Questions about Gang Life

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What's gang life like? Getting Started Difficult and Violent Experiences Staying in Gangs and Drugs Getting Out

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vines

What kind of stuff do you do in gangs?

Justin

Justin,

The kind of things we do in a gang is mostly fighting. We fight against other gangs to show pride for our own gang, but in reality, we donít even know what weíre fighting for. And by the time we realize this, itís too late.

Someone who cares
California

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Would you think gang life is fun

Tim

Tim,

You asked if the gang life is fun. At first when youíre doing what you want it could be. But itís easy to forget that thereís a price to be paid for the things you do. Yeah you hang out, but at the age of 15, my little brother was killed. I have about 15 of my homeboys who are doing life in prison as well as me. Iím doing 32 years to life. Iím only 28 years old and Iíll never get out. And about 10 of my homeboys have been killed. I started going to jail when I was 13 years old. Does this life sound fun to you? The fun is for a minute but it costs a lifetime of pain.

Richard M.
California


Tim,

At the time I was hanging with the gang, yes I thought it was fun. Now IĎm stuck in prison for good and it doesnít seem fun anymore. A moment of fun isnít worth a lifetime of pain, so if you want to have fun, do it with your family.

Someone who cares
California

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Whatís it like being in a gang and what is life during those days?

Sandra

Dear Sandra,

Life in gangs has appeal for many people. A sense of belonging to something, ideas that you have the protection of may others, and with many, the easy solution as far as some money by either selling drugs, doing other crimes, or being taken care of with what you need by the other members of the gang. These are big attractions that seem great.

No one thinks about doing things for other people and being used to carry out their personal ideas, going to prison, getting hurt or killed, or getting your family hurt or killed. These things happen almost all of the time to people who get in gangs. The only thing is that with some, it takes a lot longer to happen. Many look at the one guy who is head of a gang with plenty of friends and money. Eventually, the same thing usually happens to him. Even when it doesnít, he needs to be constantly aware that someone might try to do something to him and his family and friends because of his position. If there is one person that lives to an old age peacefully without spending a day in jail but is in a gang, there is a much better chance of hitting the lottery for a multimillion dollar pay off than being him.

Girls and women involve with guys in gangs are no better off. The guy you are with may have a disagreement with someone. If he cannot be gotten to because he is aware and on guard, his wife or girlfriend and children might be a target. When a female gets involved with a guy in a gang, she immediately gets all the bad things the guy might be in for. Being a target is one of those things. The bad part here is that while the guy might know, he may never tell the woman, or not even think something can happen to her. The same things happen when women just do a guy a favor, like giving another guy a place to sleep for a night, and drive him somewhere to deliver a car to someone. The guy you give a place to stay as a favor might have just escaped from prison; the car you drop off might have drugs, guns, or a body in it. Explanations to the police that you knew nothing about what was going on never go over good, and get women one-way tickets to prison.

Remember that when you get involved with a guy in a gang, you sign on for a relationship with the gang and everything that the guy has coming to him, even when you do not know what it is. Finding out about what you get later, is just about impossible to get out of. The bottom line is to ask yourself, is a relationship worth all of the other baggage you get from it somewhere down the line, maybe even years later.

I hope you remember to think before you act and know all the pitfalls of what you might get later. I hope you make the right choices while the options remain open to you.

Al R.
New Jersey

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I just want to know if the gang showed you more love than your parents? Why is it that the same excuse also comes up "That's all that was around where I lived". I don't understand... Lupita

Hey Lupita,

My name is Angel and I'm in a good mood. I just finished writing a good friend that makes this possible, I mean being able to write this to you. May God be pleased with her.

My gang showed me love because I did want that, so I got a so-called "homie love" thing going, but it's nothing like that parent love you have. The parent love is the bomb stuff. So I guess now my parents show me more true love. The gang only showed me to be more of a fool and that your homeboys are not always going to be there for you no matter how much you say you love them.

I know the same excuses you are talking about and I wish I had an answer for you but I don't. All I can say is there's something better to life than this gang bang stuff. I've lost so much. It hit my heart bad. I lost being myself, my human nature.

Struggle. I say struggle because I like struggle. It's like reaching a goal.

Thank you - Angel
California

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How has life in a gang affected your life in whole?

It affected my life by costing me fifty years in prison. I never had a real family atmosphere. I thought that in my embracing a gang I would feel that. But I was so wrong. All it brought was more chaos in my life. The same people that I protected were witnesses against me in court. Now all I have is time.

Otto S.
New Jersey



The first thing that comes to mind is that I have several gang-related tattoos that are all over my body. They serve as a reminder of my past involvement in gang life and people are always asking me about them. Sometimes they are offended by them and sometimes I know I am looked at negatively because of them. Even though I no longer am affiliated, I am still judged by these tattoos.

Eric D.
New Jersey



Moving into a new city I felt alone. My only friends were my brothers and sister. I started to meet people but did not feel close to any of them.

Despite these feelings, my outlook on life was very optimistic. Soon after I started to meet new people and was making friends. I started hanging out with the ďcool crowdĒ and sitting at their table during lunch. A lot of people knew of me and socially I was doing well in school.

Academically I was not doing so well because I was kind of lazy. After awhile, I applied myself to a test here and there, but failed. I began to feel I was stupid, never relating my slacking off to my problem.

At home, many things were changing. Things went from bad to worst. I was never talked to, just talked down at. Feeling like I was nothing, I began to leave home more often, staying out for days at a time.

Back at school I started to analyze the people who were around me. The ďcool crowdĒ was full of people who spoke behind each otherís backs. I broke from that group and started to look for people who I thought were more like me.

I was jumped by this gang in school and days later I stuck up for myself. The kids from another gang liked what I did and one thing led to another. I ended up becoming a member. At first it was all going out to parties, meeting girls and even fighting. Fighting made me feel like a man and I got mad respect for it.

However, things inside me began to change. I began to do things just because the other members wanted to do them, in order to retain their respect - losing my self-respect each time. Compromising more and more, I started to forget who I was. All I believed in became what others believed in. I became a follower and lost myself completely.

I am now in prison with double life. Arrested when I was sixteen, I ended any real possibility of having a successful life. When joining a gang, my outlook changed to the negative. I started to think I had no future because of the gang mentality. The self-prophesy came to pass. So, to answer your question, joining a gang changed my life as a whole by ending it - with the chance to live only to feel it.

Luis B.
New Jersey

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I am 14 years old and live in the Chicago area. I am from Mexico and I came to the United States in the year 2000. When I came to Chicago the first thing I saw was a lot of gangsters and I would like to ask you this question: What is the purpose of being a gang member? I hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you. Salvador.

Salvador,

There is no purpose in joining a gang. It's just a lot of lonely people looking for a place to belong and feel wanted. Stay away from them and be someone who can help them get out.

Respectfully - Oscar
California


Salvador,

I like that your first sight of gangsters made you ask yourself, ďWhatís up with that?Ē rather than getting caught up in the falsehoods. People join for many reasons. Here are a couple:

Brian H.
California


As for your question, "Why do people join gangs," well, nowadays, just to fit in - you know, to say they're from a gang. Back in the '80's people who joined a gang was cause of being rejected at home, not getting attention they need, so they became rebellious and joined the gang. It wasn't like now, when they get in to get their parents upset or to impress a girl.

Sincerely - R.S.
California


Salvador,

You wanted to know whatís the purpose of being in a gang. I donít think thereís a single one. My own personal one was that I was having some problems with my parents with the role they wanted to play in my life. I was about 15 years old at the time and I used to think that it was either my way, or no other way. I didnít trust them, nor did I know how to communicate with them.

