This study, based on in-depth interviews with young New York City gang members, explores the roles gangs serve in the respondants’ lives, the impact of labeling the gang as criminal, and what a more critical perspective on gangs reveals about violence.
This article draws on 287 in-depth interviews with young New York City gang members to understand the roles gangs serve in their lives, the impact of labeling the gang as criminal, and what a more critical perspective on gangs reveals about violence. Findings show that these youth find themselves in double-binds. While their gang membership is largely a reaction to the inequities and marginality they face from the police, unemployment, and poverty, efforts they undertake to survive—joining gangs, selling drugs, carrying weapons—only deepen their vulnerability to discrimination, involvement in the criminal legal system, and interpersonal violence. Violence prevention programs that eschew structural violence as a root cause of crime and community violence cannot succeed in achieving long-term safety for such communities. Prevention efforts must address the realities of what gangs provide for their members, building safe space and supportive community to bridge participants to the supports they need. (Published Abstract Provided)
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