Usually when the topic of gangs arises, the discussion includes the fact that these groups are problematic and a danger to society. While this is true, there is a shift toward understanding gangs on a deeper level, and develop ways to intervene and suppress gang activity. Given the opportunity to speak with a probation officer, I was able to obtain a better understanding of gangs and the surrounding community.
A few key points I took from my interview were gangs can be more complex and are run with great intelligence, and those who are in gangs can come from many different backgrounds. Once the importance of understanding gang culture becomes established, communities can come together to implement programs and strategies to start diminishing the gang violence that surrounds them. I decided to focus my interview on my criminal justice practitioner’s background in relation to gangs, his knowledge on gangs, and ways community involvement help to diminish gang activity.
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Probation Officer Background In order to get a better understanding of gangs, I contacted Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction Probation Officer Steven Davis for an interview. I wanted to get a better understanding of his background and his experience with gangs. Officer Davis is from Harvey, Illinois, moved to Minnesota to attend Concordia college, and interned with Hennepin County adult probation. This is where he decided to take a turn toward juvenile probation. Davis stated, There is a lot of gray areas when it comes to determining what is best for juveniles versus adults.
With adults, it is either you go to jail or prison. When it comes to juveniles, especially the ones with the Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction, there is a sentence hanging over their heads. But this encourages more low risk behaviors since this will follow them until they are twenty-one years old. I circled back to where Officer Davis grew up and his experience with gangs in Illinois. He told me he had a few friends that were in gangs, which quickly led Davis to separate himself from those friends. I asked him how he was able to overcome the peer pressure from his friends to join gangs, and he told me he had outlets such as sports, and he did not want to disappoint his mom. This answer made me think back to Thrasher’s theory on the risks for gang involvement.
Unlike Davis, a lot of juveniles come from poor environments and have inadequate forms of recreation, which lead them to make poor decisions and enter gangs in order to receive the love, attention, and validation they were lacking.
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