Getting out of a gang is not easy – even dangerous.
The director of a community-based treatment program for gang members and violent youth said “Getting into a gang is easy today. It’s not so much being ‘sexed in,’ ‘beat in,’ or having to commit a crime as it used to be. Today, among the gangs, it’s the number of members that counts, so getting in is relatively easy. Getting out, on the other hand, is difficult.”
A study entitled ‘Into the Abyss’ states that there are gangs which are nearly impossible to leave alive and others one may leave with less serious consequences.
Here are some examples that explain the difficulties and dangers of leaving a gang.
A juvenile officer who works with juvenile gang members told me a story about a local gang member who wanted to get out of his gang. “I got a call from a client named Fernando,” she said, “who told me he needed help. He was frightened … he didn’t want to be in the gang anymore.” As far as the officer was concerned, “He was in too far. I didn’t think he could get out. He actually wanted me to lock him up so that he’d stay out of trouble.”
A gang unit officer told me a story about a young boy whose father was killed by several members of a gang. The young boy joined a rival gang in order to get back at the gang that murdered his father. The officer said “He’s lived the gang life for several years and now he wants to get married and have a real life.” The young boy, now a young man, spoke with the gang unit officer and told him the gang he joined has doubts about his loyalty and have asked him to perform a hit on a rival gang member to prove his loyalty. He expressed a fear that, “If I don’t do the killing, the gang will attack my family.”
These examples show that the transition has not been easy for them due to the mobility of the other gang members and their contacts in other cities. They fear a member of their gang will find them. They also find it difficult to live with the fact that they can never go home again or, if they do, that they will always be looking over their shoulders to make sure they don’t get caught or hurt by a former gang member or rival.
Most often, there are only two ways out of a gang – prison or death.
In my new novel MURRAN, Trey is enticed into gang life and realizes too late he was faced with only two options to leave the gang – prison or death. But he found a third way out – Africa.