Two Chicago men who in past years controlled the city’s drug business as leaders of the Vice Lords gang now have helped bring chaos in an elementary school to a halt, says the Chicago Tribune. The men have served repeated stints in prison on charges ranging from drug distribution to unlawful possession of a weapon. They matter-of-factly discuss the details of their rise from street-corner hustlers to high-ranking bosses.
Both say they started removing themselves from lives of crime four years ago, after seeing too many friends killed or incarcerated and recognizing that their actions helped destroy the neighborhood they grew up in. Both are in their mid-30s, an age range at which experts agree many gang members – often surprised to be either alive or not in prison – turn their lives around. Since they began working with kids at the school and intervening in disputes late last spring, suspensions have dropped from 46 in the 2008-09 school year to 13 thus far in 2009-10. “They changed the whole culture around the school,” said the principal. “I don’t have boys in here getting handcuffed and dragged out. That was happening before. Now it’s not.”