Unfortunately, things got way out of hand and I ended up in prison. You know, when I was that age, I used to think I had all the answers to my problems. Believe me; that was the worst mistake of my life as you can see. I am still paying for that mistake.

I imagine youíre having some crazy thoughts of joining a gang. Well, if you are think about it for awhile. Being involved in that type of life is no joke. Bad things do happen. Thereís always the fear that some rival gang will hurt you, or worse kill you. This is serious.

And of course, thereís also the possibility of spending your life in prison. That is another tragedy in itself.

It is no walk in the park. Many people you know probably are not going to want to have anything to do with you, and sometimes even your own family wonít either.

So I guess there is a sole purpose of joining a gang after all: that is, to ruin your life.

I hope I answered your question.

With lots of respect - G. Alvarado
California

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What's so fun about gangs?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

At first it was cool to hang out with the crew; usually it was boring.

A Prisoner
New Jersey


It ainít about fun; itís business.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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Do you think gangs are really more of a "family" than an organization?

No, you can't ever compare a family to a gang. You can't even say it's an organization, cause it's not, cause everyone in the gang gots his or her own friends.

Sincerely - R.S.
California

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What was gang life like?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

It was stupid, but not as ďgood.Ē Did a lot of stupid junk for no reason.

A Prisoner
New Jersey


When I was out there it was all good, but sitting in prison, I now know that life is a big LIE!

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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How did you feel with the people in the gang?

I felt close to guys in the gang--loved and secure--we were the best of friends.

Respectfully - Oscar
California

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This is la Triste. People call me that is because the stuff I been through! But answer me this question, ďDo gangs fuck up your lifeĒ? Cause since mine is I am thinking about getting jumped in. Cause I already claim but I need some more advice before a make a big mistake? Please help!

Dear Triste,

It sounds like you are at a crossroads in your life, trying to make a choice. No one but you can decide what you want to do. You started out by saying that your life is really messed up. Obviously you do want it to get better. To make the choice, look at people you know that have gotten into gangs, that have been in them for quite awhile, and see if their lives got better.

When I was young, I was drawn to committing crimes because that was an easy quick fix. I never really thought about what would happen long term or getting caught and I figured that was something I would worry about later. I also believed that everyone else who did get caught was a lot dumber or very unlucky to get caught. I found out that, in the long run, I was totally wrong. At first, things were great. I had more money, was looked up to by people, and I thought I had the easy solution to making it big and doing it quickly. Then I was still stubborn, believing that I would learn from my mistakes and not get caught the next time, or that it was pure luck that the police got me and chances are that it would never happen again.

Now that I have spent a good portion of my life in prison, I have come to see that I was the dumb one. I hear about the kids I grew up with, the ones that are really successful, I even read about. They have jobs, family, houses, children of their own. Some went to college or into the military; others played professional sports; and even though some did nothing truly spectacular, at least they are free to do what they want to do when they want to. Gangs or crime take that away. People in gangs do what others tell them to do. Criminals live in prison eventually and do what prison guards tell them to do, when they tell them to do it. I get a shower when my cell opens for one, not when I feel like it. I go outside at the time my door opens for that; if it is too cold or too hot or raining, I can take my pick - stay in my cell or go out then. Many in gangs get similar choices like beating someone up because they are told to or committing a crime. All of these acts have consequences. When I was young I never thought of them and figured that was something I would have to deal with later. Now I am here and serving life, not knowing if I will ever get out or when after being here over 20 years. I never thought about what I would be doing when I was 35, 40, or 50.

I know now. If you live that long, itís real easy to take the first step in getting to where I am at. After you take it, itís a lot harder to change. I wish I had listened to the people who tried to tell me some of the things I am telling you know. Make the right choice and think long term, not for the easy solution like I did.

With best wishes - Al R.
New Jersey


La Triste,

Yes, gangs do fuck up your life! Even if things in your life are not going your way, joining a gang is not the answer. Everyone goes through hard times and joining a gang wonít make things better in your life. In fact, joining a gang would make things worse in the long run. My advice to you is to stop claiming and stay away from the gang. Find friends that will accept you for who you are because those are the people who will be there for you when you really need them. Stay strong and things will get better. Asking for advice is a good idea since you can get advice from someone who has experience and will tell you how it really is. Stay strong.

Someone who cares
California

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How did you run into the gang, and did they help you learn to fight and shoot a gun?

I grew up around the gang. They didnít teach me how to fight; I taught myself. The gang taught me how to spend the rest of my life in prison. You canít learn anything good from a gang

Someone who cares
California

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When did you start being in a gang? How did you start? Why were you in a gang?

Lilia

I was one of the original people in the gang. We started out as a group of friends just wanting to have fun. I started our gang in Ď87 when I was thirteen just hanging around with each other.

I was gangbanging at the time to earn power and respect.

Mike D.
California


I joined the gang to make money. My gang has been around since 1941 but it started up in San Francisco in 1970.

Tommy
California


I joined my gang at eleven years old and, to be honest, I canít say just one thing made me do it. We were poor and gangs pervaded the way to and from school. My uncles were all in gangs and my home life was terrible. I didnít feel loved and I was a scared child in a cruel world who had to play tough or be someoneís pet victim - get my money, shoes, or bike taken from me. Iím now 43. I started out being like my uncles but escalated to being ďfeared and respectedĒ as my own name grew to be known. To this day, I canít answer why I started exactly.

Aaron B.
California


What made me want to join a gang? Tough question; different situations in family and school and a spirit of anger. Not always does one realize he is in a gang until it is too late. In my case, I grew up with friends from grade one through grade six; then on to Junior High meeting new friends, but still keeping the old. When one would get into a fight we would all be there. Then I realized I belonged to this gang.

Manuel
California


When did I start being in a gang and why? Well for me I could not really say when; I grew up with all my homies is and here I am doing time for the gang.

Rafa
California


I became part of the gang when I was about fifteen years old. It all started in high school where I actually met real gang members. You see I was brought up in a different world, Central America, and at the age of fourteen I joined my mom and the rest of my family in California. Well things didnít go as I expected them. Letís just say I didnít fit well with my new dwellings.

And then there was high school. But I donít think peer pressure drove me to become a gang member. I think it was the way things were at the house - and also the lack of communication between me and my elders. For some insane reason I thought that by joining a gang I somehow was going to be free of all the rules and laws (how wrong I was). I did feel somewhat awkward at school with me barely knowing some English. Nevertheless I didnít have to seek out the company of gang bangers (there are always other choices). Most of the kids were just trying to fit in anywhere they could like I was; only if I was willing to take it further. One day I asked one of the real gang members to jump me in their gang. When I say jump, I mean literally getting stomped by a bunch of people. That is a ritual - to see if you can survive a beating and not run.

After I became a so-called real homeboy I started to get in all kinds of fights in school. I tried to hide all this from my mom, but eventually I decided to run away from home and headed for where my gang was (we lived in a different city).

Once I was introduced to the rest of my homeboys and homegirls, I was left in the middle of a filthy street. One dude told me that, if I wanted a roof over my head, Iíd better start selling dope (drugs) or do anything to make some money. I was a sixteen year old kid that was in way over his head. I didnít really know the streets. I thought that just by being one of the homies things were going to be given to me. Was I in for rude awakening or what? That was only the beginning of what was to become the worst years of my life. But being the kind of person I was, I told myself Iíd die before Iíd go ask my family to take me back in. I almost did die a few times. I got shot at and I shot people it kind of became second nature to me to carry a gun at all times. You know what is the surprise to all this? That I was brought up from my grandparents in a loving house and I had God since I was born. Every year we celebrated Godís gift to the world (Jesus). I had the love and understanding of the people who raised me that none of that mattered to me in those two years I was running wild, not caring that my family was probably sick with worry because they didnít know where I was. I saw so many un-human things being done in those years and I canít get over the idea of how easy I became part of the madness around me.

