds whose involvement in gangs is likely to be ephemeral unless they are pulled off the street and put in prison, where they will come out with much stronger gang allegiances,” said Judith Greene, co-author of “Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies.” The report is based on interviews and analysis of hundreds of pages of previously published statistics and reports. Though it is accurate, the ideas raised in it are not new, said Arthur Lurigio, a psychologist and criminal justice professor at Loyola University of Chicago. Lurigio, other academics, and gang intervention workers have echoed elements of the report that say gangs need to be viewed as a symptom of other problems in poor communities, such as violence, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and unemployment.