Gang Violence: Goals And Reasons

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A gang is defined as an association of three or more individuals whose members collectively identify them by adopting a group identity, which they use to create an atmosphere of fear or intimidation, frequently by employing one or more of the following: a common name, slogan, identifying sign, symbol, tattoo or other physical marking.

The purpose of these associations is to engage in criminal activity. They use violence or intimidation to achieve its criminal objectives. Its members engage in criminal activity or acts of juvenile delinquency that if committed by an adult would be crimes with the intent to enhance or preserve the association's power, reputation, or economic resources.

Criminal behavior surrounds us every day in our lives. There is a need to understand the source of criminal behavior, and ways in which it can be controlled. However, this is not a guarantee of eliminating crime and the attribution of crime and criminal behaviors, which attribute to various issues some of which include skin color and even the governance system.

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Furthermore, understand one of the main reasons inmates join prison gangs can best through the work of Gresham Sykes (The Society of Captives, 1958). As Sykes described, inmates experience multiple deprivations, known as “pains of imprisonment,” which explains why they resort to certain behaviors while incarcerated. These pains include five deprivations: liberty, goods and services, heterosexual relationships, autonomy, and security. Vulnerable inmates often choose to join a prison gang for security within prison walls because of the lack of, protection.

Inmates may also join as a way to increase their social status, another way to secure protection from inmates that are more aggressive. ('People in prison feel vulnerable, and turning to gangs is a way to protect oneself from other inmates.') Gangs pretty much control how the prison operates, so an inmate does not want to be left out of the system.

The deprivation of liberty, including separation from loved ones, may create the need for connectedness. Associating with a prison gang may satisfy the need forbelonging and acceptance. Sharing a common ideology is another reason inmates affiliate with a prison group. Oftentimes this means affiliating with a group those shares the same racial background, religious, and/or other ideological beliefs. Additionally, inmates associated with street gangs before incarceration and will often affiliate themselves with a prison group, which has ties to the street gang. Gangs are a source of safety in a dangerous environment and because of this inturn they regulate social and economic affairs, including the underground economy.

Prisoners have certain constitutional rights, including the right to file a complaint, protection against cruel and unusual punishment, a reasonable standard of living, health care, speech, and religion. Inmates are also protected under the Fourteenth Amendment against discriminatory treatment based on gender, race, and religion. Prison officials are not legally allowed to deny inmates basic constitutional rights; however, some denial of rights may be necessary to protect the security of the institution. For example, it is unconstitutional for prisons to forbid inmates from practicing their religious freedom. Prison gangs will often identify as a religious group in order to conduct their activities. Prisoners denied the right to “practice religion” have the right to file a lawsuit against the correctional facility Prison gangs are responsible for much of the prison misconduct and violence that occurs within facilities. Gang violence is often the result of operating illegal enterprises and the racial tension between rival gangs. The overall objective of prison officials is to control the behavior of inmates and protect staff and inmates from harm. Since gang members are often the ones controlling illegal prison activity, officials must take precautions to identify and disrupt gang activity. This is particularly challenging when gang members communicate with one another using gang codes and language that are difficult for officials to interpret. The inability to identify and suppress gang activity creates many safety and security concerns for correctional institutions.

Identifying and classifying known gang members is a challenging task for most correctional institutions. Traditionally, institutions identify an inmate as a gang member if the inmate self-reports he is gang-involved, is seen associating with other known gang members, there is evidence of gang tattoos, and there is evidence of gang activity (e.g., misconduct reports, mail correspondence indicating gang activity, and possessing gang-related literature). Many correctional institutions keep track of gang activity through classification databases. Identifying known gang members is not 100 percent accurate.

Dangers also exist such as alerting rival gang members of an individual’s gang status. This might also result in an individual actually joining a gang for protection from rival gang violence. Misidentification of non-gang members may also result in undeserving punishments (e.g., segregation and prosecution). When known gang members are properly identified, prison officials are able to develop policies to reduce and prevent gang activities. While there are obviously many negatives to prison gangs, such as the fact some require people to kill or hurt others just to prove themselves, they do help maintain at least some level of order in an overcrowded and poorly managed prison system. Overcrowding has often been associated with an increase in prison gangs and violence across the globe and it is often because prisons are overwhelmed by managing so many people. With the gangs, you at least have solid groups to manage.

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