What is still vivid in my mind is my first encounter with the cops. It was probably about four months after I was on my own. I just came out of the dingy apartment I was living in. The cops were in the building. As soon as one cop saw me, he just slapped me flat out on my face, I had some cocaine hiding in my mouth and it came flying out. I thought for sure I was about to take my first trip to jail, but after he had his fun beating me up, I was told to go to the alley adjacent to the building. I was so scared, I came close to crying, but once I got to the alley another cop started to verbally humiliate me - telling me how stupid and useless I was. He took photos of me to catalog me in a book they kept in their unit (C.R.A.S.H.-LAPD). So it was official - I was a gang member, tagged by the police and all. I had so many mixed feelings after that cop told me to go home. I didnít know what to do. I just started to walk, until tears just sprang out of my eyes. I felt so lonely and out of place. But instead of going back to my folks, I waited for things to cool down and came back to the neighborhood. My so-called homies were all proud of me, telling me how tough I acted by confronting the pigs and all that. I felt sick by the whole thing, but I didnít tell them that. I just went along and put my tough-guy mask on, knowing full well I just had the worst moment in my life. After that, I tried even harder to forget who I really was. I wanted not to feel anything and thatís exactly whom I became - a cold, heartless boy.

I forgot all my old memories and started to gang bang to the point that it didnít really matter to me whether I was going to kill someone or be killed by others.

I finally got arrested for killing another human being. During my stay in L.A. County Jail, I went ahead and kept playing the same old silly games. I went through so much in there; all this racism was new to me. I grew up in a different type of environment but in there other races were supposed to be my enemies. So it was a new way to gang bang. I thought life on the streets was painful and un-human. Boy was I wrong; in jail things were one hundred percent worse.

I really donít know whether things in my life would have turned out differently had I not been a gang member. Often I hear that we are who we are because of because everything life has dished out to us and the way we deal with problems. Well I think of myself now as a man filled with many regrets, but also with a sense of understanding who I am. Iíve been in jail for almost ten years. I was arrested when I was seventeen years old. Drugs were not a problem for me but, as far as my family, I am really ashamed of the mess Iíve made out of my life. I am the only one in my family in prison.

At this point in my life Iím trying to reconnect myself with whatís really important. I may or may not spend the rest of my days in here, but I want something else out of life other than a prison number. I want to become a writer and teacher is possible, so maybe when I finally get out Iíll teach in my country.

I believe each person in here is capable of waking up, and if anybody thinks that being part of a gang is fun, well what I just shared with you is only a tiny fragment of what my life became when I made that mistake (of joining in). There have been many times when I think, ďWhat have I done with myselfĒ? I let down many people, and of course me.

Living in prison is not a fun experience either. You donít really have rights; you give them away the moment you become part of the system.

I hope any of you that want this kind of life realize, before you commit the same mistakes I did, that your life is worth way more than this. Maybe itís not too late to open your eyes. Your life might seem difficult right now, but wait until you throw it away; itís going to be like living but not living.

I donít see myself as a gang member and now, but just a man with a sense of hope and desire to live in harmony with life. I regret many of the things Iíve done; I believe that things that you do to others come back to you.

Life is so full of mysteries and wonders and it is a big shame to waste it away in prison or in a senseless fight. Besides nobody has the right to take the life of another human being, especially for something not worth fighting for.

Well for now I am going to say goodbye and hopefully my words will bring to you all a little bit more awareness that gangs and prison are not a joke, or a place to be.

A friend - G. Alvarado
California


The reason why I joined the barrio lifestyle? Well, in my personal life there's a few reasons. One is that a lot of my family are in gangs, and because when I was young I liked to party and cruise around with the homeboys. But like I said that was me, everyone has their reasons! Some join a gang because of peer pressure, some join because they don't have anyone to guide them or give them advice, so they join a gang to be part of a family. Some want to be part of a family and they find that in the gang, they love each other, take care of each other and watch each other's back.

Sincerely - Joey A.
California

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How old were you when you decided to get into a gang?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

I was 12 years old.

A Prisoner
New Jersey


I was 13 years old.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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What do you actually have to do to get in and out of a gang?

Every gang has their own rules and their own ways to get someone jumped in a gang. Most gangs you need to get jumped in and you need to ride to the fullest, I mean until death if you decide to leave the gang. Itís no game. Beware, you donít wanna go there. Iím not trying to scare you. Iím just letting you know the truth, the facts. If youíre in a gang or planning to be, you canít be a rat, a punk or fake. This life stilo will not take you nowhere but 25 to life in prison, a druggy, or death.

Marisol
California

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Did you feel important because you were in a gang and everybody was scared of you?

Denise

I got into this situation, because I thought I was a bad-ass, always thinking I knew what to do and never listened to anyoneís advice. Yes I felt very important and powerful.

Mike D.
California


I got into the place Iím in, because I wanted to make money and I wanted to move up in rank and earn respect. I was important, but I had to do a lot of things to move up in rank.

Tommy
California


Yeah, I felt important. Some part of me still does. Iím now O.G. and the ďbig homieĒ but whatís that worth to me? Nothing! No, it wasnít worth it.

Aaron B.
California


I could truthfully say that I did feel important because everybody was scared of me. But when I needed help from the people, they would not get near me. Especially when you just got jumped from another neighborhood that you donít get along with (and when I say jumped, Iím talking not about not able to stand up and thatís if you get lucky). And that is a very scary feeling, when you really need help from a stranger but they donít want to help you because youíve got them scared of you. So if you come to think of it you are hurting yourself and itís not worth it. So think before you act of all times.

Rafa
California

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In your opinion, how does "bullying" play a role in becoming a gang member? Is teasing and bullying a factor to becoming angry and joining a gang?

Arika

Arika:

You'll be surprised that not many bullies join gangs. It's the persons being bullied who often join to have that feeling of being protected and having backup. In other words, have someone else fight their fight or intimidate anyone from picking on them. So, yes, bullying is a factor to becoming angry, scared and joining a gang for the protection it offers.

Respectfully - Oscar
California

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Before you got into a gang, did you know a lot of people in the gang?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

Almost everyone I knew was down with something or someone. Not all in the same spot, but thatís how it was.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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Did you have family members in the gang?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

Yes.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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I want to know why gangsters need to get a tattoo when they get in the gang.

People get tattoos because they symbolize things. If it's your gang, then you're expressing your loyalty and saying that you won't rank out.

Respectfully - Oscar
California

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Did you get in a lot of trouble when you were in the gang?

Amanda

Amanda,

I got in a lot of trouble going through the growing pains that brought me to adulthood. This was due to my not feeling I could trust the advice from those trying to help me and because I thought I had to find all the answers myself. Well, I did; and now I understand how little I knew when I knew everything.

Brian
California

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As a gang banger what where some of the hardest things you had to do?
What is the thing that you did and regret the most?
What did your family have to say?
- Eddie F.

"As a gang member, the hardest things that I had to do were to inflict pain upon my family - the look of unbearable pain I saw in my mom's eyes whenever I came home after being gone for days. The last time I saw my mom before I got busted was when I came home after being gone for weeks. As I entered the living room, I saw her reddened eyes and her sad face turn towards me. She tried to be tough and turned away from me. When I asked her where my older sister was, she answered with a simple, 'She's not here.' I turned away and left. I think that she felt guilty because she had gotten an arrest warrant on me on advice from my P.O. I guess that she figured at least I'll be alive if I was in Juvenile Hall. After I got busted, I found out that as soon as I left the house, my little sister came crying after me calling for me to come back. I didn't hear her"!

