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Gang membership in prison and community contexts

Gang membership in prison and community contexts

This e-book on gangs takes a multi-disciplinary perspective to bring together some of the most recent and relevant topics in the area. As such, it includes current cutting-edge research and multi-method approaches to highlight key issues relevant to examining and responding to gangs. Chapters include empirical research alongside meta-analytical and theoretical perspectives. Topics covered include gang organization in prison, gang members as victims, criminal justice responses to gangs, characteristics of gang-involved females, a meta-analytical examination of gang prevention programs and a review of research examining gangs and mental health.

The first two chapters examine gangs in criminal justice contexts. Scott and Maxson examine institutional gang organizational characteristics and violence in Californian juvenile justice facilities. Using interviews, official records, and staff perceptions, the authors identify inconsistent reporting of gang organisation and no association between perceived level of gang organisation and violence. Conclusions are that although institutional gangs are less organised, they share more in common with street gangs than they do with prison gangs and the authors note the importance of examining gangs in context. In the second chapter Valasik, Reid and Phillips examine how disbandment of a Los Angeles police specialized gang unit impacts intelligence gathering and gang arrests. Findings show that dismantling a gang unit had negative repercussions for intelligence gathering and arrests. A novel finding is the effect of disbanding the gang unit on non-gang units’ gang-related intelligence but not gang arrests. Conclusions are that disbanding gang units have negative impacts on gang enforcement and are important to effectively tackle gangs.

The next two chapters consider gang membership and victimisation. Kubik, Dochery, Boxer, Veysey and Osternamm examine gang member victimization in street and school contexts. Findings show that compared to non-gang youth gang youth are victimized more frequently, which then links to gang members’ problematic behavior. The authors highlight the importance of program efforts to address gang members’ victimization as well as the problems they cause. In the fourth chapter Alleyne and Pritchard compare gang and non-gang girls’ psychological and behavioral characteristics. Findings show gang-involved girls are older, more likely to have British born parents, and are more delinquent, more sexually active and hold more anti-authority attitudes. Importantly, the authors identify that gang girls experience more coercive sexual contact and call for more attention to the victim-offender overlap in gang girls

The final chapters consider existing literature. Wong, Gravel, Bouchard, Descormiers and Morselli report a meta-analysis of gang prevention programs. Findings suggest that prevention programs are effective but one study drives this effect. The authors conclude that evidence on gang prevention programs is too weak for conclusions and recommend regular program evaluations and modifications, and solid theoretical bases for program development. In the final chapter, Beresford and Wood review links between gang membership and adverse mental health. They consider that adverse mental health may stem from or cause, gang membership. They conclude that considering gang members as victims as well as perpetrators is vital and that longitudinal methods need to establish the cause/effect link between gang membership and mental health.

It is hoped that this collection of work will be productive by encouraging future research directions into gang membership in diverse areas and I would like to thank the experts who have written these engaging chapters for this e-book.


CRASH and burn: abatement of a specialised gang unit,Examining the moderating role of gang involvement on the context and impact of victimization,Gang organization and violence in youth correctional facilities,Patients or perpetrators? The effects of trauma exposure on gang members’ mental health: a review of the literature,Promises kept? A meta-analysis of gang membership prevention programs,Psychological and behavioral characteristics differentiating gang and non-gang girls in the UK

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