Key Factors In The Recidivism Amongst Gang Members

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Recidivism plays a major role in the correctional system. The increasing rate of offenders returning to prison is partially due to the lack or loss of connection with society. Many individuals find themselves struggling to find employment or trying to redeem themselves with a community that isolates them due to the effects of their crimes. When released, many offenders resort back to criminal activity, engaging in previous relationships with individuals who influenced their life choices. Gang members are amongst those who feel they need a connection to some type of criminal organization for the rest of the lives. Members who try to isolate or leave this criminal affiliation behind are usually met with resentment, isolation from family and most times executed by their own members.

Prison gangs are linked heavily to most of the violence that occurs within correctional facilities. They control a large portion of the prostitution, gambling, drug trafficking and crimes executed both in and out of prison. Surveys have shown that prisons with a large gang population are responsible for most of the inmate homicides that occur within the prison, as well as one quarter to one half of all prison management problems. The racial and ethnic foundation for gangs is what separates them from other criminal entities. They pride themselves in this racial divide from other groups, taking care of their own members. Although some institutions offer a way out of gang life or “deganging”, by educating gang members and trying to help them quit their affiliation, this is seen as an issue to fellow gang members and usually leads to more violence.

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Gangs create serious safety hazards withing prisons and communities. They’re more likely to be involved in prison violence than non-gang affiliated inmates. Many of these actual crimes ago unreported due to the lack of witnesses to come forward and testify. Studies have shown that gang members who were treated had a lesser risk of recidivism during their 24 month follow up period than non-treated members. Most gang affiliated members return to society where they cause unrest and resentment from the community. It’s crucial to treat gang members in order to reduce prison violence and prevent significantly high recidivism.

Rival gang separation has been used to reduce inner gang violence. At times this can be meet with complete opposition as in some cases gangs take control of other prisons and increase levels of violence against staff and inmates. By dividing gang leaders and subordinates, this reduces the probability of gangs planning attacks and deterring prison violence. The disadvantage to this is the cost of implementing these security measures and the side effects it can produce such as some members initiating their own gang, believing they don’t report to gang superiors anymore. This in turn causes for the increase in possible gang recruits and more violence withing prisons.

Educating gang members on the consequences of their actions may serve as a deterrent to have them dissociate from gang life. Many of them are recruited and pressured into gangs at a young age, having no input or guidance on how they can deflect from this. Although this serves for a small part of reducing gang dissociation, the effects can be fatal. Throughout a member’s relationship with their gang, the threat of death is constantly enforced, in case they decide to leave the gang behind. This is seen as an act of betrayal, which usually leads to the execution of said member, in most cases, by their own group. Members who have been able to dissociate themselves usually are inclined towards a passive path and less likely to commit crimes.

The prison environment that promotes gang affiliation inside the prison walls and facilitates gang membership is sometimes overlooked by correctional scholars. A lot of artifacts withing the prison culture are imported from the outside world. Many members believe that once in prison or having served a sentence, this gives them power and full allegiance to their gang. Gang members tend to have little or no connections in the outside world, committing to the gang completely. This makes recidivism more likely since they have a lesser chance of successful reentry.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (2002) reports that two thirds of offenders released from prison were rearrested within 36 months. The more concerning fact was that 52% of offenders returned to prison within a 3-year period. This emphasizes on the importance of offender reentry since 93% of all inmates go back to the streets. The issue of prisoner recidivism has reached higher levels and needs to be addressed accordingly. There are evident and concrete facts that well designed and implanted programs can indeed reduce recidivism. These guidelines provide risk, need and responsivity principles in order to maintain the integrity of said program and have the largest effect on reducing recidivism.

The risk principle states treatment of high-risk offenders over low risk offenders since they’re more inclined to commit crimes again. Although at time this may prove ineffective since most high-risk offenders are hardened and career criminals whose treatment becomes more complex over long sentences. The need principle is identified as what factor s contribute to an offender’s criminal character. Substance abuse, unstable relationships and a violent lifestyle are criminogenic needs that often lead to the development of said offender’s personality. Responsivity needs are met with challenges, as it depends on the offender’s cognitive abilities and their grasp of what needs to be treated in them. Most members aren’t ready or simply don’t have the will to change.