"The hardest thing that I did and the one that I regret the most was to take someone's life. I did it in the heat of the moment because, as soon as I saw the victim, I felt such hate and anger for something I believed he did in the past. It is hard and mind-blowing to be responsible for ending a life, for taking away someone's son and brother. What can a person say to the family?! There aren't any words to be said to the victim's family! 'I'm sorry, I apologize,' are words a person says when he bumped into someone or unintentionally hurt someone's feelings, but there are no words to say how much a person regrets ending someone's life, a family's future plans. A man's dreams of bringing up his kids along with his brother's are suddenly no more."

"For some reason beyond my understanding, families seem not to exist when someone is in a gang. Cousins stab and shoot at each other because they belong to rival gangs. Even though families don't exist in most of the gang members' minds, it doesn't mean that they are not there, that they don't suffer. My family suffered a lot. My mom had to enter a clinic because she had a nervous breakdown. But her suffering cannot be compared to that of the victim's family, and especially the victim's mom."

Alex
California

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What was the worst thing you ever did in a gang?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

I hit this old lady in the head with a pipe. I donít know what happened to her, but to this date, no mater what others stuff I did, that one hurts me.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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What is the most horrible experience you had as a gang member?

Throughout my life there have been so many things, but there was nothing another human being couldn't do or wasn't capable of doing.

The most horrible experience - well, I tell you what that is ... every single day that goes by inside this hole. "Freedom" - the freedom to walk, to move wherever you want to go, the freedom to eat whatever you please. After you eat the same crap every single day for five to ten years, you'll get a better idea of what I'm talking about. The freedom of seeing the sunlight. The loss of freedom is a horrible experience.

Now Erika, don't get me wrong. I'm a man who believes the old quote. "If you do the crime, you better be ready to do the time." Plus I'd quote one myself that goes like this, "There isn't a thing built by human hands that can break the human mind"!

Loss of freedom is your answer.

Con respeto - Juan
California

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Hello my name is Abneris. I'm 15 yrs. Old. I would like to ask u Do u regret what u did back in the day? How's life in Prison is it hard nice or awful? Did u ever get shot on the streets? Was it hard to live as a gang member? Did u leave everything for that gang? Did u run away ever in ur life? Was those friends that were in that gang with u are they still there being ur friends? I'm curious i like to apolize for so many questions. I thought about joining gangs and running away and getting locked up. I just want to hear it from somebody who experience this stuff rather than somebody who hasn't.

Dear Abneris,

Hi. How are you today? I read your question and hopefully my answer for it can help. Well you ask did I regret what I did back in the day and other stuff. Well, yes I do regret about what I did back in the days as far as stealing gang-banging and messin around but I donít dwell on it because I canít do nothing about it except to try to make up for it which I am doing now. Yes, I stole, did drugs, gang-banged, and did some time for it. Did I ever run away? Yes I did, not to get my parents mad or anything but I needed some time alone. But I always came back and told them, ďIím sorry.Ē I just needed time to think, but that wasnít the proper way of doing it. I should have just stayed in my own room to think or be alone. Well, was prison life for me hard? - Yes it was. I mean you do not control the things around you and you can get seriously hurt and even killed in there. It is very awful because you got no freedom in there. You canít do anything you want in there. They control your life. Prison is no place for anyone, especially a girl. Have I ever been in a gang? - Well yes. Was it hard? - Yes it was very hard and scary because I was always on my feet never really knowing who or what was coming my way. Was I shot at? - Daily. I praise God that Iím alive today and that Iím not dead. Was it hard to live as a gang member? - Very because it was a dangerous life style. Yes I did leave everything for my gang except my family. That was until I met Christ and found out that He had more to offer me than a life full of sin, hate and danger. Well, yes I left my gang and yes they are still my friends but most of them are already dead or in jail. The point Iím trying to get to you is that a life full of crime gangs and hate ainít worth it. No you should not gang bang or run away or even do drugs. There is more to life than that. Believe in Christ for He is the way. A prison life is no way for a person. I promise you it only leads to death or destruction. Keep you head up for things will get better. Keep your mind focused on the Lord and your education. Be thankful for what you got and count each day as a blessing. Donít turn to a lifestyle of gangbanging for itís not worth it.

Sincerely - T.N.
Recently released

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Why do you fight and kill if you got in a gang to be safe and learn love not to fight and kill?

Marcela S.

Dear Marcela,

I never joined a gang to be loved, safe, or respected. I chose to get in a gang because we were all just young kids having fun. But once you're a gang member, you'll be forced to defend yourself and sooner or later, you find yourself fighting or shooting at someone on sight because they're doing it to you. I hope I was of some help. Take Care.

Sincerely - Jesse G.
California

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How does it feel when you kill another person? How does it feel when you see one of your gang members die?

When you kill another person, you feel this huge burden of guilt within your inner self, as if you've done the worst that anyone can do to another person. Plus, you know deep inside that you have broken something that you cannot fix. It is a huge hole in life to live in and with. Your conscience is not clean, it is stained with the blood of a man, a husband, a father, son, brother, cousin, neighbor and friend. The consequences of your actions affect many people, not just yourself and your family.

Concerning your second question, to see one of your fellow gang members die is just as if seeing a friend, and at times a brother, die. Friendships within a gang become personal, because you've grown old with some of them throughout the years. Another member can become your best friend, and as dear as a brother. You feel heartbroken and you become hateful towards those who did this harm against you and your friends. And so, we continue the cycle of violence in the streets to kill and risking everything you have, even your own life. Look around your world and you will notice that this problem is universal, even though it is dressed in different clothing on different people. The heart of the problem is the heart of man. Only God, through His word, can change us and make us a new man. He has done this for me, and many others throughout history. God has given us Jesus Christ as the answer to all our problems. Thank you for your time, and God Bless. Read the Bible. John 3:16-21

Alex P.
California

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What were you feeling when murdering someone?

Yours sincerely - Anar

Dear Anar,

My feelings when I committed murder werenít there at the time. I was drunk and on drugs. As I sobered up, I realized what I had committed. I had ruined someoneís life and the lives of his family, as well as my familyís lives. There are no words on how I could explain those feelings. I just remember crying a lot. Till this day, I feel pain in my heart for what I did and wonder if the family will ever forgive me for what I did to their son. Iíve been in prison for 9 Ĺ years now. My daughter was born two months after my arrest, and itís hard to see a young child who asks her father when he will come home.

Jesse G.
California

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Did you have to kill somebody or did you see somebody get killed while you were in the gang or since you've been in jail?

Jose

I was in a lot of shoot outs, and four of my best friends were killed by other gang members. Matter of fact, the lady that started this website knew a lot of my homeboys and she went to one of their funerals. Yes I have killed someone.

Mike D.
California


I shot at people but never killed anyone.

Tommy
California


Some people need to prove themselves. Even when you do not want to kill somebody, things happen.

A Prisoner
New Jersey


I never killed anybody but I did have to do other things.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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I been having a hard time because my mom keeps on asking me if Iím in a Gang I keep on telling her that Iím not in one. Well I am in a gang. And she keeps on trying to change who I am. I donít know any other way of living. So how can I get her to understand that this is who I am? Because we argue a lot of times. The last argument we had was last night. And Iím just tired of it all! Like I donít know what I should do. A couple of times I thought about running away, but I donít know. I keep on thinking well maybe there might be another way.

