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Gangs and Restorative Justice

Gangs pose a special challenge to communities and to law enforcement because of the power they are able to exert over the lives of people within their communities. Can restorative processes work when dealing with individuals from violent, tight-knit organizations? These articles discuss that issue.

The Interrupters: A story of restorative justice
from the article by Josh Larsen on Capital Commentary: The interrupters program is based on the work of epidemiologist Gary Slutkin, who compares the spread of violence to the spread of infectious diseases. The interrupters try to stop the infection at its fountainhead, which is where Matthews lives—at the source.
Lockhart, Robin. Newham Restorative Justice Network.
Network (NRJN) works with young people aged 13 – 19 who have been affected by conflict and crime from our purpose built youth club “The Mix” in Plaistow (1a Cumberland Rd, E13 8LH). The project seeks to address issues surrounding guns, gangs, knives & street crime (& related crimes) among young people in the borough. It works with offenders, as well as with victims (who often go on to become offenders) to reduce offending subsequent recidivism. (excerpt)
Transformational Relationships in Youth Work: The Case of Roca
At Roca, a system is emerging that enables frontline youth workers, their supervisors, the organization’s managers and young people to communicate about the process of transformation in terms that everyone understands.
Justicia Juvenil Restaurativa in Peru
This 14 minute video highlights the Justicia Juvenil Restaurativa project in Lima, Peru. The project started in 2005 as a partnership between the foundation Terre des Hommes and the Peruvian NGO, Asociación Encuentros Casa de la Juventud. In the video, ex-offenders, social workers, police officers, judges, and prosecutors explain the programme and the various services offered.
Maggie Aronoff on BC gang activity wilting under police heat
The efforts of our police have been tremendous. Here in Abbotsford, community services will be launching a partnership with the school district, the police and [...]
more articles
Restorative Justice The New Hope for Revitalizing Community By Pip Cornall
BC gang activity wilting under police heat
from the article by Robert Freeman in the Chilliwak Progress: Gang activity in B.C. has wilted under the heat of Lower Mainland police forces, including the Chilliwack RCMP, says UFV criminologist Darryl Plecas. While the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit has put a “significant dent” in gang leadership, according to CFSEU spokesman Sgt. Bill Whelan, Plecas said “proactive” policing by municipal police forces like those in Chilliwack, Abbotsford and West Vancouver has given new recruits second thoughts about the gang lifestyle.
Mediating criminal violence: Lessons from the gang truce in El Salvador
from the research report by Teresa Whitfield: During the 1980s El Salvador suffered a bitterly contested civil war. Negotiations mediated by the United Nations concluded in a peace agreement in 1992 and set the course for the, largely smooth, assimilation of former guerrillas in the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) into Salvadoran political life. Post-war, violence perpetrated by illegal armed groups escalated as a result of the involvement of gangs and a range of other criminal actors, in parallel to similar crises of security in Guatemala and Honduras. Honduras and El Salvador were subsequently placed first and second in the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime’s global index of homicide with 92 and 69 homicides per 100,000 respectively in 2011. In a shift from previous policies which had emphasized the robust suppression of violent crime, in March 2012 facilitators answerable to the Salvadoran government mediated a controversial truce between the country’s two main gangs. The truce brought about a dramatic reduction in the country’s homicide rate whilst raising multiple questions about the risks and benefits of direct engagement with criminal actors.
Schärf, Wilfred. "Re-integrating Militarised Youths (Street gangs and self-defence units) into the Mainstream in South Africa: From Hunters to Game-keepers?"
In this 1997 paper, Schärf details the history of gang activity and youth militarization in South Africa. He also explains how the new democracy and opening to ideas provide an opportunity for the government and civil society to help these young people become positive and productive members of society. He first suggests the use of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission format to air the crimes committed by gangs, to seek understanding and apology, and to open spaces in society for gang members to change. Schärf also suggests the use of restorative justice processes to aid with this demilitarization of youth. He suggests the adoption of Family Group Conferences and Sentencing circles as methods of re-integrating the youth. He goes a step further by suggesting that the Family Group Conferences become a type of support group with periodic meetings to encourage positive activity on the part of the youth. In essence, Schärf calls for experiments testing the restorative process that have aided his country thus far.
Pinnock, Don. Rites of Passage: Creating Alternative Rituals for Gang Members
In dealing with gang violence, Pinnock argues that tough on crime initiatives do not have the desired effect. He suggests that government use the strength of gangs to create a new path for the offenders. By undergoing supervised and positive rites of passage, the gang members are able to fill the need to be recognized as an adult and earn respect. The programs that Pinnock describes include skills training, restitution, accountability, and other community building aspects.
Becker, Harold K. New Wine in Old Bottles: The Time Has Come for Therapeutic Community Policing for Youth
