Questions about Joining a Gang

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Answers

vines

Hey Iím 13 at school many kids pick on me and that gets me really angry. Should I join a gang so they will stop and so I can get some respect?

EG

Dear E.G.,

My name is Juan and I am answering your questions to ďGangs and At-Risk KidsĒ. Thank you for reaching out and asking for help!

School bullies have been a problem for many, many generations, ďsince the beginning of time,Ē but joining a gang to make it stop or gain respect is not the answer. It will only add more problems to what you are already going through. In fact, joining a gang is not cool at all and will get you into trouble!

When I was about your age, there was this guy that had a reputation for fighting and he would intimidate other kids. Now, my thing in school was sports and those were the friends I hung around with because we had sports in common. But this bully was in one of my classes and somehow he wound up getting in my face. What I did, and I am not saying you should, but I pushed him and he fell between the chairs. Later he went around telling anybody that would listen to him that he would fight me after school. But before the school day was over, he was saying something different because he knew that I would stand up to him, win or lose. In reality bullies are scared too and they try to save their reputations. But by that time, the whole school already knew that if you stood your ground, the bully would rather find a way out than to fight! That was my experience.

E.G., I am not saying for you to do what I did. There are other ways in dealing with bullies. You can ask for help from your school counselor and teachers. Talk to your parents and let them know whatís going on. But donít join a gang! That is not the solution.

E.G., I am writing to you from prison! Drugs and alcohol is what got me here! Later I joined a prison gang, like thinking that it would keep me safe and gain respect. It turned out to be a big mistake! It only added to the problems of drugs and alcohol I already had. But getting out of the gang and stopping using drugs and alcohol is the best decision and choice I have ever made!

E.G., it nearly cost me my life! Only through the Grace of God I was saved! I have been imprisoned for 27 years! But I am proud to say that I am free from the bondage of drugs and alcohol and from the gang. I hope my letter will help you and give you the courage to ask for help. Please stay away from gangs and also from drugs and alcohol.

Have faith! God has something special in store for you. God bless and guide you in your journey through life!

Life in Christ - Juan
California


Dear E.G.,

Itís never a good reason to join a gang and doing so doesnít gain you respect. Respect comes to the individual whoís giving his best to accomplish something thatís honorable. Joining a gang doesnít make people respect you. They may fear you. Fear isnít respect; itís the opposite in the reactions it brings to you. Someone who fears you will try to kill you way faster than youíll see coming. Youíre 13 yrs. old. Thereís so many honorable things available to you that breeds respect: sports, school grades, and activities. The thing is, truly applying yourself to whatever it is that youíre good at or what you like doing. Thereís an energy (that feels like magic) attached to a person when their completely connected to a task theyíre good at or like doing. They stand out when theyíre performing it. Anyone who sees them handling their business with that magical flow admires what they see and respects you because they connect with the artistry you bring out of what youíre doing. And thatís true with anything positive that you get into on that level I just described. What are you good at or really like doing?

Sincerely yours - Blue Cloud
California


EG,

Though youíre only 13, I think youíre already smart enough to know the difference between respect and intimidation. Thatís your answer.

Mike
New Jersey

BACK

Hi okay I was thinkin if I should join a gang my lifeís already f**ked up and Iím only 14 so what should I do?

Sincerely, Dreamer

Dreamer,

You say that your life is all messed up already, but joining a gang will only make your life a lot worse for you, and that will also hurt your family. When weíre young, we donít think on how things affect our parents because we only think of ourselves. I hope that you donít join the gang. Youíre 14. Spend your life with good friends and family. I lost all my teen life in Juvi, always locked up, so donít miss out on your teen life. Be strong; whatever the problem is, you can overcome it. You canít do it by joining a gang.

Your friend - Jesse G.
California


Naw ďMan,Ē donít join no gang! Whatís going on that you want to make things worse by letting some immature cats call shots over your life? Tell me about that. Iíll bet we can come up with a positive spin for it. something must have changed really abruptly for you to want to self-destruct like that. At your age, thereís a lot going on with you mentally and physically, and parents often times donít remember that. Thatís where uncles, grandfathers and big brothers are supposed to step up, kick it with you, and help you put all whatís happening to you in proper perspective. But see, thereís so much going on in our society out there that adults get sidetracked too. Yet you should not be left to try to deal with that aspect of your life alone, because if you are left to do it alone, it will lead you right to a gang. And that will only destroy your life. So Dream, we can kick it about anything. Just holla at me. Iíll always holla back. I can assure you that as long as you stay out of gangs, it wonít be as bad as you think. I can also assure you that all the answers you need are already within your realm of knowledge. You just need help accessing them. I can help you do that. Holla at me. Iím here for you anytime. Believe that!

Sincerely - Blue Cloud
California

BACK

I am 15 years old. This guy that I like really wants me to join his gang. I really like the kid, and I would do anything to make him happy. Should I join the gang? I am a really tough girl and can fight. The only thing that I am scared of is my initiation into the gang. I have to have sex with about 3 or 4 of the guys there. I am not a girl who has been known to sleep around with other men other than my boyfriend. What should I do?

Amanda

Dear Amanda,

I found your question curious just cause if itís nature, and to be honest, if being sexed into a gang is your only option, I would recommend that you donít disrespect yourself in such a nature as to demoralize your self. Youíre very young and this isnít the way you want to start off, and although your boyfriend may agree thatís what he wants, after the fact he will no longer respect you for that even though he may not say so. But youíve got to be strong in your beliefs and have respect for yourself. Itís a little sad that you would even consider doing such a thing. I guess I find it odd cause we donít do things that way in Southern Califas. In fact, I believe in doing such a thing one would lose respect instead of gaining it. So please make the right choice and donít let your feelings for your boyfriend fog your judgments. I wish you the best.

Respectfully - Robert
California


Amanda,

I canít even imagine telling my girlfriend she would have to sleep with anyone period! This sounds like something a pimp would say.

Brian
California


Amanda,

I just read your letter. You sound like a real smart girl, so I wonít talk to you like youíre some dumb kid.

Your question was a good one. Let me tell you what I know about how ďweĒ used to do it when I was out there banging. In my day, the girls who got in were put through a lot of shit, and the truth is Amanda, it didnít have anything to do with being a good banger. We were using them for our own thrills.

Since I am not pulling any punches with you, Iíve got to say that I think, if this dude cared about you like you do him, I donít think he would go for passing you around to the homies.

You said youíre a tough girl and I donít doubt that at all. I just got to say that it takes a hell of a lot stronger person to do what they no is right and not do what others want them to.

With that said, I will close here. I hope you decide to do what is best for yourself Amanda. If this guy cares for you for real, he will be there for you and do whatís best for you. If he donít care for you, then he will do whatís best for him and his homeboys.

Stay true to you - Rick M.
California

BACK

Last year I wanted to join a gang but something stopped me and I donít know what it was. Then I read your poem and it made me cry. I still hang with the gangsters because they take care of me. See I am the oldest in my family and they really donít pay attention to me and when I am with my friends they are like big brothers or sometimes my parents and they keep asking me if I am going to join and I always make up stupid excuses and I thought you might help me if to decide because if I donít join I might loose my friends and then who is going to take care of me? I am only 14.

Thanks Aleida

Aleida,

It is my belief that you will never be able to trust in others as much as in yourself. Those gangsters who take care of you are not taking care of you for free are they? Do they never ask or hint that they want or will want later something in return? Learn to take care of yourself. Your family never pays attention to you? Yeah thatís hard, but itís still a place to stay while you learn what you want out of life, and then what steps are needed to get it.

Brian
California


Aleida,

You did the right thing by not joining a gang. You say they take care of you but believe me when I tell you it only feels that way right now. When you really need them, they wonít be there for you. If you were to ask, 9 out of 10 people in jail would tell you that the only people who are taking care of them are their family members. If they want you to join, then they are not your friends because a true friend would tell you that joining a gang can only bring trouble and danger to your life. Sometimes you might not think things can get any worse, buy when you join a gang, things will get worse. Losing the friends that want you to join a gang can only mean good news for you. You donít need friends like that. I hope you take my advice and decide not to join a gang because I joined a gang at a young age and now Iíve lost everything that I ever cared about. Make the right choice.

Someone who cares
California

BACK

I live in a small city and there's a lot of youths (white) here that are gangbanger wannabes. Being a Chinese here I have been picked on before by white ppl and I have never really let go of my anger for them so I have always wanted to join into a gang (no whites) and I guess so I have more protection. So do you think Iím wrong?

Patrick

Patrick,

Joining a gang is not the answer. Iím sure you may think it is because you are young and because those stupid people picking on you are young, but as you get a little bit older, youíll mature and realize the things they are doing are stupid. For now you should just avoid these people as much as you can. I know it doesnít sound like much of an answer but believe me, I know what Iím talking about. I grew up going through the same crap with white people. I used to fight with them at least once a week in school. But later I became friends with some of them and the ones that we couldnít become friends with, such as the racists or skinheads, we just stayed away from.

This is a big world. Thereís plenty of room for each person to have his space. If they still insist on invading your space, well you may have to defend yourself, but do not join a gang because you will commit yourself to a life of crime and violence you may never be able to get out of. Donít get me wrong, gangs are very exciting - the parties, the girls, the money, the drugs, and the protection and the sense of family you share as a group. But itís not free. You pay a heavy price for that. Sometimes you may have to take a life; sometimes you may have to sacrifice your own life; and most of the time you will spend large portions of your life in jail or prison. And thereís a lot more details that are not so pleasant involved in gang life, but Iím hoping this is enough to deter you.

Sergio
California


Hi Patrick,

I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ. I first want to say, yes youíre wrong for wanting to join a gang, because that makes you as bad as they are. You want to beat them? Take your anger and use it for good. By continuing your goals and not letting them get the best of you, you become the winner, and theyíll probably end up in jail or dead. From reading your letter I can tell youíre smarter than that. Please donít give in to temptation. Iím truly praying for you. Be encouraged and continue to do the right thing.

Be blessed!!! - V.B.
New Jersey

BACK

Hi Iím 11 and I was thinking about joining a gang. Thatís because my mom and dad arenít together. I live with my mom and my mom has a boyfriend who hates me. I never get to see my dad because heís always in jail and Iím moving out of my momís house as soon as I can but the only skills I have are fighter and gun shooting what should I do?

Sorry your momís boyfriend hates you but joining a gangís not going to change any of that. Itís only going to make it worse. You said you have skills as a fighter. Be smart - if you want, use those skills in the ring and not on the streets!

Richard M.
California


Well I had pretty much the same problem, except I was a few years younger I made the wrong choice. I joined. It was the biggest mistake of my life. Sure you get protection but it can also get you killed. It got me beat up by rival gangs and a very long criminal record. I am only 15 and just got out of lockup for something dumb. Now I may go to prison if I get into any more trouble so I don't want you to turn out like me. So I would find some good friends and talk to your ma about how you feel but find some positive people to hang around or pick up a sport. You have your life ahead of you don't want to spend it like I did so think about what you are doing. You hear of people being killed and most of the time itís from gang involved things so do what you think is right.

Mike W.
Recently Released


Donít join a gang. You are too young to think about guns and fighting. Shooting a gun is not a skill; itís a dangerous mistake. You donít want to spend your life in prison. Thereís all sorts of skills you can learn in school that can help you get a good job when you get older. Things might be a little hard for you right now, but donít make the mistake of joining a gang. Give your future a chance.

Someone who cares
California

BACK

I have a boyfriend who is in a gang. He left and he moved in with his brother in our apartment. And well according to him he wants to leave and I am leaving with him, but I want him to leave his gang but he doesnít want to. I love him but his friends wonít let him go. What can I do? But I would like to know if I need to go with him so I could join his gang, but Iím afraid that my friends will find out and call me a traitor.

Hey there,

Well, I could understand your situation. I once met this girl that really loved me. She met me as a gang-member. She always wanted me to change. When she would ask why I don't change, I always said, "You met me as a gangsta, why you want to change me"? She would always give up. Me personally, I didn't really see what she really wanted. I knew she would give up if I said that, so it stayed like that. I would think that you love him for who he is, right? Well then, don't tell him to stop gangbanging cause he's not. What would be best is to have a talk with him. There has to be some kind of verbal points because I know everybody tells him to stop banging - nothing new to him. You got to let him know what you really want.

By joining his hood is not a solution to anything. It's a mental trap. You have to look at the whole picture. Realize what's going on. Talk to him and let him know what you feel and his friends don't have him as a puppet. If he wants to go, he will, but he needs to understand himself and you guy's situation. A lot of us don't understand until something bad happens and then we say "OK, I want to change" but later is too late. Don't just say what sounds good. Don't be a hypocrite. If you really love him and want him to leave his hood, do what you got to do, but don't take that other route by joining the hood. That's weakness.