Rachael

Dear Rachael,

How you doing? I am a gentleman that writes to the kids through the Gangs and At-Risk Kids Organization. I happen to read your letter and it gave me the impression that you are looking for help and for another way to understand your way of life, and you are completely right there is another way. There is so much you could do with your life. But first you must ask yourself, what it is that you really want out of your life? Because I know that when you was a little girl your dreams, wasn't to be in a gang. Right? So can you please ask yourself and please be honest with yourself, ďWhat do I really wantĒ? Because being in a gang is definitely not a future for you or anyone.

Concerning the arguments with your Moms, Rachael all she wants is the best for you. That is the only reason why she keeps asking you about the gang because she cares for you. Always remember that our parents always know best and more than we do. You may not see it that way now but in the future, when you get older you will. Try to listen to your mother and understand where sheís coming from, and you will see that all she wants is the best for you, nothing else.

Now, concerning about who your are, do you really know who you are? Are you sure about that? If so answer these questions to yourself:
  1. Where your Thoughts come from?
  2. Do you know that your Body is one thing, and you are another?
  3. Do you know where your feelings and desires come from?
  4. Do you know that you could be anything you desire to be?
  5. Do you know that you possess many hidden talents that you don't know of?
  6. Did you know that you are something completely different than a name?
  7. Did you know because you are in a gang that's not who you are or what you are'?
  8. Do you know the purpose of your life?

Because itís definitely not being a gang member, so if you could answer any of these questions, then you will begin to know who you really are. Rachael before you could say that there is no other way, first you have to really try to do other things you never did before. How you know, what else you could do, or be, if you don't try? Give yourself a chance to be all that you could be. There is so much more to life than being in a gang, specially for a young girl like you. You have your whole life ahead of you. But you have to think and find out what it is that you really want. First find your purpose, then create a plan, then put it into action, and make it real. Follow your dreams, make then come true. There is nothing impossible if you really want it. With discipline, sacrifice, hard work, and determination you could succeed in anything you put your mind to. So, sit down, take time for yourself, and really, really think about your future and where you want to be five or ten years from now, and what you want to accomplished with your life and yourself. If you take this time for yourself to think, but really think and be honest with yourself about what you really want, I promise you, you will start to see so many different things you want for yourself about life in general. So give yourself a chance, and give Moms a chance to be a part of your life instead of arguing with her about issues that she has the right to argue about because she loves you.

And I dare you to be different. Find your own identity Rachael, be yourself don't be a follower like everyone else in those gangs. You could do so much better by being yourself and different. Try new things. Meet new people. Go to different places. Learn new hobbies. Don't be scared of a change or to be someone different. If you try your will see, that your strength and character and motivation for life will be much better, and you will be surprised at the beautiful things that you will accomplished for yourself!

Well Rachael I hope my words find something inside of your heart that I know is there hidden and waiting to come out to prove to the world and to yourself that you could be all that and some. Give yourself the initiative and desire to be the women you came to this world to be. May God bless you, and help you change. Good Luck and be yourself not what others want you to be.

Sincerely - Ricardo
New Jersey


Dear Rachael,

My name is D.J. Iím 18 years old and I also stay in California (Californiaís Department of Corrections - better know as prison). Iím serving 23 years for the hood. Ainít no homie looked out for me and tried to take some of this time off my hands, or even wrote to me sayin good lookin out for not snitchen on the set. I was a rep for my hood out on the street. My moms didnít care, and my pops wasnít there but in the same spot Iím in now. I didnít have the opportunity to have my moms care enough to ask questions about me or my lifeÖ. You do ma! Your moms care about you, or at least for you. Let her help, cause this game ainít jack but shattered dreams and broken hearts. You said you tired of it all - well knock it off and get helped.

From a young Ge that knows - D.J.
California


Dear Rachael,

Your mother really loves you; thatís why she keeps asking you if youíre in a gang. She can sense that something is wrong with her relationship with you. You have continually lied to your mother and you say, ďThatís who you are. You donít know any other way of living.Ē Come on Rachael! Thatís not who you are really, is it? You seem so smart to me. Something is wrong; something has been wrong in your life for a long time and itís not your fault Rachael. Your mom has had it hard. Parents donít always know how to be there for their children, and itís not ever the childís fault. But what usually happens is that the child does go outside of the family in search of that moral support that for some reason their parents werenít able to provide. So, as with you, the child joins a gang.

Running away would be the wrong thing to do. Your mother needs you just as much as you need her. She knows that you are a strong young woman, but because life has been so stressful on her, she lost her connection with you and she doesnít know how to get it back. She argues with you because she only knows how to relate to you from that place of however old you where when she still had her connections with you. Sheís in a lot of pain from losing that connection and you are too, but being in a gang helps you numb that sense of loss. You sound like you two lost your connection quite a few years ago.

Youíre becoming a young woman now Rachael. The decisions you made as a child (such as joining a gang) donít have to be binding. Your mom did the best that she could under the circumstances. I know it wasnít all you needed her to be, but life wasnít easy for her either, and this isnít making excuses for her because there are no justifications for neglecting your child. Yet, I believe that she did her best with what she had for support. Itís obvious because of how smart you seem to be. Youíre right - there is another way. And thatís for you to step away from childish things. Step into your adulthood. Take charge of your life in a responsible, positive, and productive manner. Your relationship with your mom is severely wounded; youíre wounded; your motherís wounded as well. Donít make her suffer by continuing to live your life from the mind set of an adolescent. Step into your young-womanhood. Finish your education; seek healing for yourself and your relationship with your mother. Sheís not your enemy. You donít have to run away from her. You may be the strongest one in the family. Any time youíre involved with something that makes you lie to your mother, itís something that isnít good for you. Youíre better than that Rachael. Let me ask you this: Do you remember what was happening in your family when your relationship with your mom started going bad? Tell me about that.

Sincerely - Blue Cloud
California


Rachel

ďRachelĒ a 17 year old in a gang? You should be focusing on going to college at this point in your life Ma. I mean like, I donít know how it is where you live nowadays but I do know over here in Jersey these bangers are officially throwing their lives away for real. Why are you lying to your moms? If that is true then I can bet you are living in shame everyday you wake up. Because you are doing something youíre sneaking around to do and youíre not comfortable with it. Your mom loves you so of course she wants the best for you. You need to want the best for you though. You dig? You said you donít know any other way of living. Well, guess what? You better learn another living because they are not playing with these new laws theyíre making like ďUrban TerroristsĒ and the ďNut Cracker LawĒ. Rachel baby I am praying for you and your situation. I feel your pain for real. You said you are tired of it all. Guess what? Me too, being in a gang can tire you down on many levels. You canít run away that wonít solve nothing. It will only have your moms hurting more from not knowing where you at. Please donít do that, itís not wise at all. Talking to your moms is the only thing I suggest or just tone it down some & try to make wise decisions in your life. After all you are of age now ma. Pretty soon you will be 18 and out of the care of your moms. However, moms going to always be moms. Feel me? Take care of yourself shorty and try not to throw your life away.

ONE LOVE!!! - FACE!!!
New Jersey


Okay Rachael,

I know you may not see eye to eye on your gang thing with your mom, but running away is not the answer. Running away will only make matters worse. I know at your age, you believe you have all the answers and parents just donít understand! Well have you ever stopped to consider that maybe your mom may have a reason to worry? Maybe she knows what youíre going through because maybe sheís been through that herself. I donít know if she has but regardless, if she has or hasnít, sheís only sweating you because she cares about you and you should be thankful you have a parent who cares about you that much.