Participation in a treatment or 'self-reformative” program is probably less threatening to a gang member and likely more acceptable to his peers than trying to persuade the individual to leave the gang immediately. At times, what may appear to be relapses, such as verbally abusing reformatory staff, may be a way to survive or to buy some interim acceptance by peers in situations where they must avoid violence. Treating gang leaders or subordinate gang members is very difficult for treatment staff as they have to attend to several issues during the treatment process such as responsivity.

For many individuals the return home can be filled with overwhelming obstacles. According to several studies, ex-offenders usually have less education and less employment experience backgrounds. This, along with now being labeled a felon, makes them less appealing to employers. This increases the barriers, such as lack of access to stable housing and health care and inability to provide financial support for their families. Without the necessary support to deal with these challenges, someone with street gang ties may be drawn back to the gang, feeling that it’s their only option to find support and a means to make a decent living. Released street gang members who return to the lifestyle they knew before their prison sentences are at a much higher risk of getting arrested again, being reconvicted and returning to prison.

Not only are gang affiliated members more likely to recidivate, but they usually do so quicker than non-gang affiliated members and commit more severe crimes. In addition to this challenge, gang affiliated members deal with barriers to rehabilitation such as social stigma, unstable living situations and impacts of violent trauma. These individuals also experience the side effects of incarceration such as being disqualifying for financial aid, housing assistance, unable to regain custody of their children and lack of access to other public benefits. There are minimal specialized treatment options available, as most reentry programs do not focus on gang affiliated reintegration and do not address the additional risk factors. To reduce recidivism, it is critical to have a thorough understanding of the dynamic needs of gang affiliated reentry population.

It is essential to understand and attend to the needs of the gang member reentry population to guide interventions and best reintegration methods. Reentry programs can assist ex-offenders in meeting their needs in areas such as education, vocational, housing, financial, family reunification, substance use, and physical/mental health issues. Most of these issues stem from their life before incarceration. By addressing the lack of emphasis towards these needs, reintegration becomes more manageable as to where individuals can function outside of the gang community and more on a personal level.

Irregular psychological patterns are a key factor that need to be analyzed as well. Many of these patterns amongst gang members rise from the environmental issues that play part in creating gangs. Many affiliates in these gangs grow up in neighborhoods that lack the proper tools to positively contribute towards society. Poverty, domestic violence and drugs in the household are some examples as to what induces an individual towards gang affiliation. Many of them display a sense of aggression and rebellion towards authority ag a young age, with little or no proper adult supervision or correction. The relationships established amongst people in these communities is not positively nurtured due to the conditions in which they live in.

Membership in a prison gang is likely to provoke recidivism in by commitment to a criminal lifestyle, illicit financial motives, and invoking an institutional response. First, prison gang membership can give a signal about the given and undetected characteristics of a particular inmate. Because prison gangs require lifetime commitment, only those inmates who are most dedicated to a criminal lifestyle will agree to join. According to several scholarly studies, it is overserved that those inmates who believe prison gang members to be of the highest accomplished criminal will be most likely to seek membership.

Another way to explain the relationship between prison gang membership and recidivism is that involvement in a prison gang makes one more likely to reoffend. Spending time with people who are hardened criminals with serious offenses increases the odds of other possible gang recruits to recidivate. Interaction with prison gang members leads to an extensive knowledge on how to better conduct criminal activity. Social networking in prison also leads to deeper commitment to a gang, with several members providing different insight on how to commit crimes. Being involved in a prison gang leads to new criminal opportunities once released because the inmate has established new associates and has jumped into the criminal social network. At the same time, a prison gang member will appear to be more trustworthy because of his affiliation, and this trust makes it easier to cooperate in criminal activity.

Members looking dissociate from a gang have a long and strenuous process in front of them. The repercussions can be deadly, or for some members, hard to adjust reentering society. Taking into consideration the rate at which offenders return to prison, gang members seem to have a higher risk of committing crime due to the allegiance that they pledge towards a gang. Many of them seem to reenter society just to commit more crimes, a sort of bragging rights to establish themselves in a higher level of the gang. Gang members glorify their group’s actions to display fear and earn respect from other gangs. They tend to show an aggressive character towards anyone outside of their group. These issues cause gang members at time to represent a complex challenge for rehabilitative programs.

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Key Factors In The Recidivism Amongst Gang Members. (2021, September 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from
“Key Factors In The Recidivism Amongst Gang Members.” Edubirdie, 14 Sept. 2021,
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