Tony N.
California

BACK

Hi my name is Sara and in 15 years old. I've been wanting to join a gang for the longest time because I have a lot of problems at home. The thing is that I donít get along with my parents or brothers because my mom treats me like a fucking dog or if I was some kind of slut, but Iím not. For some reason my parents have always treated me different like if I was some kind of mistake in their lives and I have a lot if friends in gangs and there always happy and treat each other all nice and they protect each other/and since my parents donít give a damn about me I think I should join it. I donít care what I have to do to get in as long as someone loves and takes care of me for the first time. I donít care. What do u think I should do?

Sara,

After reading your letter, it had me thinking and I could understand your pain but for different reasons. You say your family treats you like a dog and both your parents act like you were a mistake. But joining a gang is only going to make things harder, not easier. I know.

First thing you got to do is to realize your not a dog or a slut and if you join a gang, believe me, sooner or later thatís how youíll be treated - not just by other people but by the gang you join.

Right now, at your age, gang life looks all fun and games, but look at all the problems older gang members have. They canít get a job; nobody trusts them. The cops always stop them and weíre in and out of prison.

I donít know you but do yourself a favor and try harder to get along with your parents. A lot of things donít make sense, but when youíre older they will.

I started a gang when I was 13 and now Iím doing life in prison. I canít do a lot of those things I think that you take for granted like go to the movies or eat a Big Mac. Iíll never be able to do those things. So please do yourself and me a favor - live right.

Richard M.
California


Dear Sara,

You write that you have been wanting to join a gang for the longest time because of all the problems you have at home with your parents. But answer yourself this question: how does joining a gang resolve those problems you have at home? It doesnít Sara. I do not know why your parents treat you the way they do, and it seems that you donít either. As much as you say that you have been wanting to join a gang for the longest and yet you have not; even by asking us about what you should do, tells me that you do not really want to join a gang. I cannot tell you what you should do; only you can decide the best thing for you. I can tell you this, hiding from ones problem for even a long time will not make that problem go away. In fact, the problem may get worse. Talk to your parents or to people you trust who are close to your parents. Get your feelings known. Get them out in the open. Do not start a trend which allows you to run away from your problems. Life can become very complicated that way. Open up to others Sara. Do not keep all your feelings and thoughts inside yourself. Let other people hear you, most especially your parents.

You are in my prayers.

A friend - Luis D.
New Jersey


Dear Sara,

Hi! My name is Renee. Iím 25 and I am in prison in New Jersey. When I was 15 I lived in California with my mother and stepfather. My home life was a lot like yours. I felt the same way you do. I turned to a gang for the same reasons. My mother put me on a plane and sent me to my fatherís in New Jersey. When I got to my fatherís, I joined up with a group of kids - not a gang but a crew. I had my son when I was 18 but that didnít complete my life and I continued to hang out with my so-called friends. They sold heroin out of our house and everyone partied. We stole cars, robbed gas stations, houses, etc. We had one lawÖ our crew. I thought that these people really loved me and I them. They were the family I thought I wanted. Now, as I sit in prison, Iím Alone. Iíve had a lot of time to look back and think. Iíve been locked up 28 months and everyone at home has turned on me. Joining a gang is not the way to go. The end results are not worth it. I was your age when I made that wrong choice. Look where I am 10 years later. My son just turned 6 and I have missed so much. I was looking for love in all the wrong places!

God loves us and we have to love ourselves. You have to be strong, get an education and do something you want to do. Maybe you can work with ďkidsĒ like us; who knows. I go to college here and plan to become a nurse when I go home. There is no better way to say, ďThe hell with itĒ than to become something; something the opposite of what your family says you are! You should watch the movie Antwon Fisher with Denziel Washington. When he says to his opposers that they didnít break him, that heís still standing strong, it touched me. That s my goal because I am not a worthless piece of garbage and neither are you. Donít make their words true. You are 15 and you have your whole life ahead of you. You are a beautiful, smart, strong young lady. You showed your strength when you wrote and asked what you should do. Just follow through, get involved in something positive. If I could go back to when I was 15, I would do it all differently. Donít choose the road I did! It only gets worse! There are plenty of people who care. If no one told you they cared about you today, I do and God does. I will keep you in my prayers, but please keep asking for help until you find it. Donít give up

Sincerely - Rene F.
New Jersey


Dear Sara,

Your letter was very sad. It sounds like you had it bad for a long time. I hope that you havenít made the decision to join your friendsí gang. Take it from me Sara. I saw the same things in a gang but itís all a smokescreen for what really goes on within a gang. You would make a perfect gang member. Youíll be the one who is the craziest, the hardest of all, the first one to do what others hesitate on doing and the one who will die for the gang or take a bullet for the homeboy or homegirl. I know you because I was there at one point and now Iím here. You are probably thinking that it wonít happen to you. I thought the very same thing when people would tell me that my future was a young death or life in prison. After so many people telling me the same thing, I just didnít care if I died or got busted. If either happened, I was proud to know that it was going to be for the gang. I didnít care what happened to me. You can bet that I care now. The gang is not the answer Sara. If your friends are real, they will love and care for you without having to join the gang. Remember this Sara, by joining the gang, it will make it seem like your parents were right. Itís like telling your mom that she was right all along. The gang will not provide the kind of love you need. There is something wrong with your parents, Sara. I mean, why do they treat you like they do?! I understand that you might do things that they donít like but there should be some love expressed towards you.

Well Sara, you asked what I thought and I think that joining a gang is a mistake. Take it from meÖ Iím doing life for the gang and what is the gang doing for meÖ? Nothing! You know what your homeboys are going to do? They are going to try to get into your pants and nothing more.

My response is late but however it may find you, in a gang or still debating whether to join in, take note of my words because you are not a dog, you are not a slut, and your are most definitely not a mistake! If your family doesnít respect you, the least you can do is show yourself some respect.

Respetuosamente - Alex
California

BACK

I'm in 7th grade. My friends are in a gang and their telling my to going should I?

If I were you I wouldn't join. I got into that stuff around 7th grade too and it wasn't worth all the trouble I got into. Ya it is fun for a while and they tell you it is worth it but it really isn't. I did a lot of stuff to people while I was in that stuff that I now regret all. It got me a long record and some time in jail so I wouldn't if I were you.

Mike W.
Recently Released


So your friends are from a gang and been leading you on telling you to join? My answer would be ďNOĒ but itís your decision to say ďNO.Ē Really think about it cause gangs ainít no game you can just quit. Think of your family cause youíll be involving them too in many ways. This decision will affect everyone around you not just you. Be smart. My best wishes to you. God bless.

Jesse G.
California

BACK

I would like to ask a prisoner why he/she joined a gang besides respect or love. I was wondering if there are other reasons why people today are joining. I was really thinking about it but I have not yet decided because I am only 15 years old.

I was thinking about joining because I feel like a misfit in my family. I am the only one in my family that makes bad grades, does drugs, drinks etc. No one else in my family has done them.

I would like to know more about gangs because I have a friend in a gang but I would like some advice because I can't go to my mom. She wouldn't understand and I can't go to anyone in my family. All I have is friends and they would be like "Do whatever. I don't care." Well anyway that's about it. - Matt

Matt

Your letter caught my attention because I saw some similarities with what you are going through and what I went through at your age. The big difference that stands out between you and me is that I didn't have the common sense and courage to ask someone for advice. There is something about asking advice from someone you are not standing in front of and looking eye to eye that makes it easier.

I don't know you but I get the feeling that you don't really want to join a gang. There is one thing that could of helped me and prevented me from joining a gang and I hope that it helps you out. That was to be true to myself regardless of what others thought or might say. If only I lived up to my expectations and not to those of people around me. That's my advice to you Matt. People can say whatever they want about you and that might hurt your feelings but if you take time to think about what you really want to do in life, the hurt won't be as significant as the joy and pride you'll gain from doing what YOU want. At your age, I wanted to study hard so that I could get a good job and buy my mom a house that she could call her own. I was a straight "A" student. But I started doing drugs and drinking and went from straight "A" to a straight "F" student until I got kicked out for fighting.

To answer your question as to why people join a gang, it is not for love or respect but mostly peer pressure. There isn't that much love or respect in a gang. If by joining a gang a person earns respect, why is that person always getting disrespected? That person is always getting into fights and shot at. If someone is respected, none of this would be done. As far as love goes ... there is no love in a gang. A person assumes there is love because the homies kick down with drugs and you are made to feel welcomed, like you belong. But pretty soon, you have to bring drugs of your own and all of a sudden you feel like you don't belong any longer. People that are not in a gang get picked on sometimes, but let me point out that most of the people that pick on others are just "wanna be's" Gang members are too busy being enslaved by drugs or always looking over their shoulders.

I came close to getting shot but, thank God, I didn't! I don't know why I didn't get killed all those times I got shot at, but I would like to think I was destined to prevent you from making a big mistake. I hope you read this and reflect on the priorities of your life. Hopefully we can establish a friendship and communicate with each other. I'm only 21 and I'm still learning to live up to my expectations and not to those of the people around me. It's hard but having someone going through just about the same things helps out a lot. Time somehow seems to stop when a person gets busted. I got busted when I was 16 and I still have some of the mentality I had back then. I'm going to end this letter by asking you a question of my own Matt ... What is the purpose of joining a gang and what is there to benefit from doing so?

Respectfully, Alex
California



Dear Matt,

To answer your question about why I got into a gang, to me it was normal being that we were lower middle class and living in gang areas. The people we saw, the people we grew up with, most of them made their own gangs. As problems erupted between gangs, it was like choose a side or be enemies.

You say you feel like a misfit. I felt like a misfit myself cause I was smart, an "A" and "B" student. I gave respect to receive respect and I never went looking for trouble but, being in a gang, trouble will always find you. "Like it or not," you're stuck.

Your feelings of being a misfit will stick with you for awhile. Everyone goes through the "misfit feeling" as they grow up even though a lot of people deny it. I feel like a misfit right now. Here's a killer gone Christian and surrounded by all sorts of negativity, so I hang out by myself. I've been in prison for 6 years now and I can proudly say that I have not gotten in any trouble. Hard to believe, huh?

Matt, I suggest that you try different things out like sports, jobs, learn something from your surroundings. As for your bad grades, don't let your pride get in the way - ask your teacher or someone for help and if you need to, ask to be put in a special ed class. It's your future, not theirs!

As for drugs, I've done them all. Yeah, I enjoyed it at that time, but now that I'm sober and able to reflect on my past, I see all the hurt I put my family through. Who wants to see their son, daughter, father, or mother all sucked up, broke and looking miserable, stealing, and worst of all dying from an overdose or being killed for a drug debt.

Matt, my parents weren't divorced but things weren't that good either. My advice is that you find one of those programs that invite youngsters like you to join in games and activities. You'll be amazed to see how many older youngsters are there. As for your mom, you can start by telling her that you love her and try to make time for her, being that it is hard for her as a single parent to make time for you. You can help around the house. Suggest to have a picnic somewhere. Try to join the family together in activities cause a gang is not a family. Family sticks together. Gangs turn on you. I lived it, little brother. I hope you think about all this and do the right thing.

Sincerely, Jesse G.
California



I joined a gang to belong, to be accepted. But I learned early that the people I was seeking acceptance from weren't deserving of my loyalty, so I formed my own gang. My other reasons for joining were to increase my popularity within my neighborhood and other neighborhoods, a superficial attempt to be known for blacking-out.

The "misfit" feeling you feel is a natural feeling. I felt it also. But it wasn't until I got older that I learned that the awkward transitions of my teenage years is what led me to feeling like a misfit - like I didn't belong; like I wasn't accepted. These are what grown folks call growing pains. We are trying to find ourselves during these awkward periods. But in finding who we are, we have to know what we are in order to know where we are going.

The reason no one else in your family does "drugs, drinks or makes bad grades," is because they draw strength from the examples in your family that don't do those things. When you follow the example of people in your family who make the right choices, you'll make the right choices. You can be accepted by your family and fit in with them by following their good examples.

Never think your mother can't or won't understand you. Who else do you know that loves you for you and wouldn't give you bad advice? She would tell you the truth because she truly cares about you and wants to help you make the best decisions. Your friends tell you to do whatever because they don't have your best interest at heart. Your family and mother would encourage you to do what your abilities permit you to do.