You say youíre a gang member. Thatís who you are and you want your mother to understand and accept that. Well, first of all, you are only 17 years old. No one really knows who they are at 17. And second, how can you really expect your parents to accept that? Your parents want the best for you, and telling them, "Iím a gang member and you just need to accept it!Ē is like saying, ďIím going to be a loser all my life and you just need to accept that!Ē No - thatís not acceptable. Youíre only 17 years old. You have your whole life ahead of you. I canít believe your only goal in life is to be a gang member! You can be so much more if you only try, and if you settle for just being a gang member, not only will you let yourself down, but youíll be letting down all your gente.

And believe me Rachael, I know because Iíve been there done that a long time ago, and now Iím sitting here in Pelican Bay for the rest of my life. Iím not saying youíll make the same bad decisions I made, but I know life as a gang member, male or female is not easy! At first itís fun, but the fun doesnít last forever. I know at your age you may not be able to see where Iím coming from, but I hope you will at least consider my response, because I would hate to see another wasted life.

Sergio
California

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I'm 13 years old I have a boyfriend and I'm pregnant he wants to stay in his gang that he's in so the question is what should I do?

Babygirl

Dear Babygirl,

Youíre having a baby and youíre so young yourself. Youíre about to be responsible for another life. If your boyfriend doesnít want to get out of his gang, then heís not ready to be responsible for this new life you two have created, which means that all of the responsibilities fall on you. Iím sure you will have some help from your parents, but ultimately, the responsibility is yours. Youíve got school - that you absolutely must complete. Your boyfriend, as it stands, is going to be a terrible distraction to you now. You have to be able to focus on your life and the life of your child. Youíre not going to be able to do that with any positive results if you stay with your boyfriend and his gang. You have to already know that. If he doesnít leave his gang, you should not continue to be with him. You have to think of your child first.

Sincerely - Blue Cloud
California


Babygirl,

Get the hell away from him! Tell him itís either you or the gang & when I say gang, I mean gang mentality, the lifestyle and all the negativity.

Paradise
New Jersey


Dear Babygirl,

Even though I donít have any experience guiding young ladies, I can say this: Itís gonna be hard enough to manage a life for the baby and yourself. A banger for a boo is not a bonus. Even though I canít offer much more than that as advice, I can share this with you: Often here in prison, I will witness a guy in distress. Almost always someone else will jump in no matter the risk and say, ďThatís my boy, my man, or my brother and I canít let it go down like that.Ē I always turn away and to the nearest person I say, ďIf he was truly a friend, a boy, or a brother, he wouldnít have you in this messĒ! That also means he wouldnít be involved because he knows it will somehow affect others at some time, negativelyÖ

Michael
New Jersey


Babygirl,

You are so young sweetie. You have put on womanís shoes. Are you ready for this walk?

Do you believe the person he is qualifies him to be the man and the father needed by both of you (yourself and the baby)? How old is he? Have you been going to the doctor? Do you have support from your family? Youíre so young and this is serious commitment for life. You need to put your priorities in order. How are you gonna support the baby if the father decides to get the stepping? What about talking to a counselor or social worker at school to help you set a plan?

Bibi
New Jersey


If you plan to have this baby, you better finish school. Get into GED classes. Get some vocational training, because welfare is not enough and it will always lead you to get what you need by other means. You may think itís cute to have a baby-father but I wouldnít even tell him unless heís ready to step up to the plate.

Maria
New Jersey

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Why am I so addicted to gang life? I personally love gang members and the life they live I know that some things aren't good but just the feeling of a rush feels hella firme! anyways I was introduced to gangs by some vatos I kicked it with, I havenít done any hard core drugs and all of mi ese's donít want me to touch that stuff. Iíve only drank and smoked some green. I choose to hang out with gang members. It really doesn't matter to me of all the bad things they do I just love being around hella down ass vatos, some people might look at me as just a girl to pass around pero thatís never happened to me Iím just not that kinda girl, I just really like being around people who live on the edge. I've always been a sweet, smart girl and ever since Iíve started hanging out with gang members Iíve been doing bad in school and getting an attitude with anyone who gets in my way especially people who talk smack because Iím white. To me it doesnít matter Iím down even though Iím not jumped in.

Love always *La Whitey*

Dear La Whitey,

I donít believe that itís the gang life that captivates you. I believe itís the rawness of the energy these cats you hang out with emit. Gangs are negative because they are not administered to by the elders of the community. And see, gangs only exist because the elders in the community didnít have anything in place to initiate the youth of the community into adulthood. As an attempt to initiate themselves (which canít be done), gangs were created. Itís that raw energy that you experience from these cats thatís supposed to be administered to and cultivated by the elders of the community. That doesnít happen in this culture, and gangs are the result.

My philosophy about life is that our spirits come to this human experience to bring something (a gift) to this world that only they can bring. And itís our instincts and emotions that are more in tune with what our gifts are than we are consciously (again this culture doesnít promote that). Like your - what you called an addiction to gangs - there is something more to it, but as long as your attraction to gangs continues to have a negative effect on your life, you may not ever learn what itís really about. You have to attach yourself to it in a manner that enhances your growth. As long as it makes you do bad in school and brings out a meanness to your otherwise sweet, smart character, youíll never learn the true meaning of your attraction to it.

Sincerely - Blue Cloud
California


La Whitey,

I almost didnít respond to your inquiry, only because I felt there was no getting through to you because of 2 reasons. One was because I am male and two because I am a black male and everybody knows Blacks and Mexican gangs are not friends. But then it hit me: if youíre smart enough to write and ask questions, then youíre probably smart enough to listen (no disrespect).

La Whitey, my name is Greg, and like yourself I am from the LA area. Iíve been in prison now for 8 years behind gangbanging. I donít have life, but this feels like life.

To answer your question about why youíre addicted to this lifestyle, itís because youíve been exposed to it. Youíve been exposed to a lifestyle that allows you to act as an adult no mater what age you are. What kid wouldnít like that? Youíve been exposed to a lifestyle that seems famous and well-respected because of fear. This lifestyle will pull in anybody who feels abandoned by someone (mostly family members). If you feel abandoned by anyone in your family, chances are you will be attracted to the so-called gangster lifestyle.

I write you from prison. I am around a lot of your so-called homeboys (no disrespect), and Iíll tell you this. They have it hard. Mexican gang members have it harder than any other gangs. They are a lot more organized, which is a lot more dangerous than any other gangs. Do yourself a favor young lady, at least stay in school. Finish school with good grades, and then go to college, and I promise you this: your good sense will kick in by itself. And as for why youíre attracted to gangs - you know why, and you know itís not right. Take care and learn to love yourself because self-love is ďwhatís-upĒ.

Respectfully - Greg
California

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Are you still in a gang or did you change and get out? If not why? If so how and what made you change?

- Andrea

No, I'm not in a gang anymore. I left that lifestyle because it is not my life anymore. I came to face the facts that my homies won't be there for me all the time. Like now, I don't get a letter from any of them. It's like they don't know me anymore. I never thought that would happen but it did.

Tuan
California



No, I'm not in a gang anymore. I decided to change my life when I noticed that my homies were only there for me when it was convenient and not when I was in trouble or locked up. Only my family has always been by my side. If one would stop and consider things, one would come to realize that those who claim to be closest to you will be the ones who'll betray you whether it be by going out with your partner or simply by taking possessions, etc. If there's someone you can count on, it's family.

Jesse G.
California



As for being in a gang, yeah I'm still in. I have a different perspective on life than just shooting and robbing people though.

Ricky
California

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To any of you guys who have brothers that are in the same gang as you, how does it feel and do you approve of it, also if, whenever you guys might cross paths in the system being brothers how do you feel?

