(St. Lawrence). Delivering the intervention while housed in correctional facilities has the advantages of minimizing attrition, maintaining attendance at sessions, successfully delivering greater intervention dosage, and controlling for both the assessments and the intervention delivery. The disadvantages, as indicated above, are twofold: First, incarcerated girls will not have real-world opportunities to practice newly acquired skills between sessions; second, potential concerns exist regarding whether content acquired from an intervention delivered during their incarceration can
be expected to generalize from the institutional setting into their daily lives after they return to their homes (St. Lawrence).
. It is the behaviors of the youth in the gang that are viewed by the larger community as disruptive and harmful to the gang members themselves as well as to the community. Ironically, the sense of solidarity achieved from sharing everyday life with similarly situated people has the unintended effect of drawing many youth into behaviors that ultimately create new problems for them (Murrish). The reasons most frequently cited in the literature for joining a gang include abuse and family problems at home, poverty, boredom, and family or community connection to gang members. Independently, these reasons do not necessarily lead to gang membership. It is the combination of reasons that lead to an increased probability of gang membership (Murrish).
Problems at home or within the family are one reason that youth join gangs. One aspect of female gang life does not appear to be changing — the gang serves as a refuge for girls who have been abused at home. For many, the gang serves as an alternate family. Problems such as weak supervision, family violence, lack of attachment to parents, and drug and alcohol abuse by family members have been suggested as factors that contribute to the likelihood that girls will join gangs. Young women begin spending more time away from home as a result of the dangers and difficulties there, and seek to meet their social and emotional needs elsewhere (Murrish). In some families, parents are working several jobs to make ends meet. Unfortunately, while parents are struggling to stay afloat, supervision is absent at home. Older gang members take on the role of father and mother in many young kids lives. To some, the gang becomes a closer family than their biological family because the gang is there every day, unlike family. A second reason mentioned by male and female gang members for joining the gang is to escape from poverty. Gang research traditionally has assumed that delinquency among marginalized young men is an understandable, if not normal, response to their situation. Throughout the twentieth century, poverty and economic marginality were associated with the emergence of gangs. In the late 1980s and 1990s, hundreds of thousands of factory jobs disappeared, making conditions even worse in the inner cities (Murrish). It is not surprising that gangs proliferated cities across the nation during that time. An informal economy flourished, which consisted predominantly of drug dealing. Economically successful gangs, both male and female, became significant community institutions, offering resources and protection for members (Murrish). Because they are products of distressed neighborhoods, gangs emerge to meet many of the needs that the established institutions, such as schools, families, and communities, do not address (Murrish).
In general, female gang members commit fewer violent crimes than male gang members and are more inclined to property crimes. When girls do commit violent acts, they are more likely to use knives than guns in their confrontations.
If they kill, they are more likely to murder someone because of conflict rather than in the process of committing a crime (Murrish). Violent acts are rare for many females. Drug offenses are the most common offenses committed by female gang members (Murrish). For girls, however, drug selling is sporadic rather than an everyday occurrence (Murrish). Participating in the drug trade is difficult for most females. To be successful, they often have to rely on their male peers to ward off potential predators. On the other hand, as mentioned above, girls are typically more invisible to police, making their drug sales less risky (Murrish).
Throughout the history of gang research, academics have asked whether selection or facilitation leads to delinquency within the gang. Selection suggests that youth that are prone to delinquency join gangs. Facilitation implies that the gang allows an outlet for the delinquent behaviors. Most have concluded that it is a combination of selection and facilitation that leads to gang-related delinquency
(Murrish). It is the case in male and female gangs alike that delinquency is more than just an outcome of gang membership. It serves as a source of cohesion for its members. Participation in gang
activities reinforces gang members conception of themselves as a unified group, banding together against common enemies (Murrish).
I In 1990, the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted funding to seven cities for gang prevention programs targeted at females. In 1992, two of these programs were expanded and two additional cities received funding. In creating these demonstration projects, funding organizations believed that female gang members often have children who grow up to be gang members and that by keeping females out of gangs they might break the cycle (Murrish). Key features of these programs included:
Building support groups for at-risk females, promoting cultural awareness, empowering youths to succeed, expanding community awareness, sharing information on conditions that put adolescent females at risk of gang or criminal involvement, promoting employment opportunities, building spirituality, providing consistency and support.
Although increasing, intervention and prevention programs that address the special needs of females are limited in number. Funding for such programs for males and females is very limited. These programs must address a growing number of problems, including racial and ethnic disproportionation, younger age at onset of crime, rising recidivism rates, increased severity of youth crimes, and increased youth violence and gang activity for a larger population with limited funds. Programs targeted at female populations have had mixed results (Murrish). Much work needs to be done in the field of female gangs. More researchers need to observe female gangs through the eyes of females. In this way, policymakers and program directors can be more informed about why females are becoming an increasing proportion of youth in gangs and find solutions to the growing problem. Included in this research should be an evaluation of the impact of welfare reform on female gang participation.
Belknap, Joanne, and Kristi Holsinger. “The Gendered Nature of Risk Factors for Delinquency.” Feminist Criminology 1.48 (2006). Print.
Murrish, Helen. “Youth Gang Membership: Gender Difference and Gang Participation.” La Follette School of Public Affairs (2001). Web. 15 July 2010.
St. Lawrence, Janet S., Edward C. Snodgrass, Angela Robertson, and Connie Baird-Thomas. “Minimizing the Risk of Pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Disease and HIV among Incarcerated Adolescent.