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Thread: Criminalizing Gang Violence (But not gang membership)

  1. #1 Criminalizing Gang Violence (But not gang membership) 
    Time Lord
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    I'm thinking we should do to violent gangs what we did to violent racism.
    I'm curious if there are any laws on the books to this effect, and in what states?

    With violent racism, a lot of states have laws that say that if any violent act can be shown to be motivated by racism, extra time can be added to the penalty for that crime, meaning that racist violence actually has a harsher penalty than a similar non-racist act that resulted in the same suffering would have. So.... why not do this for gangs too? We let people be in gangs if they want (just like how its legal to be a racist if you want), but if they actually break any laws due to that affiliation we add a "gang bias" to the penalty, so criminals begin to see that they would do less time for the same act if they're not in a gang.

    One of my near relatives is a prison guard, and we've had opportunities to talk about this from time to time, so my understanding of this issue is kind of anecdotal, but that's where I'm getting it from. Inmates have actually told him that they see crime as a bet. You risk prison, but you might make money. For example: a former burglar told him that many home robbers are actually deterred by a locked door they could easily defeat, because it's considered a different crime if they break into your home to rob you, with a different sentence, than it is if they merely rob you. I think we'd be surprised just how much a difference in expected prison time can change a criminals crime decisions. Most of them are willing to risk about 2-5 years I think. If you make it ten or twenty because they joined a gang before they did what they did, I think the gang would start to look like more of a liability than a benefit.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Professor arKane's Avatar
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    Again I'll say you might be right, however where gangs are concerned I see a problem with your idea. Most gangs recruit their members at a very young age. I'd say before they have much comprehension about what they are really getting into. Once they become a gang member it's not very likely they will get out alive and many of them even look forward to their first trip into the system as they come out with higher status.


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    Yeah, it's a serious problem, and nothing is going to solve it outright in a single shot. I think the best goal is just to see what can be done to reduce the problem as best as we can.

    That said, even if we know people won't leave the gangs, do you think the gang itself might decide to become less criminal in nature? Maybe the leader starts choosing less illegal activities for his buddies to engage in? The goal is to de-claw gangs instead of eliminate them. Right now I think that in addition to the child initiations, gangs also just plain attract sadists and criminally minded individuals who would be criminals no matter what, but see gangs as a way to get away with their crimes (so they join, and then start steering the gang down that path). It would be good if that element of society were steered in a different direction away from them. My thinking is that the initiated children may not be natural criminals, and without the sadists to corrupt them they might choose different objectives.
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    Forum Professor arKane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Yeah, it's a serious problem, and nothing is going to solve it outright in a single shot. I think the best goal is just to see what can be done to reduce the problem as best as we can.

    That said, even if we know people won't leave the gangs, do you think the gang itself might decide to become less criminal in nature? Maybe the leader starts choosing less illegal activities for his buddies to engage in? The goal is to de-claw gangs instead of eliminate them. Right now I think that in addition to the child initiations, gangs also just plain attract sadists and criminally minded individuals who would be criminals no matter what, but see gangs as a way to get away with their crimes (so they join, and then start steering the gang down that path). It would be good if that element of society were steered in a different direction away from them. My thinking is that the initiated children may not be natural criminals, and without the sadists to corrupt them they might choose different objectives.
    I can't say I disagree with anything you just said and whether or not your idea would really work or not doesn't change the fact that taking these people off the streets for a longer amount of time does not sound like a bad idea. I'm all for it.

    Still not sure it would really work as hoped. For one thing Gangs are primarily big business in the dope business and their leadership really don't seem the type to care what happens to it's employees (gang members). However, if gang member first offenses were all in the double digit number of years in prison, they might think twice about wanting what little prestige might be gained by doing time.

    I would like to combine your idea with the idea of taking the dope profits from the criminals and using it in concentrated public education and medical treatment for users. But again legalization in any form is not going to be an easy swallow for the voters anyway you want to slice it.
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    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Duration of imprisonment is not IMO the key variable. Likelihood of being caught is. When they engage in these behaviors, they weight the risk and the reward. The primary consideration in risk is if they'll be caught and jailed... not how long they are jailed if and when they get caught.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Duration of imprisonment is not IMO the key variable. Likelihood of being caught is. When they engage in these behaviors, they weight the risk and the reward. The primary consideration in risk is if they'll be caught and jailed... not how long they are jailed if and when they get caught.
    Yeah. That is kind of the angle I am approaching it from too. The two parts of the bet are:

    1) - Profit/Loss Ratio - What you stand to gain vs. what you stand to lose

    2) - Odds - How likely it is that you win vs. lose.

    Gangs are a really smart move for criminals because the probability of getting caught drops dramatically. What I am hoping is that some criminals will be dumb and see the difference in profit/loss ratio as a stronger concern than the difference in odds, and decide to go it alone instead of teaming up to commit their crimes. But, you're probably right. They won't be too impressed with long prison terms unless they're facing one them self.

    Of course, there is another upside. If they do get caught, then holding long terms over somebody's head increases the odds of them flipping on their buddies. The mafia used to have a code about stuff like that, but it all went in the crapper after some of their people started getting busted with large amounts of cocaine/heroine. I don't know if maybe gangs have already faced and overcome that type of obstacle? The trick that worked with the mafia was holding those large sentences over the less committed people at the bottom of the pyramid. But those people usually don't commit large enough crimes either.
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  8. #7  
    Forum Professor arKane's Avatar
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    Criminalizing Gang Violence (But not gang membership)

    I started thinking about your thread title and it seems to me that the extreme violence of a gang is one of the major points in attracting new members. Kids really pick up on the fear that gang members generate in the community. They know people are afraid to testify, they watch people step out of the way when gang members pass, they see the money gang members flash, they see the girlfriends gang members have and when your a kid living in a bad neighborhood without any good prospects of what's going to happen to you as you grow up.

    It's easy to see that many of those kids will find gang membership to be very attractive and no kid ever thinks they will be caught or killed, that's always something that happens to somebody else.
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