Dear Yadira,

I have come across your questions from a friend and I would like to answer them. You would like to know what we think about having brothers in the same neighborhood or gang and if we approve of it. Well, to tell you the truth, I donít approve of anyone being in a neighborhood and the reason that I say that is because I am from one, and I donít want anyone going through what I have been through and am going through. I donít wish it on anyone, especially my brothers. But in away I think that some of us would like to have our brothers in the same neighborhood - that is if they are trying to be from a neighborhood. That way we can look out for each other as brothers and homies. But it is not the same if he is from another neighborhood. I think that you would understand what I am talking about. I think it is better if he is from the same neighborhood than being from another one because, in one way, how about if he gets jumped into a neighborhood that I donít get along with. Believe me; I had brothers that that happened. Thatís why I am saying what I am saying.

If we ever do cross paths in the system, in one way it will be cool because we are going to see each other, but Yadira, the bad part is that we are going to meet under the same circumstances and that part is not cool. But in the end, no one wants their brothers in any gangs.

With much respect - Rafa
California



Yadira,

I used to think life couldnít be any better than being in the same click as my older brother and building a reputation beyond his. Well, Iíve done it. I now have life without the possibility of parole plus 9 years. I see an older brother pass through ďfish rowĒ [the reception area] and I want to plant my foot up his butt for being older and still not being anywhere close to having his life together. Keeps on getting out just to come back. It kills me that he now tries to impress me into thinking heís hard. I look out for him when heís here because I donít think I could face Mom and Dad if I let anything bad happen to him.

With care - Brian
California



Yadira,

First and foremost, I hope this Ďlil kite finds you in the best of health. Second of all, bear with me for a minute or two. Iím not too much into writing letters, so donít mind if I get straight to the point. You asked a couple of questions about brothers being in the same gang and crossing each otherís paths in the system. I wish I could tell you what you want to hear, but instead Iím gonna tell you a little about my own experience and hopefully you find the answer to at least one of your questions.

Me myself, I am affiliated and always will be known as an affiliate. Iím the youngest out of two brothers and, to tell you the truth, most of the things I know, I learned from my older brother. I joined a gang, did whatever, wherever, and however I felt like but thereís no way I could have seen my brother in my situation - do the things I did, go through the things I did. Even though Iím the younger brother, I wouldnít approve of it. The directions I was headed, it was only a matter of time before my brother was too, so I did everything I could to distance myself and my homies from my brother. I figured it was a Ďlil too late for me but if there was anything I could do to prevent my brother from getting into it, I would do it. I know that was one of your questions, so if it isnít too late, and I hope it isnít, please try everything you can to stop yourself and your brother from joining a gang. It might not mean much coming from someone thatís already in the system, but seeing your brother in the system, going through all the hard times youíve been going through is the last thing Iíd wish on anyone. I have run into a couple of cuzzins and seeing the look on their face when they saw me in this environment being a whole different person was something Iíll never forget. So if itís not too late for you Yadira or your brother, please think long and hard. Ainít nothing fly about being in a gang. I know this ainít much but hopefully it was of some help. Keep up head up n stay strong.

P.S. My older brother is married, has a daughter and is a Pastor. God looked out for him.

Fiji
California



Yadira,

Greetings there Yadira! Well now, before I respond to your questions/inquiries, let me take this moment to formally introduce myself. My name is Ricardo and Iím 23 years old.

First of all, to answer your questions, ďyesĒ I have a brother (3 years my senior) who is also incarcerated and we both belonged to the same neighborhood. This isnít an easy question to answer and it made me dig deep cause, even though it may sound wrong, Iíve got to be honest; I have never given it much thought until now. Iíll be up front and try to explain my answers as best I can.

As sad as it might sound, coming up the way we came up, it wasnít strange/rare to hear/know of two brothers being locked down, so I never really gave it much thought. Now in hindsight I can honestly say I donít condone the choices we made and Iím sure my brother would agree that if we had any regrets in life, our biggest one would be joining our neighborhood, but harboring regrets would just eat at us and it is kind of useless. So instead I gotta focus on the present and whatever lies ahead.

My brother and I were always close like most brothers. Together we shared all of lifeís experiences and, like most Ďlil brothers, I looked up to my brother. So when he started running the streets and joined the neighborhood, naturally I was right behind him, trying to be (be like) imitate my brother, and initially he tried to detour me from that life style. But as we became more distant, the more I became involved in the same activities until I became consumed by it and by then it was far too late for him (my brother) to object. So he halfheartedly accepted it and I could see it was hard for him to swallow because, by then, he somewhat knew what to expect from that life style. So, to answer your question, now in hindsight I would not approve of him (or for that matter anyone else) joining the neighborhood, for many reasons aside from the obvious.

I have never had the opportunity to cross paths with my brother, but if we ever did it would be bitter-sweet because, on the one hand I love him and havenít seen him in eight years, but on the other hand it would be painful to see my brother under these circumstances. (Iím sure it would be mutual.) We would be left no other choice but to deal with it and make the best of not only an awkward but a somber situation.

I hope I have shed some sort of light on the situation even thought my answers may not have been what you expected or were looking for. So bear in mind itís just my experience and point of view.

With care - Ricardo V
California

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Why do gangbangers say that they regret doing the things they do when they get locked up, but when they get out they continue to gang bang?

Sierra

Sierra,

I think these bangers you ask about are more sorry they got caught than they are for what they did to get caught, so no new behavior is learned on the inside. Prison no longer rehabilitates; this sort of thing is strictly up to each of us - to find what works so we donít get discouraged and fall back once out on the streets.

Brian H.
California


Hi Sierra,

You asked why gangbangers say theyíre sorry when theyíre locked up, only to continue banging when they get out. Please understand that this is from my own perspective. When I was a young adult in the 70ís, there was a slogan that I believe answers your question quite profoundly, ďIt takes an entire community to raise a child.Ē I believe they really are sorry when they say it, but when they are released from incarceration, that need they had when they first became attracted to the gang is still very much a ďneedĒ - a need that gangs only present the illusion of being able to fulfill. This need is embedded within the depths of their consciousness. Itís the residue from the culture of most of our ancestors, at which time the whole community/village was involved in the raising of every child. In those times, the community/village was in tune with the needs of the child and every man woman and child functioned harmoniously with the needs of the community/village and thus the children. It takes an entire community to raise a child.

Respectfully - Ken. T.
California


Sierra,

I can only answer this question from my own personal experience. To do that, Iím going to give you a little bit of my background: I am 27 years old; Iíve been locked up since I was 17 years old; I was in a gang for only a year and a half before I got myself in serious trouble. Now, after ten years in here, Iíve started to feel this intense regret - not just your typical regret that comes and goes but an overwhelming fear that Iíll never be able to repair the damage I've caused to others. I have faced my faults, everything I am guilty of, and from a personal stand, it doesnít make my pain any easier; instead it increases my sorrows.

Doing this however, has given me an understanding of my own life. It is very hard for some of us to do this - to face ourselves in other words. It is so easy to do the things that are familiar to us, but to change and take that first baby step toward that direction is like diving into hot lava, especially if all you know is that kind of life. Many people have told me we have to make our own choices. I never took that seriously until now after all this time in prison. And believe me when I tell you this, at this point in my life I wouldnít raise a finger for any of my so-called homeboys, not in the here or out there on the streets. It is up to each person to realize this and face his/her own faults. Facing ourselves is not easy so probably many fail and do the same mistakes over and over because theyíre scared of whatís next after that. I hope Iíve answered your question.

Respectfully - G.Alvarado
California

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How long were you in the gang?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

I got in at 13, got locked-up at 15; I am now 24.

A Prisoner
New Jersey


Since the age of 12; I am now 27.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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While you were in the gang did you have to sell drugs?