Toney H.
New Jersey



Matt,

I hope you read this letter before you decide to join a gang that will probably lead to your death or incarceration like me. I am now in prison because I joined a "family" with my "brothers." I was deceived because I was always hearing that my gang was a "family" and the other members were my "brothers." That was such B.S., and because of the way they made me feel, I fell for it. In order to join I was beat down and lost two teeth in that "being welcomed into the 'family'." I had to lie my way out of that one when my parents took me to the hospital.

I joined this "family" at the age of 15, and was arrested for murder at the age of 16. I had only been in for about 8 months. My "brothers" and I were to go and beat this kid up that had disrespected one of my "brothers'" sisters. We found the kid and began to beat him up, or I thought that was all we were going to do. When we were done, the boy was really bloody and I thought it was from the punches to his face. When the cops arrested me and two of my "brothers", they said I was being arrested for murder. The kid we beat up had been stabbed four times and he died. I didn't know what the hell they were talking about. All we did was punch and kick him. But one of my "brothers" had used a knife and I did not know about it. The cops had witnesses that saw us jump the kid. So I did not see how we were going to get around this. We had already talked to each other and agreed that we were not going to tell the cops anything. I stuck to my guns and didn't say a word, not that I could since I did not know who it was that used the knife. But later on I found out from the cops that "my brothers" had gave statements saying that it was me who stabbed the kid. I of course denied the whole thing, but they had statements and someone had to pay for the guy's death.

While in the county jail, someone from my "family" came to visit me and told me not to worry about it. Because I was a juvenile and this was my very first arrest, there was no way that I was going to get much time to do, and that my "family" would take care of me. Two weeks later I was taken to court and told by my court appointed lawyer that the Prosecutor was asking that I be waved-up to adult criminal court. After he explained what that meant for me, I thought I was going to die. To make a long story short, I am now 25 years old and sitting in prison doing 45 to life for murder, weapons, and robbery conviction. The last time I saw any of "my brothers" was in the courtroom when they took the stand to testify against me and demonstrating how it was that "I" was "stabbing" the victim. It was because of these people that I had dropped out of school, left my parents and real brother and sisters behind. Now that I am in prison, the only people that come to visit me are my parents and real brother and sisters. My mother at visit once told me that the only gang that I ever needed was her and the family, my real family, and of course she was right, as she normally was. Take it from me Matt, the gangs are dead-end streets which sooner or later sill leave you dead or in prison.

A Prisoner
New Jersey



My name is Daniel. I am 24 years old, the mother of two beautiful kids, a boy and a girl. I am at Clinton (prison for women) serving a sentence of 30 years with a 15 (stipulated). Between here and county jail, I have been locked up for about six years. I would like to answer Matt's question on joining a gang. I am in prison now because I was part of a gang. Sitting here now six years later, I can honestly say that I do not know why the f__k I ever got involved in this whole situation. Girls in a boys' gang are always being dogged and abused. When you are into it, as I was, I couldn't see it. I mean I was really into the guys and girls of my pack. I did not grow up in the inner city or the "ghetto." That is the first thing people think when I tell them I was in a gang. My family is from Somerset, New Jersey, and my family although not super rich were well off money wise.

I always felt I could not relate to anyone in my family. I hated my parents and my brothers and sisters, five all together, were a younger version of my parents. I used to get stoned in school on a daily basis, and I used to have sex with the guys in the boy's bathroom. I started to like this one boy who was always around other kids. He was popular and well known for being tough. I started going out with him and his friends. Then they told me that if I am to stay around them I had to take an oath of loyalty and be part of their pack. I did not want to lose my friends so I did what they asked of me.

Before I knew it, I was not only having sex with the guy I liked, but he also made me have sex with the other guys and girls in the group. I used to get beat up with the other girls if we didn't come back with enough money or things for the guys. We (the girls) did a lot of shop-lifting, and my boyfriend used to rent me out to guys around the school. In my senior year of high school, we started selling drugs, nothing big but it did get us some money. My parents stopped giving me money because they knew I was giving it to my boyfriend. We used to go to New York City and buy, then come to our town and sell it. One time, we used all our money on a buy, but the drugs we got was no good. The guys in the pack were really mad, and they beat up on us girls. That night all the guys took turns having sex with the girls. But we looked at it as that was part of being in a gang.

We had no money, so we had to do something in order to go back to the city and buy some more. We started looking around for a house to rob. So we went in this house of some friends of my parents. They were old and had a lot of money. We just wanted to go in there and take some money and some things we could get money for. We were all drunk from some liquor I took from my house, and we went into the house to steal. The house was supposed to be empty, but when we went in, there were people in the house. My boyfriend started hitting the old guy and the old lady started screaming, so the other guy grabbed her and tried to shut her up. Me and another girl did not know what to do. I started to run out of the house and the other girl was crying. When I got to the door, the cops were already on the front lawn. I ran through the house and out the back door, but when I got to the gate, the cops arrested me. Six of us got arrested and four are now in prison. The girl that was crying testified against us and got a probation, so did one of the guys. We also got charged with some of the old robberies we had done. When I was in the county jail, I heard from my lawyer that the old lady died in the hospital from a heart attack and we were to be charged with her death. I pleaded guilty because my lawyer said it would be worse if I took it to trial.

Don't join a gang Matt. It is all a lie and nothing good will come out of it. I never got to graduate from high school, and my family do not want anything to do with me. By the way, I am also HIV positive. My kids are good so I was infected after they were born.

Daniel
New Jersey

BACK

Hi I am a 16 year old girl who was just formally invited to be in a gang. My boyfriend is the one who wants me to be in it. He has never hurt me. He seems like he really cares for me but I am not for sure. I do not want to join a gang, but if I donít I will not be with him no more and I really care for him.

Sincerely yours - Georgia

Dear Georgia,

By the way the way you express yourself, I can tell that you are a very intelligent young lady, and you know very well the answer to your question of whether you should join a gang in order to continue with your boyfriend.

Georgia, this is obviously causing you some distress, and if this boyfriend of yours cares for you, why is he pressuring you like this? He wants you to join; obviously you do not, otherwise you would have joined already. You are 16 years old; try to picture yourself 10 years from now. Imagine yourself where you would like to be at that time. You write that you are sorry for how my life turned out. Please remember that I am here for making decisions based on what other people wanted for me. What do you want for yourself Georgia? If you do not have a plan for your own life, you shall always fall victim to the plans of others. My advice to you is to think about your situation with this boyfriend: your mother doesnít know him; you think you care for him; the only way you could be with him is to join a gang. He only seems like he cares for you. So you tell me Georgia, based on these facts, what do you think you should do? Think of what is to your best interest years down the road, for the world nor time will wait for you.

The best of luck to you.

A friend - Luis
New Jersey



Georgia,

Any doubts you have may be your own inner peace speaking a painful truth. Only you know what is best for Georgia. Please take the necessary time to make the decision that will best serve the rest of your life long beyond now.

I have this little voice deep inside that speaks to me - especially when Iím listening to it. If Iím up to no good, it knows. Whenever I refuse to listen, I usually wind up paying for it. I find myself saying, ďDamn, I knew better than to trust that dude,Ē or ďDamn, I knew that was going to mess things up.Ē Iíve come to believe we all know whatís right; we may choose to ride against it. I usually end up paying. This is the reason I ask you to search deep down inside where this voice lives; learn to listen to this voice; and please have the courage to follow this voice no matter how unpopular you think it may make you. You may be surprised at how much respect you wind up receiving in the long run. You may also find that others who try so hard to prove how hard they are by popping a cap, deep inside, theyíre running scared and trying to cover it up in any way they know how - ďGo along to get along.Ē Now that I stand alone, ride alone, I see more respect from others. I think they too wish not to be a puppet having their strings pulled by someoneís ego trip, but feel lost for a respectable way out, or know it but lack the courage to follow through.

With care - Brian
California



Georgia,

Look, I got your letter and I don't have a lot to tell you. But you don't need guys like that. You're way better than to end up with a guy like that for the rest of your life. If you don't want to, you don't have to join a gang. It's up to you. There's other better guys out there and one day you'll find him. Give it some time, O.K.? If he really cares for you, trust me, he wouldn't want you to join in. It's a f..ked up life. You won't get too far if you're in a gang.

I have a primo that just passed away just for being in a gang. Think about it really good. You're young. You have a whole life ahead of you. Make the best out of it. Go to school and do good. Go out with your "nice" friends, not those homies that don't have a life.

Take care of yourself and remember what I said. Don't listen to what he tells you no mater how much you love him. If you want to be with him and if he cares so much about you, then ask him to change his dumb ways.

Becky
California

BACK

Well I have lots of friends who are and arenít from gangs, but my friends that are from gangs they try to get me to go into it, but its like I really want to but then thereís another side that tells me not to do it because it might ruin my life might loose my familyís trust and even friends respect. I donít really know what I should do......should I join or not?

So you are trying to decide whether to join a gang buy youíre afraid to lose your familyís respect as well as your friendís respect? It sounds to me like your really ďdonítĒ want to join a gang but that someone is putting pressure on you. Look, it seems to me that you care about your family and friends that are not in a gang, so why would you join a gang? I donít think you should. Your family is precious gold.

Your friend - Jesse
California


Look, I have two brothers that are from a gang. Me as their small sister, I get scared because you never know what might happen to them at night. I have a primo that just passed away in October. I know that he was involved with gangs too. Thatís why they killed him. I just want you to know that youíre right. Gangs do ruin your life and forever because youíll be known by enemies. Itís better if you go to school and get a job. Tell your mom and dad how much you love them.

But whatever you do, donít listen to what your friends tell you. If theyíre really your friends, they wonít mess up your life. Theyíll want the best for you in life and what life has to give you.

Iím sorry that I canít talk to you about my brothers. Itís just that it hurts me to talk about them. But I know what Iím telling you. I hope you donít want to end up like me. Iím 18 years old and I canít walk with my head up just because of what I have done, just because I wanted to be cool and join in a gang.

I want the best for you in your life. I donít want you to end up en la pinta just for fÖing around with your homeboys. Play sports or go out with nice guys but take care of yourself. You never know what they might have, O.K.? I hope you understand me and as a sister how it hurts to see your loved ones messing up.

Becky
California

BACK

I was thinking of going a gang because see I have no parents. I feel that no one has my back, and that my father doesn't say Iím his daughter. I fell like Iím always trying to prove to him that I am Mexican and to my moms family that I am white, and I feel if I join a gang then I wouldn't have to prove myself anymore, is that right?

The hardest thing about doing what is ďrightĒ is in figuring out what is ďthe right thing.Ē In life we have many people who pull us in all sorts of directions and if we try to please them, or try to always prove ourselves to them, we will lose track of who is truly important. The fact is that you are both Mexican and White; that fact you cannot change and you do not have to join a gang to prove that. If you really want to prove yourself to people, anybody, all you have to do is make something of yourself on your own terms. If you act contrary to your nature, if you go against your true selfÖ you will constantly fail, and failure is not any way to prove anything to anybody. You must do what is right for you and what you believe would be your best chance at a good future. Prove to yourself who you really are.

My best wishes. A friend - Luis
California


Hello there! I took the time to read about what you want to do, ďjoin a gang.Ē Well your reasons sound as if you want attention by someone who cares. First off, I joined a gang; Iíve ruined my life and have been locked up for 4 years. I went from CYA to State Prison. Now all I got to worry about is making it home to my family. You need to learn that gangs ainít the way ďso you may have heard.Ē First off, they donít care about no one.

And about your family, try being you, not what they want you to be. Your father says you ainít his daughter? Well my father doesnít care about me either. My familyís Mexican and white but you know what? I donít care if no one loves me. Iíll love myself. Think about what you want. The most important thing in life is you.

When you choose to join a gang, you choose to throw your life away. If you put your mind and heart in a goal, you can become anything you want. You know with me messing up my life to gangs, a lot of people feel that as soon as I return to society Iím going back to my old ways. First off, Iím not. I donít do drugs no more. I ainít going to turn to gangs. If I were, I might as well just come back to prison. But becoming successful is what I want and if neither my family nor friends or whoever donít like me for me; then me loving me for me is all I need. So do yourself a favor. Donít turn to gangs or wrong to feel a part of something cuz deep down I know thatís not who you are. Be yourself. Remember if you can learn to depend on you, then you have no need to depend on anyone else and if you believe then you can achieve. Oh I say that deep down inside thatís not who you are although I donít know you, because from what I read, youíre only looking for love, attention and a place to feel free. But the place you need to look is within your heart.

