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September 28, 2007

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Why applaud such a minimal goal as only arresting shooters in Boston? What about the rest of the urban chaos and dysfunction that leads to disinvestment from certain neighborhoods. The point is to create safe, welcoming communities. We need to prevent gangs from claiming public spaces as their turf. There should be a third institution between juvie and penitentiary for a last chance to produce young men who will pull the weight in their communities instead of dragging them down. Bigger carrots and sticks. They know they are wasting their time in a dead end gang role but it is too fun to be cool in the moment on the street corner.
Why are prisons ceded to the gangs? You should read "Warden Ragen of Joliet" on how he dealt with the gangs and rehabilitation at Stateville (home to Chicago's felons).
Crime development formula is a virtuous cycle = safe streets + real estate redevelopment to highest best use + tax base strengthened + improved infrastructure, amenities, education (at minimum functional literacy) + employment, housing opportunities + vibrant neighborhoods + many pedestrians and shoppers different hours + beat cops walking = safe streets etc. Also, govt. needs to be employer of first and last resort to convicted felons because they carry the stigm of prison record.

Charles, thank you for your thoughtful comment. You make good points. However, I would not call focusing on violent offenders a minimal goal, but rather a logical goal. The point of my blog article here was to discourage the wide-net approach to arrests in which juveniles, whether they are involved with gangs or not, are arrested on the street and imprisoned for utilizing public property. Sure, we net a few dangerous people in the process, but we also continue to flood our already over-crowded prison systems and turn nonviolent offenders into gang members in the process. And in my opinion, that is the serious problem that we as a society must deal with now. We cannot continue to arrest our way out of crime. I haven't found much on the book you mentioned, but I gather that the point was that gang hierarchies must exist outside of prison to exist in prison...? And I don't deny that whatsoever. But if gangs are hard to resist on the streets, then they are impossible to avoid in prison. I disagree that youths join gangs because "it is fun to be cool in the moment on the street corner." I believe they join gangs for much larger and more serious reasons, particularly family issues and lack of options in the community. Luckily, I did not face these problems, but many youths all over the country do on a daily basis. They need more than short stints in and out of violent prisons. They need jobs and rehabilitation to join society. There is plenty of research that indicates prison can cause more crime overall when it is misused, via the broken homes created and the gang culture inside. If you are willing, please extrapolate on the "third" institution you mentioned, and also how to deal with the stigma of prison records in securing jobs. Thanks again!

I just wanted to add a link to this article I recently came across: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE6DB1E30F936A35753C1A9619C8B63

It describes how deputies in California recently contributed to the problem I describe above by holding "competitions" to make as many arrests as possible. This means that the most dangerous offenders were ignored while the most accessible criminals were prosecutetd, further straining the overcrowded prison population in that state.

Can anyone else contribute?

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