Jose

I didnít do or sell any drugs.

Mike D.
California


Yes, I sold drugs, and look at where it got me!

Tommy
California

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Did you do drugs in the gang?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

Yes, we all did it. Some were into coke, but most of us just smoked trees/weed.

A Prisoner
New Jersey


At first I was getting high, but then I stopped because I made a promise to someone.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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Are gangs mostly connected to drugs?

Terri

Terri:

Yes, drugs play an important role in gangs. It's a way to provide income, and some individuals use them to cope with whatever circumstances led them to the gang lifestyle.

Respectfully - Oscar
California

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Hey once you are in a gang can you get out of it in other words not join it anymore?

Dear friend,

There are a number of gangs out there who operate under many different rules. The most common things with gangs is that once you are in, you are in for life or you would pay a heavy price to get out. That price usually means you have to pay with your skin, in more ways than one. The best thing to do is not to join a gang to begin with. However, if you are in a gang and do want to get out, I do suggest that you bring as much attention to the situation as possible. That means you talk to your parents, extended family members, concerned friends, someone from your church. Anyone who may be able to help, you go to them.

Luis D.
New Jersey

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If you weren't in prison do you think you would still be in the gang or think the same way you do now?

Diana

Honestly Diana, I cannot give you an anwser in pure confidence either way. I know that I would have made the change eventually; but if I would have changed my way of thinking by nineteen like I did here, while on the streets I don't honestly know. This was my biggest mistake -- waiting to make change in my life instead of just doing it. However, I will give you some of my experience and hope that you are able to take something positive from it.

I'm originally from North Miami Beach, and against popular belief, it's not all fun and sun. One of the two major reasons for my family moving here to New Jersey was to get me away from the gang life I was living. When I got up here, my surroundings had changed but I didn't. I fell into a depression, still wanted to click-up and hang on the streets like I was doing before.

There was one difference now though. I had more family members involved in my life, so I began to slow down. I had a lot more people to answer to and I didn't want to let them down. I was still depressed though, wasn't doing good in school, and I was missing all my friends. I guess acting and being the way I was, was a way of holding on to them. Still, second thoughts started to come into my mind and heart. More people caring for me (family members and some real friends) made me start caring about myself more. That had me starting to look towards a future, a future I used to believe that, with all my heart and soul, wasn't there.

Obviously something went wrong since I am writing you from prison!

A week before I caught this charge (murder) I told one of my friends that I had enough of this life, meaning that I was tired of hanging out, getting high, and living a life that was not going to take me anywhere I wanted to be, ironically! Still, as bad as I wanted to change, I didn't know how. I knew that living that way was wrong but I didn't know how to put one foot in front of the other in order to walk into a better life. As silly as it may sound, I was afraid to ask for help. I thought that I would be looked upon as strange or weak, even by my own family. The thing is that, though I wasn't strange (no teenager should be expected to know how to handle life) I was weak, in not recognizing my weakness of mind and emotion and asking for help. Routine turned out to be stronger than anything else and I went to hang out a week after. Since hanging out didn't consist of doing much, I didn't think much of it. Well that day it consisted of me getting a double life sentence.

The first year though I was never scared; I was confused, going to court not understanding anything about it. I moved from juvi' hall to the county jail and then to prison. For the next year I was very angry with everyone and everything, but mostly myself. I was so close to not even being in this place, but since hanging out was so routine, I didn't think anything would happen since nothing usually happened, like I said before.

Anger eventually left from me. I figured I still had to honor the statement I made a week before falling into this. My life is already controlled by others the way it had been on the streets. Now at least, I can choose the type of person I will die as. Furthermore, I don't do this time by myself. My family also does this time with me, so my punishment doesn't just come from physically being locked-up, but their continued pain is even harder to deal with sometimes. With the love I have for myself, the conviction and all these reasons, I have to make something out of my life -- even from inside prison!

So, even before prison I began to think in the manner I do now but I had no direction or conviction and was weak to my way if life, my routine. As bad as I want to tell you that I wouldn't be in a gang and still think the way I do now, I'm not 100% sure. I know that if I was to get out of here today I wouldn't be the same, cause I'm not the same. I am a man now and can proudly stand on my own two feet.

I still have love for the people I dealt with. That hasn't changed, but I know that I don't have to do, or be in, the same things they do. If anything I would try to get them away from that life, if they're still in it (I don't know since I never heard anything from any of them since this happened). My love is too real and big for me to let them fall further into that hole. I don't need anything I used to get from that life. Even though one or two things I got from it were good, most of it was bad; and I'd gladly do without those few good things not to get all that bad stuff that comes with it. You can find real love, patience and understanding elsewhere without all that other bull@#$%!

The last thing I want to do is to leave you with the impression that prison is a place to get your @#$%! together. Everyone can and should do it out of prison, just have the heart and conviction to do it. Take yourself importantly an be smart, cause you are important!!! I hope I have come close to answering your question and that you could gain some insight from reading this letter. You don't have to live something in person to know it or understand it as being wrong!

In progress and with love - Luis B.
New Jersey



Dear Diana,

I come to you with the hope and blessings of God, that at the end of this letter your question may have been answered.

My name is Michael R. I am currently residing at the New Jersey State Prison serving a double life sentence.

I was in a gang for eight years. I decided to call it quits due to my incarceration. There's no doubts in my mind that if I wouldn't have gotten incarcerated, I would still be in the gang.

When I was in society, I didn't have any goals for myself other than living life day to day. Since my incarceration, I've obtained my high school diploma and Im currently seeking college courses to enhance my education. I spend most of my time reaching out to the youth, hoping that they won't make the same mistakes I've made.

I conclude this letter by saying, yes I would have still been in a gang if I weren't in prison, and no, I wouldn't be thinking the way I do now. Today I think of the youth for our future.

Diana, if there is anything else you wish to know about gangs, please feel free to write. We must teach our youth the manipulation of gangs.

Michael R.
New Jersey

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Why did you change your mind about being in a gang?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

It is not that I changed my mind about being in with my crew, but I do not want other people in my family doing it. It is whack and leads to nothing but heartache.

A Prisoner
New Jersey


If I knew then what I know now, I would never have gotten down.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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Is it true you have to either be beaten out of a gang or killed to get out? I just don't understand why people would place themselves in this situation.

Thanks - Lynn

Yes, it is true that you have to be beaten to get out of a gang. That is only if you're lucky. Most gangs are not like that. Once you join, the only way out is death. My only advice to you is not to join a gang. Don't live that lifestyle, cause you'll regret it as you get older.

Tuan
California


Hey Lynn,

Yes it is true that you have to be beaten or even killed to leave a gang. Sometimes you may walk away but that's only if you have enough respect or you tell them how it is and you want no part in it. What kind of friends want to beat you in or out of a gang? It doesn't sound very logical. I'm glad there are no real gangs over there in Ohio. Man, all that leaves you is death, jail, or mental prison. I never understood myself. Why did I put myself in that situation? I don't know and I think I could never answer that. The only thing I could say is what am I going to do to get out of that situation?... Think about it!...

Angel
California

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How did you get out of the gang alive?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

I got locked up.

A Prisoner
New Jersey


When I came to prison, I tried not to let anyone know, but when I went to this other spot, there were some people who knew me, so although I donít really hang with the others, I never really got out. Sometimes it donít work that way.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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Did you have to get jumped out?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

There was no getting ďjumped out.Ē Once in, it is for life. If you deny who you are, you get stitches.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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What happens if you switch colors?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

One does not switch ďcolors.Ē Betrayal can get you hurt really bad. Plus, if you go over to the other side, no one will really trust you.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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