Carlos G.
California


Hi there,

Look girl, you donít have to prove anything to nobody but yourself. Look I have two brothers that are from a gang. I am too, but let me tell you how stupid it is because they always tell you, ďHey homie, no matter what you have to be down.Ē and ďWe have your back.Ē But thatís just a lie because look at me. My homegirls, theyíre not here. They donít even write me or get my calls. Thatís some fÖed up shit, donít you think? What about them? Are they down for me too or just when Iím out. Thatís what you should think about, not if you should join in or no! Just remember, either itís death or your life! What do you want to be? Itís what you want to be and whatís best for your life.

Take care and God bless you. I wish you the best in life. Think about what I have told you.

Becky
California

BACK

I have been asked to join a gang and they seem cool. Iím a 14 year old girl but if I get in I have to have sexual intercourse with this dude and I donít want to but, I want to be in the gang because is a chance for me to not stay home and be more popular what should I do?

The obvious answer to you is do not do this. If this gang requires that you have sex with some creep so you can be part of the gang then theyíre not as cool as you think they are. In fact I would say that females who do this to get into these gangs are really desperate, stupid, or have no self-respect and dignity. When you do something like this, you become no better than a prostitute because you are giving up your body to get something you think you want. Youíre only fourteen years old. If you do this, youíll regret it for the rest of your life, and all these so called gang members you think are cool are going to be saying behind your back thatís that stupid ho we turned out. I know this because I am a dude and growing up we used to always use females and talk about them like trash and treat them like trash. Believe me, you donít really want to be part of this gang at least not if you have to be a prostitute to be part of it. I know gangs may look cool but when you really grow up mentally youíll realize how stupid they really are. If I hope for your sake you have enough dignity, self-respect and common sense to say no to these people.

Sincerely - Sergio
California

BACK

Iím a foster child. Iíve been one my whole life. Iíve never met my mom. My two other brothers I have never seen, one only a picture, but I always get a feeling that theyíre in a gang. The school I go to it is filled with gangs. I just want to be like my brothers who live in L.A. I just think I would be better off in joining a gang. I need someone to tell me if I should. Iím only 12 in junior high, but my 13 birthday is soon. Iím not sure what to do. Should I join the gang?

Crystal

Dear Crystal,

I know this longing to belong you speak of. Itís such a lonely place to be in - this place of such loneliness youíre willing to sacrifice yourself for just an ounce of acceptance that you belong, and ounce that youíre worthy of recognition, an ounce of what you feel inside that needs to be cherished. All this is true Crystal and I donít believe you really think youíll find it in a gang or you wouldnít be asking if you should join. I wish that when I was young and felt this emptiness you speak of I would have not put such focus on what I did not have, but instead focused on the clean slate in front of me to become someone of greatness instead of someone with a life sentence.

Brian H.
California


Crystal,

Please know, out of all the questions and letters yours is the one that touched my heart the most. I know you didnít grow up with much and you didnít have someone there to really talk to or laying your shoulder and on. I will be that person if you need someone to talk to just let me know.

You know how amazing it would be if you succeed in life? You would show the world how tough and strong you are, and that you could make it. Being part of a group takes away your individuality. You donít need a gang to make it in life. First they would be your friends, but then they would use you or expect you to do things for the gang.

Crystal I will keep you on my mind and in my prayers. I believe in you. Somehow I feel this tug in my heart. I feel like you are my little sister, and I want to do every thing I can to protect you. I know what youíre going through. I was there when you cried and I was there when you had no one to talk to. I was also there when you looked around and felt like no one understood you. Every time you became sad I felt it because I was once like you. No matter how tough or how much respect I had, I still felt alone.

Before I go I want to wish a wonderful thirteenth birthday. Remember that there is always someone who was watching over you. He died on the cross for your sins. He wonít let to down.

I dedicate this saying to you, ďI believe with all my heart that we are not alone and that there is some purpose for our hearts breaking over and over again. I believe maybe so they could just get bigger.Ē You have a big heart Crystal.

Mike D.
California


Dear Crystal,

I know being a foster child you have a lot of questions. You may seem confused; you may feel lost; or you may feel like you donít belong, but that has nothing to do if youíre being a foster child. All kids will go through that phase when theyíre about your age, even kids with blood related families. And in order to alleviate those feelings, most kids look for comfort in their friends and sometimes in gangs because they think their parents or family just donít understand to. Thatís not true; they just donít remember how it was when they were that age. But the important thing to remember is that this phase will pass and you do not want to do anything stupid because of these mixed emotions that youíll regret later. Joining a gang is not the answer. This will only make things worse. You just have to learn to deal with your emotions.

And you may have heard a lot of bad things about your real mom but you should hold off on your judgment of her until you really get to know her and you find out her reasons for why she did the things they say sheíd done for if she really did them. Not all people are completely truthful when they talk about someone they donít care for.

Sincerely yours - Sergio
California

BACK

Should I join if it depends on staying alive in the ghetto city of LOS ANGELES? You donít know how hard it is over here. If you donít claim a click you dead cuz they know you donít have no one to back you up. If I donít join I would have no one to have my back so if I get into a problem in school Iíll have no one to get my back. The cholas donít give a f... theyíll do anything to get you out their way

Tia

Tia:

Hi, there. I want you to know that I'm a gang member and it's not all it's cracked up to be!! To let you know, nobody really has your back except your family. Also, if you need somebody to have your back, that means you're getting into problems at school. Keep yourself away from those problems and you won't need anyone to have your back. Also, if you start banging, your gang's enemies will really start messing with you, so joining a gang will just bring more problems.

Sincerely - Samuel
California


To Tia,

If you think that you donít have any other choice but to join a gang, because like you said, you live in the ghetto in LA., think again! I too have lived in the worst conditions possible in LA. I was a young kid when I decided to join a gang, not because I didnít have other options, but because I thought it was the thing to do.

Maybe if you stay away from all those people, even if you have to humble yourself (Thereís nothing wrong with that) in the long run youíll see that all those tough people will only end up dead or in prison or with a bunch of fatherless kids. Now, if you want that for yourself, well thenÖ? But I can tell that you donít.

You donít need a whole lot of so-called homeboys or homegirls to feel good. Try to find something you like to do. I believe that each of us has a gift within ourselves. It is only a matter of being brave and finding what it is.

In other words, what are you going to give the world, more grief or something worth having? Think about that for a moment. I know that each of us is different with different thoughts, but the results of our actions are pretty much the same. There are many people in here with me that went through the same I did. So donít let yourself become a meaningless person as many of us have. Think big and find joy in small things that make you happy and mean a lot to you.

I am 27 now. I was 17 when I first came here. It has been a hard path, and for what? I donít get help from any of my old homeboys or homegirls, not even a letter or a hello on the phone. It is real; Iím not making it up. I am in prison because of what I did for my barrio and now I see how stupid I was to even think my homeboys would always be there when I needed them - yeah right!

Like Iíve said, it has been ten years locked up now and if only I could get back to that time when I decided to become part of a gang, I wouldnít have done it. Not to mention all the people Iíve hurt because of my actions.

Well Tia, I hope youíll make the right choice for yourself, because at the end of the day, you are going to be the one to answer to all the bad choices you make. Is it worth it? Answer that to yourself. For now Iíll say good-bye.

With respect - G. Alvarado
California


Tia,

It sounds like your mind is almost already made up. Let me speak to the part that is still striving to make it out of the ghetto. What price will have to pay when youíre up to bat, when you decided to start going against what feels right fit you? I know you are in your truth, when you tell me how hard your life is. Know that Iím in my truth when I say how much harder life becomes once your actions, thoughts, and safety are dictated by those who will never love you as much as they love themselves - which leaves you cold, hungry, and betrayed.

Brian H.
California

BACK

Iím in middle school and my dad died last year on my birthday and it is really hard to cope with it and my brother and my mom does not want to have anything to do with me. I am also not the brightest kid in school. I am thinking about running away to live my boyfriend and join his gang but I am not sure if I want to be a part of that all of my life. What should I do? If you had a chance, would you join a gang again? What would you say was the hardest thing about being in a gang? Is it true that prison will make you break down?

Crystal

Dear Crystal:

First of all, let me tell you that I am locked up right now and also that I have a brother and a cousin that died last year, so I know what you're going through and I can answer your questions. If I had the chance, I would not join the gang again, because that sucks--all drama. I ran away when I was eleven and that was the worst decision I ever made in my life! That was the turning point in my life. I thought that running away would help. It only brought more problems. That's NOT the answer! When times get rough, think about the good times with your dad. (That helps me).

Sincerely - Samuel
California


Dear Crystal:

I am a volunteer at a California Youth Correctional Facility, and my Bible study group chose your question to discuss, because they were concerned that you might do some things that could ruin your life. First we want to send our condolences to you and your family at the loss of your dad. It may be very hard for you to celebrate your birthday without memories of your dad coming back.

That's OK, Crystal. Feelings aren't good or bad, they just are, so allow yourself to feel them. I also can relate to what you're going through, because my husband died 6 years ago and my daughter and son and I had a really hard time dealing with it. I wonder if your mom and brother are going through their own grief and just aren't able to be there for you right now. It helped my kids and me to be able to talk to each other and to friends and family about their dad and about how we were feeling. If mom and brother won't talk to you, maybe a pastor at church, or a counselor or teacher at school could help. It's like a roller coaster of emotions, isn't it? And sometimes in their anger and sadness over the loss, people can act out in ways that can be pretty self-destructive, like running away, dropping out of school, joining gangs, using drugs or alcohol to "numb out" from the pain they're feeling.

The guys in my class say that once you get into a gang, it's not that easy to get out. Not to mention that girls aren't exactly treated like ladies when they're members of the gang. You'll kind of become "property" of the homies, and according to the gang members you WILL be expected to do whatever they ask--criminally, or sexually. One said "it's mandatory". There are females at the institution my group is at, and many of them are in there because they got caught up in stuff with their boyfriends and ended up doing the same time. California laws require mandatory minimum sentences that are no joke. You're worth more than that, mija. Think about what your dad would have wanted for you, Crystal, and live the kind of life that would make him proud. God bless you from all of us.

"Jailmom"
California


Dear Crystal,

Well I think that if I knew before I joined a gang what I know now, of course I wouldnít join in again. But that is impossible; once you have made bad choices theyíre there to stay. Also, the hardest thing about being in a gang was being in constant alert for other rival gangs. If you are not ready, well you can either get killed or seriously beat up.

I can only speak from my own personal view, but yes I think prison can break you down mentally as well as physically especially if you have goals in life. Let me tell you, Iíve been in here for ten years and for me thereís no such thing as getting used to this life. (It sucks).

I also ran away from my house when I was sixteen and it has a big mistake I saw so much violence. I really didnít know what I was getting myself into. Now I am 27 years old. I canít say I have a clear direction in my life but I am trying to keep going forward. So, you see, the choices you make now will affect you for the rest of your life. If you donít want to be part of that type of life, donít be. Ask for help. Youíd be surprised that some people other than your relatives actually do care. If not, why do you think I am taking the time to write this down? I have a thirteen year old sister that I havenít seen in so many years. I really donít know what I am gonna talk about with her when I finally see her. My point is: donít waste your life in something most likely will be a big mistake. The life inside these walls is not a playground. You have others telling you what to do and when to come out of your cell.

I am sorry youíre dad passed away, but if he means so much to you, use that love you have for his memory to grow strong, and remember things that are worthwhile donít come easy. Ask for help. Donít think about it too much, cause even us in here would help if we could.

Donít worry about it too much whether you are or are not the brightest kid in the school. Great people have also had problems in school, but that didnít stop them from becoming part of history.

You know, if you need help, ask for it. Maybe your teacher or a relative will give you the guidance you need. Just donít be afraid to ask. You are so young and things probably seen hard as hell. Listen to that part of you that tells you this gang thing is not what to really want to be part of. Well for right now Iím going to say goodbye. But if you have any more questions you can send them to this web site. Good luck and be strong for your own sake.

G. Alvarado
California


Dear Crystal,

I just read your letter. You asked some real good questions Crystal. My name is Rick. I have been in prison for sixteen years. Iím doing life for some pretty bad stuff I did. I was in a gang (motorcycle gang). The question you asked that caught my attention was, ďIf you had a chance, would you join a gang againĒ?

I am sitting in a place where I can spend a lot of time looking back at what I did and where I have been. I know that most of the real stupid things I did, I did so the gang would look up to me. I would give anything to be able to do it all over so I could do it right this time. I know that I would not join a gangÖ

I still havenít seen how it was ever a good thing to do. I want to think it wasnít all a waste of time; however, I feel it was just that. I thought I could find a place to fit in, you know, kind of like a family or something, but it wasnít like that at all. Instead, what I got was a whole new set of rules to live by. They were not even rules I agreed with. I just went along with them because that was what I was supposed to do.