Data collection was conducted during 1997-98 and was of a non-experimental descriptive design. Data were obtained by a series of surveys and personal interviews with police and youths in gang and non-gang neighborhoods in four California counties. A total of 151 youths were surveyed and separated into two categories: youths living in gang neighborhoods (GNs) and youths living in non-gang neighborhoods (NGNs). The youths in GNs had approximately two times the amount of alcohol and drug usage and were more negatively influenced by aggressive police behavior (being arrested); gangs (gang membership, gang sign language, tattoos, and wearing gang attire); fear of crime (the carrying of weapons for self-protection); and the potential for physical conflict between youths and the police. Police were overly optimistic about the influence of community policing on youths, and they showed a lack of understanding of at-risk youths and how to deal with them in positive ways. The community policing programs made no distinction between the levels of risk for youths. If the police are to be successful in preventing youth crime, there must be greater positive interaction between police and youth, and the police must achieve a more accurate assessment of youth problems. There must also be a decrease in aggressive police behavior toward youth. It is necessary to move beyond the current community policing concept to a therapeutic community policing model that relies on open communication, participation, and trust to prevent at-risk behavior by youths.
van Gelder, Sarah. Reclaiming kids. An interview with John Calhoun
In this article Sarah van Gelder interviews John Calhoun – executive director of the National Crime Prevention Council, and founder and former director of the Justice Resource Institute – to talk about ways to engage young people and to rebuild communities to prevent crime. Their discussion ranges over reasons for youths being at risk, contemporary social conditions affecting young people, needs that youths are trying to meet through drugs and gangs, youths getting involved in their communities, and the need for adults to be involved in the lives of young people.
Boyes-Watson, Carolyn. Discovering Their Voice: Empowering Young People Through Circles
Peacemaking circles are a method of communication and problem solving derived from aboriginal and native traditions. This summary highlights how circles are used at Roca—a multicultural, youth, family, and community development organization—to open up new possibilities for empowerment of young people through discovering their own voice. (author's abstract)
Boyes-Watson, Carolyn. Come Together: Building Community Through Circles
Peacemaking circles are a method of communication and problem solving derived from aboriginal and native traditions. This summary highlights how circles are used at Roca - a multi-cultural, youth, family and community development organization - to strengthen the bonds of community. (author's abstract)
Boyes-Watson, Carolyn. Circle of Accountability: Being in Circle Outside of Circle.
Peacemaking circles are a method of communication and problem solving derived from aboriginal and native traditions. This summary highlights how circles are used at Roca—a multicultural, youth, family, and community development organization—to open up new possibilities for empowerment through learning how to be accountable to themselves and their community. (author's abstract).
Gang injunctions do not work
from an op-ed by Victor Rios on Stop the Injunction in Oakland: I am a former gang member, juvenile felon from Oakland, California. I now have a Ph.D. from Berkeley and am a Professor of Sociology who studies youth-police relations. Based on my studies with hundreds of gang associated youths I can tell you that gang injunctions are a failed attempt at addressing youth violence. Gang injunctions cannot guarantee gang violence reductions. Sociologists like Cheryl Maxson, in Los Angeles and Irvine have found that years of gang injunctions in Southern California have not produced results. Instead, youth crime and violence has increased in communities where injunctions have been implemented.
Salinas gang prevention initiative loses funding, but not heart
from Sunita Vijayan's entry on the A pilot program aimed at ending gang violence in Salinas has run out of money, but it hasn't run out of fight. After two years, Community Building Circles has used up the $25,000 it received from the California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention Program, said the group's director Deborah Aguilar on Wednesday. "Community Building Circles has lost the funding, but [I have] not lost the passion to service the needs of the community," Aguilar said.
Archbishop's lecture on prison reform, restorative justice and community
from the article on The Archbishop of YorkThe Archbishop of York blog: Dr John Sentamu questioned the deterrent effect of imprisonment, severity of sentencing, the pivotal role of communities and the need for restorative justice in his Prisoners Education Trust Annual Lecture. Dr John Sentamu said, "We should be pained and troubled by the size of our prison population in Britain, the sheer number of individuals who have given up on community – and feel that community has given up on them. We need to show love and compassion while ensuring justice is served and seen to be served".
Evaluation released on Glasgow’s Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV)
From the Executive Summary: Glasgow’s Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) formally began on 24 October 2008, with the aim of dramatically reducing gang violence in the East End during an initial two year period, followed by a rigorous and independent evaluation. ....Following intensive engagement with gang members by police officers and community partners, five self referral sessions were held at Glasgow Sheriff Court. 222 gang members in total attended these sessions and 368 have actively engaged with CIRV in the first year, each having given a pledge to stop their violent behaviour. ....On average there has been a 49.2% reduction in the level of violent offending by gang members who have engaged with CIRV. By using gang members to influence fellow gang members, CIRV also aims to affect the behaviour of those who refuse to engage. As such, there has to date been an average 18.5% reduction in violent offending by this disengaged group.
Carleton, Rod. 'Building One Fire'- Aboriginal Policing Conference 2000.
In 1990 in Edmonton, Canada, and then again in 1998, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal police officers and agencies met to find common ground and to talk about issues related to Aboriginal policing. In October 2000, another such conference took place in Regina. The 2000 Aboriginal Policing Conference "Building One Fire" was held with a focus on policing matters specific to or predominant within Aboriginal communities: street gangs, community constables, suicide prevention, crime stopper programs, restorative justice, First Nation Band bylaws, police boards, and more. In his article, Rod Carleton- of the Community, Contract and Aboriginal Policing Services-reports on this latest conference.

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