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NCJ Number: 159943 Find in a Library
Title: Tough Laws Should Not Target Gangs (From Gangs: Opposing Viewpoints, P 112-119, 1996, David Bender and Bruno Leone, eds. - - See NCJ-159928)
Author(s): J J Mayer
Date Published: 1996
Page Count: 8
Sponsoring Agency: Greenhaven Press
Farmington Hills, MI 48333-9187
Sale Source: Greenhaven Press
P.O. Box 9187
Farmington Hills, MI 48333-9187
United States of America
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A hard-line strategy against gangs is an incorrect and counterproductive approach, particularly because many youth may be unjustly punished by tough sanctions such as imprisonment.
Abstract: The last two decades have witnessed unprecedented youth violence, and some argue that a prominent cause of this violence is a dramatic expansion in the number and power of youth street gangs. Popular interest in gangs generally focuses on their elimination, and gangs are routinely portrayed as an alien presence in otherwise stable communities. For most people, gangs represent a breakdown in moral order, an evil in which racial or ethnic ties have been perverted for criminal gain. Due to public concern over gangs, Federal, State, and local governments have developed military-style responses. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the goal is to "take back the streets and liberate our neighborhoods from the tyranny of fear." Military-style responses to gangs, however, are misguided and are likely to aggravate rather than prevent youth violence. Criminal liability should be ascribed according to traditional legal principles and not according to gangs as social entities. Further, the problem of youth crime cannot be solved exclusively by law enforcement attempts to destroy youth gangs. Addressing the gang problem ultimately entails devising a strategy to identify and prosecute gang members, and a return to the principle of individual moral responsibility is necessary. When all members of a social group are treated as presumptively culpable, young people will have no reason not to admire those who succeed within that framework. Moral messages have a role in structuring policies affecting juvenile offenders, especially since public concern over gangs arises from a perceived moral breakdown in inner cities. The author advocates laws that target individual criminals but that disregard possible gang connections.
Main Term(s): Juvenile/Youth Gangs
Index Term(s): Crime Causes; Criminal responsibility; Gang Prevention; Juvenile delinquency prevention; Social conditions; Urban criminality; Violence causes; Violence prevention; Violent juvenile offenders
Note: Opposing Viewpoints Series
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