I look back at my life and see how I hurt so many people. That is the worst part to me. I didnít care back then. I do not like knowing that about myself. I like to think I am a good person, but if I can do the stuff I did, then I have to face the fact that at that point in my life, I was far from being a good person.

As for the question of ďDoes prison break you down,Ē well Crystal some it does, and some it just makes worse. I donít know how to answer that one because it is different for every one. I have watched tough guys get broke in here, and I have seen scared weak kids turn into monsters. So I guess it just depends on the person.

In your letter, you said that your mom and brother do not want to have anything to do with you. I wonder what makes you feel that way? Have you told your mom how you feel about that? Donít get me wrong; Iím not saying itís not true. I am just wondering if your mom knows how you feel, or is she even knows you feel that way about her. Whatís the risk of telling her?

You also said youíre not the brightest kid in school. So I got to ask Crystal, who told you that? Or did you just wake up one day and decide, ďHey, Iím dumbĒ? I mean, I read your letter and the questions you asked were not asked by someone that is not pretty bright.

As for running away and joining your boyfriendís gang, if youíre not sure you want to live rest of your life like that, that should be a pretty good sign to you that you donít want to get caught up in that shit. Try to remember, Crystal that getting in is A LOT easier than getting out. And once youíre an, you no longer get to decide what you can do and what you canít do. That is decided by the gang, not you. I thought when I joined the gang I would have a lot more freedom. It didnít work out that way at all.

You know Crystal, this is one of them things that only you can decide to do. You will join if you want to, or you will decide that you donít want to get locked into that shit. However, the choices is all yours. I sure hope you use your head on this one. This one is a big one. You can do a lot of damage to your life right here. I hope you pay attention to that part of you that donít know if you want to be a part of that life. Youíre young, Crystal; you still have a lot of life to live. I hope you are the one that decides how to live it.

Best wishes,
A gang member with a lot of regrets and a lot of time to do in prisonÖ
Rick M.
California


Crystal,

Youíre a lot brighter than you give yourself credit for. You have to be to be still standing on your own weighing your options and considering what the long haul looks like. I hope you donít become so desperate you choose the path of violence, self-sacrifice, and prison to do someone elseís bidding over your own freedom, both of thought and life - those will be the first two things you lose before losing your own identity. Stay focused Crystal. If you find yourself facing questions you're not sure how to answer, try to imagine having a daughter being faced with those questions. What would you want for her?

Brian H.
California

BACK

I have familia that all want to be down and for real with my tŪos that are real hardcore gang bangers. I even have my little cousins that are only 8 and 9. They want to be just like the homies. They want to be down. Me I just try to keep my head up each and everyday living my life these crazy ways. I try to ignore all my family asking me to be down but I canít ignore it all the time. I just try to walk away. I am only 16 and livin my life these crazy ways. All your homies want to know if you are down or for real. My question is what should I do cause I can not turn my back on mi familia for ever, so if you will write me back.

Sincerely, C.C.

All right now, C.C.,

Look, just simply have a good talk with your tŪo who commands the most respect and tell him what you feel, that it's simply not your way of life. If he's really about something, and not some chafa want-to-be, he'll understand and take sides with you, and let your family know that you're heading in a different path to better yourself and your future. You have to break the cycle. Be the strong one and take the initiative so your kids can have a better life than drugs. Adelante!

With respect - Oscar
California


Dear C.C.,

Just because you are not in a gang or part of a gang which your familia is in, it does not means you are turning your back on them. The best gang to belong to, is your own family. Those are the people who truly have your back. Whenever your family wants you to be down, let them know how very down you are with them, by letting them know how much love you have for them because they are your real family. Be your own person, do what you believe is the right thing for yourself, for your family and your future. Your future is where the security of your family is most secure. Do you know what family progress really is about? It is about the younger generation having a better life than the generation before. So your tŪos should be happy for you because you want a better life for yourself, and indirectly, that would make their lives better. So don't run from them, or ignore them, love them for what they are, TU FAMILIA!

Un amigo - Luis D.
New Jersey

BACK

My uncles have been in a gang for a long time and they tell me that I have to join because it's part of the family tradition. Should I join?

Denise

Dear Denise,

I hope that the following lines find you before you make a serious decision concerning your future and even the possibility of joining a gang.

First and foremost, are you willing to bear the scars of countless fights that are sure to come? Are you willing to bury the majority of your friends before you turn 30? How about this: do you want to die violently? Because it's not only a possibility, it's probably going to happen.

I mean, listen to me, how many of your uncles are lawyers, or doctors? Shit, how many of them are free to go anywhere in the city without being scared? What have they accomplished in life?

I'm pretty sure you are young, so you have your entire life ahead of you. Once you join a gang, jail is soon to follow after that. Life isn't what it can be. Shit, I can't even vote. So it comes down to this Denise, are you willing to give up your dreams? Because most gang members don't have them.

If these uncles of yours loved and cared for you, they would endorse a future of excellence. They would encourage you to be successful, to be a teacher, doctor, fuck, a rocket scientist! If they aren't, they don't love you so you have no obligation to join their gang. Love yourself, Denise. Begin a tradition of excellence.

Sincerely - Pharaoh
California


Denise,

Giving in to your uncles means giving up on yourself. Are you ready to do that?

Brian H.
California

BACK

Lately I have really been thinking bout joining a gang. I personally like the bad attitude style. The thing is like 1/3 of my guy friends say I wont even last 10 days. They said I will get shot or even killed. I know gangs can be dangerous but I feel like I belong when I hang out with people in them. My dad left me when I was 5 and he just came back in my life and I just found out why. He was in prison for almost killing a guy. I'm only 13 but it kind of runs in my blood. I get mad easily and can get really violent. I have a lot of dreams in my life, like I wanna be a lawyer.. and own my own mechanic shop. If I did join would it ruin my life? Right now my life couldn't get any worse cause my step-dad cheated on my mom and left my family for my best friendís mom. My friends who are in gangs have been there for me this whole time. What should I do??

First of all, letís get it out of your head that being in a gang or wanting to be in a gang runs in the blood. Youíre not a slave to your parentís actions. You have been, however, influenced by your environment. I am sure that at your young age of 13 years, you have seen too many of your friends die too soon due to hanging out with their gang. With your father having spent so many years in prison, you should know that you joining a gang will go directly against your dreams of a good future and the things you want to do when you get older. Do not join any gang. Anyone can get mad and act violent. Just because youíre experiencing these feelings, it does not mean that in a gang you belong. It just means that you must exercise more self-control over your actions. If you let everything which makes you upset make you act out in violence, youíll have yourself a short life and accomplish nothing! You want to be a lawyer? Weíll get it get into studying Laws and Rights of people. Find out which laws your father was convicted of violating and why he was given the sentence he served. Even you at the age of thirteen, you are expected to obey and follow the laws, rules, and regulations set forth by society, so why donít you go find out what those are and what sort of trouble you may be subject to face if you violate those laws. If it is a mechanic shop you someday want to own, there are laws, rules, and regulations you must follow and requirements you must meet as well. Youíre only thirteen years old now. Think of where you want to be at the age of 23 or even 33. Give yourself the best chance possible that having a good life, of having a long and fruitful life.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

Luis D.
New Jersey


Dear friend:

I'm so glad that you had the courage to ask for advice during this hard and difficult time that you're facing. Many people unwisely don't seek this kind of help because of their stubborn and foolish pride. In your question, you mention many excuses that compel you to join a gang, yet they are no reason to do such a disastrous decision against your life and family. I also had all the excuses, and perhaps even more, and I foolishly chose to join a gang at the age of 12. Now, I'm buried alive in a prison cell, with four life sentences for my fatal choice. I can tell you from experience not to take this route, no matter what the circumstances in your life may be. Don't make it harder on yourself and your mom. If you know the consequences of gang life, why would you want to increase your mother's suffering through them? Think about it, who do you love most, your mom or your gang friends? Your choice will expose the truth. You owe your friends nothing, regardless of their kindness to you. Them being there for you was only their duty as friends.

I hope you and your dad develop a good relationship after so many years, and hopefully prison life has softened his heart instead of hardening it. Learn from his mistakes and avoid the needless suffering. Invest your time on God, your mom, and of course, your dreams. Make those dreams a reality, with God's help and your perseverance. All things are possible through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13)! Work towards these goals and you will get there. You can't get there quick and you can't get there without effort.

It's unfortunate to hear about what happened with your step-dad. I'm sorry that you both are experiencing this heartache right now. I've also experienced a similar heartache, but thanks to God, I have forgiven and with Jesus in my life, have moved on. God can take your painful times and put purpose in them. He can take your hand and see you through it. God loves you and He wants to comfort you if only you let Him into your heart, mind and life.

Thank you for your question and time. Remember that through the Bible, God speaks to you, and through your prayers, you speak to God. God bless you and your family, and may you all come to know Him personally through His Son, Jesus Christ.

P.S. "The greatest fear we have is to be abandoned, the greatest need we have is to belong." Now listen to what the Bible says: "Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5b) READ YOUR BIBLE! Matthew 11:28-30

In His love, Al
California

BACK

A couple of weeks ago I told my boyfriend that I'm pregnant and that he needs to get out of the gang life and get a job to help support me and the baby when it gets here. He said that heís not going to stop living the gang life and that in a couple of weeks heís going to run away with his "homeboys" and the only way heís going to take care of the baby is if I run away with him but first I would have to join his gang. He says that everything will be alright after I join and that not only he will take care of that baby, so will all the members of the gang. What should I do?

Sincerely - Heather

Dear Heather,

I do hope you have not decided to follow the garbage your boyfriend recommended. You are pregnant and need to think beyond yourself and what you need. The important thing now is your well being because your baby requires that. Your boyfriend obviously cares very little for you, and he is not ready to be responsible for his child. You must be the strong one here Heather. Joining his gang and running away will not better the situation, and it will not make him a responsible parent. If you have other family support, I suggest you work on strengthening those family ties. If not, please get together with someone from your community who would be able to help you or at the very least guide you in the direction to best give you an opportunity at a good future for you and your baby.

With you and prayers - Luis D.
New Jersey


Heather,

I got some advice for you concerning your boyfriend and what you should do. First, you must keep in mind that any advice you embrace will be for the bettering of you and your child. Your main concern is your child. The Bible in Deuteronomy 32:10 says that God keeps his children as the apple of His eye. In Psalms 17:8 David pleas for God not only to keep him as the apple of his eye but to be his hiding place under the shadow of his wings. This language in these passages are pictorial and gives the idea that God is a tender, loving and caring God for his children in the need of his protection. When we flee to God we not only find safety but warmth and love. I know that your child is the apple of your eye and you will do everything to protect your child.

The advice you gave your boyfriend of needing to remove himself from negative influences and take responsibility was good, true and necessary. I have a sister that was once in the same situation that you find yourself in at the moment. She had a boyfriend involved in the gang and she told him he needed to take responsibility as the father of the child. He had no desire or intentions to change for himself or the child, so she left him. She loved her boy too much put or allow him to be in that kind of environment. She knew that nothing good would ever come from living around that kind of lifestyle. It is something you must understand and believe to be true if you are to step up and leave him.

I myself once lived in that lifestyle and I am now serving a prison sentence of 53 years to life. That lifestyle is no good and one will end up dead, in prison or hooked on drugs. It wasn't until my dad, who was in and out of prison all his life, shared with me the message of Jesus Christ, that I realized that I had no hope without Him in my life. If your boyfriend doesn't want to remove himself from that lifestyle, then you must move on. Your child is, and will always be, more important. He/she comes first. I can tell you from experience that if you join the gang things will not get better, but worse. How is joining a gang going to make things better? It will only ruin your life, Heather. If he is still involved in gang banging, how is he going to support you and your child? Bad influence corrupts and takes one deeper into a bad and sinful lifestyle. When I was gang-banging I was never able to hold on to a job, because I was concerned more about my hood than my job. His friends are not going to help and support you and the child. That is what they all say! I had to learn the hard way, Heather. None of my homeboys ever come to visit me, send me money or write me. Heather, take my advice and move on if he doesn't want to change and take responsibility. Think about the future of your child and of course, yours as well. Heather, God loves you and desires the best for you in life. It says in Jeremiah 29:11 that God has thoughts of peace and of a great future and hope for you and your child. He desires this for you because He loves you. In John 3:16 it says that he gave his only son, Jesus Christ for you so that you may obtain eternal life. All you have to do is believe that through Jesusí sacrifice on the cross he has made a way for you to be saved and receive eternal life. God has this and much more for you and your child, but you must accept Jesus into your heart as your lord and savior. God bless you, Heather.

