The impacts of gang membership — and the burdens they place on our health, law enforcement, corrections and educational systems — are significant. The risks for delinquency and violence (as both the person committing the violence and the victim) dramatically increase after a young person joins a gang. Young gang members are also at higher risk for substance abuse, high-risk sexual behavior, dropping out of school, criminal behavior and numerous other negative consequences.
Yet, we have reason to be optimistic. Like delinquency and violence, gang-joining can be prevented. Changing Course extends an invitation to policymakers and practitioners to engage in a new way of thinking about the intersection of public health and public safety strategies as well as leveraging public health and public safety resources.
The book offers broad, strategic actions that can help reduce gang-joining and the violence and crime that often result. In the Conclusion, the book discusses six themes that span the individual chapters:
- Building partnerships.
- Using data.
- Framing the issue.
- Creating a plan.
- Implementing the plan.
- Evaluating its effectiveness.
NIJ and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hope that Changing Course — with its emphasis on prevention — is a first step toward broadening our perceptions on how to manage gang crime and violence. By bringing together the criminal justice and public health perspectives and by drawing lessons from what is known about other youth problem behaviors, the book offers principles that practitioners and policymakers can use in gang-membership prevention.
Faced with the current economic realities, prevention is the best way to halt the cascading impact of gangs on our kids, families, neighborhoods and society at large. If we work together to focus on the prevention of gang membership — rather than solely caring for victims of gang violence and arresting gang-involved youth — we can change the course of the future for our kids.
Read the Changing Course chapter “Conclusion: An Invitation to Contribute to Gang-Joining Prevention” (pdf, 5 pages).
About This Article
This article presents a chapter summary from the joint National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publication Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership (pdf, 166 pages). Changing Course features chapters written by some of the nation’s top criminal justice and public health researchers. The volume was edited by Thomas R. Simon, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nancy M. Ritter, National Institute of Justice, Reshma R. Mahendra, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.