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The Gang Line Series Part Five
by Mike Ramey
09/07/08
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Tip From The Old School: Curfew laws exist for a reason. Most gang crimes, meetings and initiations take place between 9pm and 3am! Keeping tabs on your children & teens NOW prevents court appearances--or worse--LATER!

In my initial column, I broke down some of the attitudes of the current ‘No School’ crowd I ran into during my days as a Probation Officer with a juvenile court. I know that column made the rounds, based upon the emails I have been receiving.

I’m not here to re-invent the wheel when it comes to gangs. I do know enough to give a parent, church, counselor or fellow member of the criminal justice system some pointers and practical advice on dealing with gang members--some of whom are still juveniles. Of course, on a professional level, my presentations and trainings are also skillful as well as practical. Let’s be honest. There will ALWAYS be a stubborn few who will deny the existence of gangs, and wonder why juvenile crime and street violence trends continue to escalate upward.

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS (D.L.S.):

Please…don’t let your family, church, or school voluntarily be placed among the ignorant. Remember: Many of the ‘experts’ rarely admit when they are wrong, even IF you can get their attention. Some of them seem to want to create another set of ‘study guidelines’ and move off to push their wares upon someone else, at an increased cost.

This is one of the dirty little secrets (DLS) of the ‘experts’ used by the criminal justice system. Another one now that I have your attention? How about the rights of the non-custodial parents that have been overlooked concerning their children who wind up in the juvenile justice system. It may shock you, but non-custodial have little say in what can be done by the court with their child. If the custodial parent is the one who is with the child for processing and interviewing, they call the shots as to whether or not the non-custodial parent is ever named in court documents.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fielded phone calls from non-custodial parents after hearing that their son or daughter was arrested. You could hear the tear drops falling when they were informed: “There is no authorization to release any information to you about your child from their mother/father.”

More? Very well. In some jurisdictions, if your child is Black or Hispanic, there is a good chance that their counselor, social worker, therapist, parole agent, or even attorney (PD or Prosecutor) will NOT reflect their racial background. In some cases, this is not a bad thing. However, many of those who represent the system--for the most part--are of the lighter hue, usually young and female, and have little experience when it comes to dealing with at-risk teens.

Sally Social Worker sees the gang member as a tortured soul, as she has graduated from college several years prior to her landing this…her first job. Gary Gang Member, her first client, sees Sally Social Worker as LUNCH and preys upon her lack of life experiences. Much of the time, ‘he’ is having to educate ‘the adult’ about the realities of the street…of course twisting it in his favor for the report that goes to the probation officer and the court.

MORE D.L.S. ABOUT “THE SYSTEM”

The police arrest, the prosecutor and public defender squabble; the judge convicts, the politicians beat their chests about another ‘scourge’ being removed from the streets of their fair city, and the file is stamped CLOSED. The police, prosecutor, public defender and judge get more in-depth training on gangs than the average taxpayer. Those who actually work with at risk youth--the ultimate ‘sources’ of information for the cop and the lawyers on both sides--get little in the way of thanks, raises, or recognition.

When the ‘system’ needs ‘real’ advice, guess whom they turn to? Right! The same underpaid, overworked and unappreciated people who actually have to sit face to face with wayward teens and their angry parent or guardian.

What about the non-custodial parent? Oh, yes--as I mentioned before--IF they are involved in the process has to ‘shoulder’ the court costs, etc. to ‘prove’ that they are ‘worthy’ of being involved in any dispositional discussion on their teen.

D.L.S.: YOUR CHILD--A MONEY TREE?

It is no secret that there is a LOT of money to be made from the gang issue. IF one mentions the word ‘gang’, the grant purses POP open. Of course, no one will actually ‘solve’ the problem…but they will get certain pet projects paid for, Amen?

Should the public be informed, the LOCAL justice establishment provides their OWN ‘experts’ (usually a LOCAL former cop with gang investigation experience that was not utilized by his former police department before he/she quit/retired) to talk about gangs as an unsolvable problem…but never quite encourage and empower their families and their community to deal with them.

Another D.L.S.? Some regular and former cops GET MAD at people who are judged as being ‘outside’ of the law enforcement ‘fraternity’ who dare to speak out on gangs. There are pastors, social workers, corrections officers, probation officers and parole agents who work with gang members and their families in far more dangerous, yet hands-on terms than the average cop would admit. Pity. The ‘outsiders’ are often called upon by the gang members themselves and have the best chance of turning them BACK into productive citizens. Once such instance…the late Pastor E. V. Hill was respected by BOTH the Crypts and the Bloods in Los Angeles during the early 1990s. His involvement helped the homicide rate go down at a time when police budgets were swelling!

WRAPPING UP FOR THE MONTH:

Perhaps THIS is why the people WITH realistic solutions like the Bible, marriage, the family AND better visitation rights are the LAST people brought into the equation. Realistic solutions, it seems, have a way of breaking up the gravy train of government funding and extra police officers on the streets.

But I digress.

My original story from my initial column did not have happy ending. The youth involved wound up bouncing back and forth between his older brother house and his parents--successfully disrupting BOTH homes. Ultimately, a probation violation was filed, and the matter went back to the judge. Sadly, THIS is yet another ‘dirty little secret’ in dealing with at risk teens; the ‘system’ does not allow case workers and field officers the needed time to work with their caseloads. While a lot of time is spent trying to convince the public (and those working in the system) that the time of those doing the work is limitless, sadly, it isn’t. Further, supervisors and managers are quick to yell at their dwindling staffs: “Help the child; just don’t take too long!” Meanwhile, the institution with limitless time to work with its own children--the family--sees its power, finances, and clout usurped DAILY by the courts.

Non-custodial parents, again, are left out of the equation.

In my view, it makes more sense to encourage and empower parents to BE parents rather than raising their taxes and eating away at parental authority. Active parents make a difference in breaking up MSGs when they are allowed to clamp down on their own wayward teens; inactive parents do not! The courts don’t have to take YOUR wayward teens home after 5 p.m. Many in the system have their own teens to contend with--and guess which parents get better treatment plans when THEIR children end up in trouble with the law?

That’s another D.L.S. for another day! See you next month!

MIKE RAMEY is a Street Gang Specialist, consultant, trainer and Lead Instructor of THE GANG LINE, based in Indianapolis, Indiana. RAMEY has presentations and materials for ages 6 to 65 on how to spot/stop gang activity. Questions? Email RameysGangLine@yahoo.com ©2008 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications International.


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