Danny
California

BACK

Hey I am 14 year old girl and I am in the 8th grade. I have a lot of friends that are in gangs. Well my homegirl said then why donít I join her barrio so should I? Cause life at home is f**ked up big time. So I think if I join they will treat me like family so what should I do? ISNT THERE ANYTHING GOOD ABOUT BEING IN A GANG?

LIL FLMAEZ

Lil Flmaez,

Youíre just a baby - listen, you can choose whatever you wish, but just make sure to remember that you have to live with it the rest of your life. When I was your age, I used to think like you. Iíve been in and out of jails for awhile nowÖ Anyhow, this time I got arrested in August of 1995. It has been almost eight years now. Well, none of my homeboys write to me or send me money, writing paper, magazines, or anything whatsoever - not even a birthday card. This doesnít just happen to me. In this hole I look around and all these vatos are in the same situation. All we have now is our real family, you know - wives, sons, sisters, brothers and parents. I guess itís the truth what they sayÖ Blood is thicker than water. Sometimes humans have to put themselves through hardship to see what is obvious! What a price to pay!!

Good luck - Juan
California

BACK

I am only 13 years old. I was thinking should I join a gang becuz I donít really get any love at my house. A lot of people tell me to leave them alone and for me to die and I just have lot of problems my ex-boyfriend sometimes goes crazy and tries to kill his self and shit and I get scared. And I think if I do join one I will have someone to care for me and I wonít be so lonely. Iím not doing good in school. My mom wants to send me to boot-camp and I donít want to. Da cop in school always check on me and they already took my phone cuz they think it will change the way I am. Well this is how I feel what should I do?

Ashley

Dear Ashley,

Your 13, going on 30! I understand your every thought, your every grief. I used to be that boyfriend of yours. Now 23 years later I'm repaying my dept to society, because I held all that anger and frustration in. Scared to trust one of those teachers or even a cop, I took what problems I had and made them everyone else's. Fifteen years in the bing, no more drugs, booze, or rippin and runnin like I used to. Now itís all so clear what I should have done and when. The only shame in life is the shame a person carries secretly and painfully from regret. If you think for a moment you'll look back and wish you'd done some things different, you will. Ask now for the things you feel you need. There's no shame in that. If itís a hug you need, someone to listen to you, or advice on your troubles, donít shy away from the urge to seek it. That's when youíre most alone in this world. It's painful and it hurts. It's one of those things we need not have in common. Take care Ashley.

Michael.
New Jersey


Hi Ashley,

Well first of all Happy Birthday ? and about your problems at home, well Iíve met a lot of people who donít get any love at home and turn to a gang. Also, donít let these people who probably have miserable lives bring your spirit down because a person who is stupid enough to tell a 13 year old to die is probably miserable. And donít let your ex-boyfriend scare you because thatís probably his way of asking you for help even tough he doesnít know it himself. And if all the stuff that youíre going through right now is making you think that the only people who care about you are your homeboys, well thatís where youíre wrong because, believe it or not, there ďisĒ a few people in the world who care. All you gotta do is keep your eyes open. Besides my family and some of my homeboys, I have met 2 or 3 people who really care about people like me and you, so donít give up hope. There are lots of ways that you can get love but please donít turn to a gang. This may sound stupid to you, but you can always go to church and I know for sure youíll find love there, or you could go to programs for teens. Iíve never heard of any but Iím 100% sure that there are some around where you live. If you go to a program for teens, you can get help on your homework and it might help you get better grades in school. If your friends were true friends, then they would give you love even if youíre not part of their gang. And donít worry about the cops at school. If you donít have anything that can get you in trouble, then you donít have to worry about anything. And if you donít want the cops to check up on you, then all you have to do is not be part of the gang lifestyle. I know for a person in your situation, it would be pretty hard not to want to be in a gang but think really hard about your future.

I have been kicking it with my gang since I was 12 and I didnít really start banging it until I was 14 or 15. I didnít really have to join because all my homies gave me love anyways, but I still joined because I wanted some excitement. I got some excitement alright! When I was 13 my cousin got shot in the head twice and once in the stomach by some rival gang while he was sitting in the passenger seat and I was sitting in the back. I got to witness that because I wanted to be in a gang. I was only 13 years old and I still canít forget that day. That was the first time I have ever really seen anybody die.

I got locked up when I was 13 or 14; I canít remember, but thatís too young. I just did a couple of days and got out. Once I got out, I got locked up again and did a month and a half. Then I got out and got locked up again and did 2 months and got out. Then I got locked up again and thatís when I really started to bang my neighborhood. I remember one day when I was walking home from school, a car passed by and I recognized two of them as rival gang members and I didnít have anything to protect myself, so I ran into a back yard and onto another street. I thought that I had lost them, when suddenly I heard three gun shots and saw a bullet go right through a window of a car next to me, and I realized that they followed me on foot. So I ducked and started running with my head down. While I was running, I was thinking to myself that this might be the way Iím gonna die. I thought I was gonna get blasted for sure, but people came out with the phone right next to their ear and the guys who were shooting at me ran back the way they followed me from - all that because of gangs!

Well, like 4 days later I got locked up again and did four months. The whole time I was worried about fighting, because if you get into fights with your rivals, thereís an 80% chance that youíll get more time. But luckily I never did get more time for anything. Then I got out and I was out for three months. I got really heavy into drugs and I would steal cars and sell the car parts to anybody who was interested. Soon, the gang unit caught up to me and they locked me up again. Iím doing a year now because I decided to join a gang.

Now I ask you to please think hard about the decisions you make. There is only a few people in this world who care about people like me and you and Iím one of them, because if I didnít care, I wouldnít be responding to your question. And remember, if you aim at the moon and miss, donít give up hope because you might just land on a star. I donít want to see a young person like you who still has a chance to mess everything up just because of a gang. Enjoy your teenage years, because theyíre the best years. Iíve been locked up for a lot of my teenage years. Iím still a teenager, but Iím not enjoying them like Iím supposed to. Iím sixteen doing a year, and next time I get locked up Iím sure I wonít be doing a year. The words that came from my judgeís youth were, ďNext time I see you in my courtroom, Iím gonna have strong thoughts about sending you to YA (the state prison for youth). Every time I get locked up, it just adds more years over my head. Donít mess up the way I have. So whenever you feel down, just read what I wrote to you and ask more questions if you want to. Just donít make the same decisions that I did, because so far, a guy like me is still looking for a future.

Eli
California


Ashley,

Getting involved with gangs is not a really smart thing to do at all. Gangs are very violent and youíre so young. You donít know what youíd be getting yourself into. You might end up doing life in prison or 6 feet under, which means dead. My brother gangbangs and all he does is watch his back. How boring can that be. You would also have to watch out for your family cause enemies would do anything to get back at you. As for your mom, she just wants the best for you. She punishes because she cares. I wish my mom would of punished me when I was younger so in that way I wouldnít of turned out the way I am. Trust me; youíll regret it at the end just like me and my brother. My brother wishes he can leave the gang. Life is tough as a gangster. So stay focused in school because now Iím 17 years old about to turn 18 and barely a 10th grader, which is not good for me. I missed a lot of school. I wish I could go back. Keep yourself away from them thugs.

Always Ė Maria
California


Ashley,

First off, donít feel you are all alone in your inner struggles. Most of us, young and old, go through a kind of inner war too. We want to feel loved, respected, and appreciated by others, and especially our own parents. Unfortunately this is not what we sometimes received.

This is not to say that you donít deserve these things (you do). Our parents at times are too caught up in their own problems to see that their children need their attention guidance and love.

Iím going to share a lil bit of my own struggles with you so you can see that I was also once in a place of confusion and ambivalence. I came to live with my mother in California when I was 14 years old. My mom left me with my grandparents to come to this country when I was barely 1 Ĺ years old. I got all I needed from my grandparents, but there was something amiss in my life that I later realized was my parentsí influence and love. My mother was thousands of miles away, and I only communicated with her via letters or phone. My father, well I only used to see him here and there. He didnít play a big role in my life.

I longed to be close to my mother for all those years we were apart. When I finally moved to California to live with her, her husband, and my two sisters, I was overjoyed. This sense of contentment didnít last long. All those years I waited, yearning to reunite with my mother didnít prepare me to face the fact that life was not going to be how I envisioned it. I didnít fit well with my new family and surroundings. I felt inadequate, unloved, unwanted. I didnít know how to relate all these feelings to those in care of me. I felt it was me against them.

As a result, I became distant and uncaring Ė at home and at school. At school I started to do very poorly in my studies. At home, I became indifferent to my middle sister, something I greatly regret. I could say that all these things, mainly going on inside of me, led me to join a gang. I admit it Ė they did have a part in my decision of getting involved with gangs. But you know what Ashley? I made the worst choice ever by doing so.

There are other things I could have done. There are other people who truly care about what happens to us. We have to look hard. Joining a gang didnít give me what I was looking for. It only added more pain to my young mind. I didnít find love nor respect. All I found in the gang was kids acting tough, when in reality they were still yearning for someone to care for them. I got deep in the game. My mom tried to help me and be more attentive to my needs, but by then I was sixteen. I ran away from home. I lived with my homeboys here and there. I witnessed so much violence. All this only made me feel more hopeless and useless. At seventeen, I got in deep, deep trouble. Iíve been in jail since then. I am now 29 years old. I too was looking for someone to care for me, but I knocked on the wrong doors. My so-called homeboys donít care about me. I stand on my own two feet now.

Be careful who you befriend Ashley. Getting in a gang is not a solution but an added problem. You donít need to go through all this mess to feel a sense of value and the meaning in your life.

Love yourself. Remember, you are a unique girl. Donít worry too much about any of those senseless people who told you to die. Theyíre probably too dumb to understand that their words can hurt people. I believe we all have a gift to give our world. We only need to look for it within ourselves. Try to find friends who are going to be honest and respectful with you, and of course, you have to do the same for them.

Keep a journal. It helps me to find answers sometimes. Always remember that you matter a lot because one day, you yourself might help someone in need as well. If you throw your life away by being part of a gang, many bad things could happen to you. Take it from someone who has felt the way you do. Take a moment to ask yourself: Is it worth it? Believe me; itís not! You can write to this site any time you want. Many blessings and wishes of happiness.

A friend Ė G. Alvarado
California


Ashley:

You're not alone with the problems you have. There's a lot of people with the same problems. So many people have been through these things. Like me, I didn't experience a lot of love or attention when I was young, because my mother and father always worked. But that didn't mean they didn't love me. The very fact that they worked showed me that they cared about me, because it was through their hard work that I was clothed and ate.

But I never knew how much I was loved, because I never spoke to my mom about it. Now that I am older, and able to communicate with my Mom and Dad, I express to them how much I care about them. I also listen as they express how much they care about me.

My point is that although they don't tell you how much they love you, that doesn't mean they don't. Do they tell you not to hang around certain people? Do they tell you they want you in the house by a certain time? The very fact that they look out for you proves they love you. They even bought you a phone. What parent buys their child a phone and doesn't love them?

Joining a gang will make you lonely, because being in a gang means you will have enemies. Having enemies means you will have to fight or kill each other. The end result will be you will end up in jail. You REALLY will be lonely then.

Speak to your mom. She can help you. Let her know how you feel. Give her a chance. You know what? God calls us to honor our father and mother (Matthew 15:4). Why? Because they look out for our best, even though it means you suffer a little bit.

I hope it works out for you. I'll pray for you. By the way, I hope you had a Happy Birthday!

In Christ - Eddy
California


Ashley,

Things might be getting hectic and lonely, but believe it, the people of the gang wonít love you; theyíll only hurt you and use you. Youíll be making things worse by joining them. The same person that will act cool with you today will hurt you tomorrow. They canít find answers themselves. Do you really thing they have love? They are in danger every day. Believe me thatís not love, and if it comes down to it, theyíll even betray and kill one of their own. That is what gangs are really about. Think about it, how scared you get when your ex-boyfriend tries to kill himself. Well gang members get killed; they are targets for death.

When it seems as if people donít care, or want to hear you, donít let that make you feel like you have to make bad choices. Well they want to do the boot camp thing with you? Iíve been on the same spotlight, but listen, this is the time for you to straighten up at school and try to get the best grades as possible along with good behavior. That will make your parents and family look at you differently, and change their attitudes. The boot camp threat is just that, a warning. Start doing good right now so you can avoid that and other bad things. You have to prove yourself to be a responsible person by working hard at school. Youíll make your family glad with you and things will change for the good. Be sure to complete all your homework and study fir each and obey whatever your parents tell you to do. Youíll see how things will change.

