California State University Los Angeles
June 7, 2012
In recent years, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) noticed the increase in the number of teens between the ages of nine to seventeen being involved with gangs in the United States. While most people would agree that gang membership is an individual choice, scholars believe that it is more important to shift the focus of these programs from an individual level to a community level. This literature review examines a few of the prevention programs the OJJDP have implemented in the school’s curriculum and after-school programs in the community to keep adolescent teens off the streets. The paper evaluates the effectiveness of teenagers who fully commit to the program and return on a daily basis, compared to teens that show up periodically. The examination of the prevention programs points out the limitations of the in-school and after-school programs and suggests that teenagers need more opportunities in the communities after finishing the program in order to reduce the number of teens being involved with gangs.
In the past few decades, the problems with youths being targeted into joining gangs have increased significantly (Howell 2000; Agopian 1991). Youth gang members usually vary between the ages of thirteen to eighteen. What is evident is that youths that end up on the streets are teenagers who come from small neighborhoods, unstable families, and lack the motivation to succeed in school (Howell 2000; Totten 2008; Hill, Lui &Hawkins 2001). For example, teens that come from an unstable family or dysfunctional household go out onto the streets to join a gang in order to have a sense of belonging (Howell 2000). The primary purpose of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) program is to serve and provide the best opportunities for youths in the community. The increase in the number of youths being involved in gang activities resulted in the creation of prevention programs in order to maintain the rapid growth of teenage gang members (Howell & Decker 1999). Teens who are lacking the initiative to take control of their lives are being occupied on the streets with gangs in the community. As majority of research studies on gang prevention programs, the overall purpose is to keep youths off the street and provide them with opportunities to better their future. There are two key theoretical perspectives that are mentioned throughout the literature and I will discuss in more detail in the paper: (1) Young teenagers join gangs because they feel a need to belong and (2) Teens who are on the streets are at a greater risks at being victimized to join a gang (Miller 1998 & Howell 2010). The purpose of this paper is to provide a thorough analysis of the findings of current existing literature based on funded prevention programs in school and after school. Analysis of the prevention programs will be determined through literature review and through my own personal opinion. I will prove that in-school programs are more effective in preventing teens from joining a gang compared to afterschool programs. Lastly I will propose future practices, in order to improve the program. Objectivity and Positionality
The view on this topic may be biased in terms of how effective these programs really are. I have attended programs at the Boys & Girls Club (BGCA) for extracurricular activities after school and the initial purpose of keeping teens off the streets to prevent them from being involved with gangs is only effective for the duration of the program. I have also been to Homeboys Industries to attend their presentations. After the program ends, teens who were involved with gangs went right back to what they were doing prior to attending the program. This then leads me to...