Film Report on “American Me”: A Therapeutic Perspective
Taj Gunter: March 2008
“American Me” is a fictional film having a factual basis, starring and directed by Edward James Olmos. Released to the national theater circuit in 1992, “American Me” depicts the life of Rodolfo Cadena, a ranking Carnal (gang member) in the prison gang La Eme, also known as the Mexican Mafia. To therapeutically approach the salience and pervasiveness of gang membership, including its allure and reinforcers, would be a challenging task for any human service practitioner involving accuracy of assessment and effectiveness of treatment. However, endeavoring to find and implement such therapeutic methods and procedures for positive outcomes, while preserving Latino cultural identity and integrity, is precisely the purpose of this paper. One of the parallel themes of “American Me” is that prisons are far more than warehouses for society's outcasts and baneful. They are, instead, recruiting stations and training camps for future generations of criminals and gang members. “American Me” reveals how a major portion of the crime syndicate came to be hosted from the “inside,” from within the many prison walls of the U.S. Department of Corrections (Baumgarten, 1992).
Knowing the destiny of Montoya Santana, the character played by Edward James Olmos, in growing up and into a revered and lifelong membership in the Mexican Mafia, including 18 years in Folsom Prison, the development of a comprehensive, although hypothetical, human service intervention plan is in order. This hypothetical, culturally appropriate, therapeutic intervention is to take place at the point young (16-year-old) Santana is first institutionalized in (juvie) the juvenile detention center. This “early” intervention should increase the probability of a successful therapeutic rapport and service plan, especially if the human service...
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