Ashley, you are very young, but you are a young lady now and things are hard. Maybe people seem like they shine you off, but instead of joining a gang, join a Christian church. There you will find the love you need and youíll even be able to help your ex-boyfriend. Talk to a pastor or any person you know who is Christian. Look, you have always have someone to care for you, ďGOD.Ē You might think He is far away in heaven only, but he is around us when we let him. Pray. Believe me, Heíll answer you and take you out from those problems. Heíll never ignore you. His love is for real and never ends. Just think, Jesus Christ came to earth and died on a cross so you wouldnít have to suffer. Certain things might seem cool, things your friends might do and try to get you to be a part of, but they will just make things worse. They are all just traps. You know what things they are because you are old enough to know. Be careful and think about the consequences.

God wants you to call upon Him, so He can help you. Heíll give you all the love you need. Just try it. Here are some verses from the Bible, Godís word, that explain a lot, like thinking some things are good but in reality they are bad, trusting in God and knowing His word can save us from all your problems, and weíll even get to be in heaven with Him. It starts now. Heíll reveal himself to and let know Himself what to do. We just have to make the effort of getting to know Him. Heíll never shine you off. Heís waiting on you. Youíll see Heíll make things better for you.

Proverbs 14:12 ďThere is a way which seemeth right onto a man, but in the end there of are the ways of death.Ē

John 14:1 ďLet not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me.Ē

Acts 16:31 ďAnd they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house.Ē

John 3:16 ďFor God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.Ē

Matthew 5:2-5 ďBlessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.Ē

G.
California

BACK

My man is a member of a large black gang and heís going to court real soon. The thing is that he keeps selling and Iím afraid that heís gonna get caught which will put him in jail for longer if he gets convicted. I love him so much and he loves me but the thing is he wonít slow down or lay low for a minute. I donít know what to do. I mean I donít want to lose him or anything. I feel like the only way for me to not lose him is by becoming a member of his gang but I donít know what to do. Please help me. Thank you.

Brittany

Dear Brittany,

I'm not sure but you sound relatively young. What your boyfriend needs to know is that the "PEN" is full of young brothas who've left their ladies out there. No matter how gangsta or thug we are, when its count time we're all caught up in what we had. Ask him who he'd rather humble himself for you, or the "Jake". While you may hold the keys to his heart, "Jake" has the key's to the gate. Tell him # ------ is missin his shorty, and there's not a thing he can do about it. No matter what, you can't get that kinda love from no homey.

Michael
New Jersey


Dear Brittany,

You said you think the only way not to lose your man is by joining a gang. You said he is going to court soon and you are afraid he will continue selling and go to jail. If he is going to continue doing that and winds up in jail, you joining a gang will not help that. One result is that you can wind up in jail yourself by joining a gang. That certainly would not help either of you and the result of him going to jail will not change. Joining a gang doesn't help your man, it just puts him in the same messed up situation you are in now. Now if you join a gang he can start worrying about losing you by you going to jail.

If you don't want to lose your man by him going to prison, the only thing you can tell him is that anyone who sells damps as a livelihood usually ends up either dead on in prison as do all criminals. I doubt if one out of 10 million have died peacefully at home as an old man with grandchildren and after accomplishing everything he wanted in life. He is really setting you up to lose him if he continues. I put plenty of women through the same kid of grief. I knew what I was doing was wrong when I was doing it and didn't think or care. If one of those women had said what I just wrote about I might have thought about it and changed rather than continuing on my selfish ways. I know it was totally wrong. I feel terrible about it but can't undo it.

I hope you think a lot before you go down a road that is hard to get out of. In closing, I'll say if a woman gave me an ultimatum back then of choosing either my life as I wanted it or her, I probably would have changed for one I really cared about. Please don't make a move without thinking about the consequences.

Sincerely - Allen R.
New Jersey


Brittany,

Thereís always ways to make things better, and thereís ways of making things worse. Believe me, by joining a gang, youíll only make things worse for yourself. You love your man, right? But how much love do you have for yourself? Enough not to sink to a low level? Your man is not the only one who loves you. You might not acknowledge the fact that God loves you enogh that He gave His life for you on a cross. Now is the time to act on love, do the best possible, encourage your man to get involved in hob training programs and education, even by doing it yourself. By doing so, youíll let him see how easy money comes when you work for it and without the consequences of danger and jail. Then maybe you can even move out of your neighborhood and have better things.

The resources are there. Just start by going to the Unemployment Office and asking for county or state resources on job training or education. You can even ask a counselor at school. Then you can take yourself away from all that drama, and if your manís smart enough, heíll do the same.

The gangs, the hood, the dealing, all that just brings suffering and bad consequences. Just ask your man how he likes it in jail. Thereís better ways to live and have what you need. Have you even given God a chance? Even though His throne is in heaven, Heíll be with you and all around you. All you have to do is call upon Him. Most people have had lives or situations because theey fail to acknowledge God and think He is only a million miles away, but if you let Him, Heíll reveal Himself to you. All those other ways of getting money are just traps. Just take a look at the consequences, jail or death! Makes sense, right? All those things are evil. How can you know? Well, by the consequences they bring! Look, whenever a person cannot find answers, all you have to do is pray and read the Bible. The Word of God gives you all the answers, and God givew you the strength to walk it out and live it. Check out these verses from the Bible and see how they apply to your situation. For every question there is an answer and a way out, a better way. Those temptations might seem like the answer but theya re evil traps put there by someone. That someone is the devil and he is a murderer. You ever wonder why young people join gangs and get killed young? Well check out what Jesus said about it in these verses. He calls the devil a thief, because he steals happiness, peace, lives, families, and is a murderer. You know how crazy things get in a gang lifestyle, but like I mentioned it is a trap. Donít fall into it!! Stay strong, donít follow the path that the other people have taken and fallen by.

Jeremiah: 17:11 As the partridge sitteth on eggs and hatcheth them not, SO HE THAT GETTETH RICHES, AND NOT BY RIGHT, SHALL LEAVE THEM IN THE MIDST OF HIS DAYS, AND AT HIS END SHALL BE A FOOL.

Proverbs 13:11 Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished, but he that gathereth by labor shall increase.

Proverbs 5:13-14 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for owners thereof to their hurt. But if those riches perish by evil work and he begetteth a son and there is nothing in his hand.

John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but to steal and to kill and to destroy. I come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.

Matthew 5:2 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Proverbs 11: 4-5 Riches profit not in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivereth from death. The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his ways but the transgressor shall fall by his own wickedness.

Acts 16:31 And they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved, and thy house.

Peace of Christ Ė G.
California

BACK

Look Iím 15 years old. I mostly talk to one gang and hang out with them. My boyfriend I would say heís an ex-member. Thereís been times when I start thinking about joining in but my boyfriend tells me not to. I mostly want to join in because at home I have a lot of problems with my mom all the time and I want to feel how is it to be in a gang? What would you guyz advise me? I have another question when you guyz had a bunch of problems and sometimes you felt like crying but you couldnít how you guyz did it to overcome it - when thereís something really deep in you that is bringing you down every time

Mayra

Dear Mayra,

Interesting comments in your letter. It strikes me as most effective if I work my responses backwards, beginning with your last question first. The only thing that causes me to suffer to the extent I want to cry is that I didn't listen to that little voice in the back of my mind sooner. It told me when I was being selfish, hard headed, or just plain old wrong. I never listened to that voice even when it shouted at me.

No problem is too big for a mom. Believe it or not, she's seen it all before. Done it all too. When we're young we tend to think moms and pops just don't understand. Thatís usually because we haven't tried to explain our seemingly complicated lives as well as we could. Moms understands whatever language you choose to speak to her in. You just have to choose to want a better life that includes her. Instead of showing our family how tough we are, we sometimes have to show them how vulnerable we feel. Moms will give you what you need freely and unconditionally the minute you stop acting like you don't need it!

Love, Peace, & Understanding Mayra - Michael.
New Jersey


To Mayra:

It seems like you should listen to your boyfriend's advice on this question of gangs. Your boyfriend, who was in a gang, knows what it is like not to be able to go to certain places because of the rival gangs who will be there, or even more problems that you get from being in a gang.

Being in a gang doesn't make things go away, nor does it make it easier. It creates new problems and brings pain to relatives. If you're having problems with your mom, maybe you should tell her what the problem is. It could be that she doesn't even realize there's a problem. It is very difficult to pay the bills and keep the house in order.

Look, when I had problems and didn't know how to handle them, I would refuse to cry or talk to anybody about them. But you know what happened to me, it made it real difficult for me to show emotions, making it hard for the people I said I loved. They didn't know how I really felt. I lost a lot of good friends because of it.

God has helped me not to run from things, but to face them. He has also helped me to understand that it is OK to cry. Jesus cried (John 11:35).

Your friend in Christ - Eddy
California


Mayra,

I hope you are doing good. Let me share with you that you will not solve any of your problems by joining a gang. You will only add more sorrow and trouble to your family. Joining a gang is like digging a grave for yourself or someone in your family. Imagine being a walking target everywhere you go and then bringing danger to your home. Instead of joining and making things worse, try making them better. Youíll worry, panic, and even bring shame to your family. Instead of doing that, think of how you can make your family proud of you. Set goals for yourself that you know will make your parents proud, and by doing so youíll make them happy, believe me when you make accomplishments, theyíll treat you differently and respect you, but you have to pull yourself out of the surrounding of gang members. Theyíll keep you down.

Just take a look at the older gangsters. What do they have going for themselves? Nothing! It might seem like something, but in reality it is not. They themselves donít know what to do with their own lives, so they make the worse of it. Imagine yourself on graduation day, going away to a good college. Imagine how proud your parents will be, and theyíll even brag about you to other people, how much you study, work and behave yourself.

These days you have to start acting as an adult early in life. The resources are all there for you. All you have to do is ask your counselor at school to set you up with classes that will lead you to college and apply yourself to them. Donít close yourself in to your surroundings. Look ahead. Those people you know wonít always be around you, so make things better for yourself and your family. Would you rather be a success like I mentioned and have good things going for yourself in the future? I donít think you want to end up like a drug addict or jail bird. Think. Which will you choose, the good path and good tings or the paths that seem cool but really bring bad things. Look Mayra, whenever you feel down and think you donít have a shoulder to cry on, to let go of all thatís inside, thereís always someone there. All you have to do is call upon Him. He listens. People think about God as being far away and just letting things happen, good and bad, but in reality He is here waiting on you to call upon Him. Tell Him everything. Heíll make things better for you. Just let him know whatís troubling you. Heís better than talking to a person because He can make changes and bless you. As for me, when it seems like I donít have no one to talk to or trust in, I call upon Him, Jesus Christ, and believe me, He answers. I could be making things worse because Iím in prison, and be heavy into gangs, but He has made a way for me not to, takes care of everything I need and my loved ones. I know youíre young and you have many temptations, but believe me, God doesnít want the bad things for you. We let them happen when we ignore God, like if Heís a million miles away from us. Even thought He rules from heaven, you can see everyday that He is with us when you see Christian people feeding the hungry in poor countries, when people survive deadly accidents, when par turns into peace, when the hardest craziest person turns his life around to God. You know Godís around. But it is up to us to let Him in our lives. Here are some verses from the Bible (Godís word). See how they relate. Try reading the Bible for yourself. It warns you about everything you can possibly think of or not even know. Cry unto Him. Find a place where you can be alone in prayer with Him. Tell Him your problems and how youíre thinking about the gang. Ask Him to give you a way out and to make Himself know to you. Believe me, He will, and itíll be the best thing you ever did.

Matthew 11:29 ďCome to me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.Ē

Isaiah 49:15 ďCan a woman forget her suckling child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet I will not forget them.Ē

Acts 2:21 ďAnd it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.Ē

Psalms 37:4,5 ďDelight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him, and he shall bring it to pass.Ē

Stay strong Ė G.
California

BACK

Every year in school I did a report on or about gangs. This subject has really opened up my eyes and I now see that this is starting to become a problem in my town. But there are things that are not clear to me and I thought that it would be nice to see if maybe you could ask a prisoner for me and reply back if possible. I think then I can help the school counselors and other people in my community out including myself with answers that I didn't have at one point of time cause I have a cousin that was in a gang and is in jail now so it would help me out a little bit to know their responses to my own questions.

1. Why did you choose to join a gang?
2. What caused you to join one?
3. Is it true that in order to get out of one you have to fight?
4. Is it true that just because you have former family members that were in a gang there is a chance that I too will one day join one or do they think that I will distract kids from them?

Thank You,
LaRey.

To LaRey,

Hello Ė first Iíd like to start by saying that Iíve read and thought about each of your questions concerning gangs and that type of lifestyle.

I was a part of a gang for many years. Itís because I gave myself fully to this that Iíve been incarcerated for a long period of time. Your first question, ďWhy did I decide to join a gangĒ Ė Iíve actually asked myself that same question thousands of times. One of the main reasons was that I was having problems with my parents, and neither I nor they knew how to create a space of trust where we couldíve met in mutual respect and understanding to talk about our problems. At 16, I became enraged and very upset at what I perceived as indifference and lil understanding on their part. As a result of this, coupled with what I saw as a cool attitude in the gang members (at my high school), I ended up joining a gang.

You ask if one has to fight in order to get out of a gang. Well, it depends on what kind of people make up the gang. There are gangs (here in California) that wonít allow their members to drop out. However, one can do it by moving to another city or county. One must have in mind though that once you have made that decision, thereís no going back to gangbanging again, because youíre not just going to fight, but most likely youíll also get shot, or worse killed, if the gang youíve left finds out you are just faking it about wanting to stop.

There are countless of reasons ďwhyĒ kids get involved with gangs. Some are lack of parental guidance, bad neighborhood Ė the influence of others around, lack of self-esteem, violence at home or at school inflicted on them, wanting to fit in with the crowd, a hopeless feeling of wanting to be somebody. However, some kids are very violent for no good reason, and a gang only becomes a channel through which they can fuel their violent behavior. Once violence is an accepted behavior in gangs, someone with a very bad attitude can become very powerful and respected in that environment. I know this probably doesnít make sense to a law-abiding person, but one must force oneself to see the world as most of these individuals see it in order to get an idea of why many of us do what we do.

I personally believe, for most kids, it starts at home. Just imagine whole communities with households where the adults are either too tired, unimaginative, or plain donít care, to give the kids much attention. It is like making up your own history with whatever limited amount of knowledge one has, and if violent behavior is the norm in such a community, what can be expected to happen? Only a strong kid can survive such an environment.

OK LaRey, itís my hope Iíve answered at least one of your questions.

Much respect - G. Alvarado
California


Hello LaRey:

My name is Juan and I am answering your questions from ďGangs and At-Risk KidsĒ. Thank you for your time to write and to ask for guidance and help to your questions.

First let me say that the so-called friends that tell you that you are ďstupidĒ for wanting to help and learn to understand gangsí behavior are not your friends. If they were ďtrue friendsĒ they would encourage and support you. Donít listen to them, stick to your guns, no pun intended.

What I read from your questions, is that you have a passion for wanting to help kids stay away from gangs. We share the same common goal! I hope I am able to give you guidance in pursuit of your (our) goals.

You have four questions concerning gangs. I will do my best to answer them.

Why did you (I) choose to join a gang? I personally was never involved in a ďstreet gang.Ē My experience comes from being involved in a ďprison gangĒ where I sit here today 27 years and counting.

What caused you (me) to join one? There are three basic reasons for joining a prison gang.

The main reason is for survival, and for protection. Fear also comes into play. In prison all races are segregated. Everybody sticks to their ďown race.Ē Thatís the environment of prison life. I am not making any excuses. Bottom line joining a street or prison gang is a ďstupid choiceĒ and a deadly mistake.

Is it true that in order to get out of one you have to fight? Have your heard of the saying, ďblood in and blood out?Ē I paid with blood. It nearly cost me my life. But I am proud to say that I am no longer in a gang and only by the grace of God I was saved.

Is it true that because a family member joined a gang, that you will too? No. That is false. We as individuals have the power to say no and to make choices for ourselves.

There are other reasons for wanting to join a gang, such as the allure of money, drugs, ďpowerĒ, etc. But it is only an illusion and false pride.

The cold hard facts are that getting into a gang whether in the streets or prison, is a dead end. The consequences of making that ďchoiceĒ will only lead to prison life or death. That is the true reality of what will happen.

LaRey you may want to pursue a career in criminal justice. Contact the ITT Technical Institute in your area. They offer a variety of careers focused on curricula, such as the criminal justice system, correctional counselor, legal procedures, law enforcement, etc. If you cannot afford to pay tuition check with your local county, state and federal agencies and private entities for grants.

At the community level you can get involved with the local leaders, Church and also with teen Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Big Brother and Sister organizations to name a few.

Well LaRey hope I was able to help you. Best wishes and success in all your endeavors.

God bless and guide you in everything you do.

Life in Christ - Juan
California


Dear LaRey,

My name is D.J. and Iím responding to the questions you asked on-line. Iím an 18 year old ex-gangbanger now serving time behind bars for a foolish crime. I didnít choose to join a gang; I was born into it. I started bangin when I was around 11 or 12, but been claimin the hood since I could dress myself. A great percentage of my family is from my set (gang) so I was always surrounded by the life and the things that came with it: violence, crime, drugs, etc. If I was around different people and in a different environment growing up, I donít think that I would be in the situation that Iím in now, but just cause your folks are from a gang doesnít mean you have to be subjected to the life and become a member. You can continue to do what youíre doing, which is educating yourself about the lifestyle. Knowledge is power and with it you can overcome anything. Stay the course and continue to be educated, because if you donít stand for something, youíll fall for anything.

Love and respect - D.J.
California

BACK

Why do people join gangs? What is the point of it? My Ex-boyfriend wants to join, but I will not let him. He wants to know why. What should I tell him?

Thanks - NATALIE

People join gangs to have power over other peopleís lives. What is the point of joining a gang? There is NO POINT in joining a gang because there is NOTHING POSITIVE in a gang.

Love - Charley
California


Natalie,

The biggest reason I know of is filling the void deep inside almost no one can touch. I think a lot of these youngsters joining up are not even aware of this deep void, while theyíre reacting to it. I myself had to burn up my life before realizing. I first reacted outwardly to something deep inside I was not even noticing. Then I would search until I found a justification excusing my actions. Through self-reflection, I have realized what I was missing. Then I began to understand and make friends with this deep void in order to gain control over its dictating nature. I now try to never do anything before I work it out in my head first.

Brian
California


Natalie,

Why do people join gangs? First off, let me state that I am not in a gang and never have been (but I suffered from the same lack of nourishment). But in having lived in close proximity with those who are in gangs, and having grown up in a place and time where and when gang influence wasnít as rampant as it is today, I actually saw the change take place in my hometown and the most significant part of that change is the fact that well over one hundred murders averaged per year for the past almost 30 years in the neighborhoods I grew up in. So I have great concern as to the ďwhyĒ of gangs. But just as important to me as the why is the ďhowĒ as well as how the ďwhyĒ and ďhowĒ correlate.

On the surface, there are a number of reasons why: peer pressure, fear, protection, guidance comradery, acceptance, and underneath all that is the instinctive desire thatís immanent in the very bones to be initiated into adulthood, manhood by men. Ironically though, no one in the gangs has ever been initiated by an initiated man which is why gangs are as they are (and why thereís over a hundred murders a year in my town),

How it got to this, again thereís a number of surface reasons, but the bottom line is the absence of eldership in the communities and the lack of ďReal Community.Ē Because there are no ďinitiated eldersĒ or real communities where such elders as well as community as a whole can take part in every stage of development of a youngsterís life, this immanent need in the DNA of these youngstersí bones is not being met. Wherefore, their migration into gangs is in response to the soulís cry for nourishment in that area. But if no one in the gangs has ever received such nourishment, whatís being fed to the soul is more damaging than helpful. Initiation of young men by uninitiated men isnít whatís needed. Itís not where he can learn to develop a proper perspective for his life. Itís not where he can learn to be a responsible son, a responsible brother, husband and father and a responsible grandfather/elder and to not where he can learn to be a positive productive asset to his community. A good place for him to learn these things, as well as how to make the best decisions for himself is to team up with intelligent and caring friends who are making the ďrightĒ decisions for themselves and who truly have his best interest at heart and develop a profound level of communication passed on trust, honesty and sincere careÖ

I hope this will at least give you an idea.

Sincerely - Blue Cloud
California

BACK

We live in a small town where the gang life is none, but we have kids that think the gang life is all that. Can you please help me understand? Plus I have 6 children. I moved from the city to and try and keep them from the gangs. Why are children so fix on being in a gang?

Wendy

Hi there,

Well first of all, hope you and your family to be in the best of spirits. Iíve received the question you asked. To be honest with you, a lot of kids join gangs for different reasons. Sometimes we think that by being in a gang we will be feared, respected, looked up to, or sometimes just to have friends. We donít really understand what we get into until one of our loved ones gets hurt by us being in gangs. And sometimes that could be either good or bad. What I mean by good doesnít mean we are glad someone got hurt, but it helps us to realize what weíre getting into. Bad means it gets us upset and we try to retaliate for those kinds of reasons and war starts between gangs. Anyhow, it could be hard to understand us when we ourselves donít know why we like to be gangbanging.

Gangs are different than our families. Sometimes we feel that we can tell the homies anything without fear of any kind of discrimination. We could do things we want. We basically have control of our desires; it could be anything. I hope you could understand the fact that I canít give you a straight answer, but kids are different, so we do things different at times.

Tony N.
California

BACK

What choices led you to join a gang, was it something that you enjoyed doing, what were your likes and dislikes of being in the gang family?

George

George:

Hello. My name is Michael. There are dozens of reasons why individuals choose to join gangs. Very seldom will honesty prevail in their voiced reasons why. Their reason for this is they are self-incriminating. By that I mean that their true motives are self-serving. For instance: ďlazinessĒ (unwilling to assist themselves positively), ďgreedĒ (desire to achieve flashy wealth and status through minimal effort), and ďshameĒ (lack of confidence or pride). Embarrassment because no one chooses to be one of the ďhave notsĒ - poor). More often, the reason of choice would be ďfor respect.Ē Well respect is a reward of good character and conscience. It cannot be gained through fear or intimidation. From those two you derive fear and loathing. My friend, those are very poor substitutes.

Michael
New Jersey

BACK

Hi my name is Nelly

My question is, "Why did you guys decide to live in the streets as a gangster realizing you guys would end up in the pinta and losing the most important thing your FREEDOM, and getting the chance to spend time with your love ones"?

Nelly,

Those who join gangs, at the beginning we are full of energy and pride.

Most men and women are at heart individualists - rebels against law or custom. Also we are not born for citizenship - that's our human nature!

Every young kid knows the outlaws, gangsters or criminals will end up in prison or dead. Our lack of age, knowledge, and wisdom will stimulate unexistant sensations of power which makes us believe that we can take off against the law, government, or anything - you name it. Plus the use of drugs and alcohol increases the chances of failing or getting busted faster.

You and I know that when we're having fun no one cares or thinks about freedom even though freedom is the most important, valuable, and precious thing a man can claim.

Don't feel sorrow or pain for us. We knew exactly what we were doing. That's what happens to those who take short-cuts.

Con respeto - Juan
California

BACK

Why did you join a gang if it was going to get you into jail?

O.K., first of all, my name is Sergio. Iím 42 years old and Iím not part of any gang and I never joined any gang when I was a kid. When I was a kid, we grew up in what we called barrios. In English that means neighborhood or community. Well, we grew up in the barrios; we did not join anything; we were just part of it. Try to imagine growing up with all your same friends you have now your whole life. That is what our barrios were. We had close lifelong friendships, so we were willing to do anything for our barrios and our homeboys, even if it meant going to jail, but we were willing to do that for our homeboys and our barrios because we believed it was our duty to protect each other and our barrio in any way necessary.

Sergio
California


The reason I joined a gang was because I was young and I thought I had real friends. I never thought I would end up in jail. Thatís why it isnít a good idea to join a gang because you donít see the downfall until itís too late.

Someone who cares
California

BACK

Did it benefit you to join a gang?

You ask if it benefits me to join the barrio lifestyle, well, yes and no.

No: first because when I joined the gang, my life went downhill. I missed so much of my life going in and out of juvenile hall sand camps. Many things I wanted to do in my life, I missed. And because I made my parents go through a lot of pain and sorrow.

Yes: Because now I am a born-again Christian. I think that maybe if I had not gone through what I went through, I would never have receive the Lord, Jesus. I been through a lot in my life, and even though I been doing time all my life I am happy, and I am a better person because of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

To join a gang is easy. Anyone can join a gang, all it takes is heart! And to get out of the gang is easy also. All you have to do is walk away, go to school and get an education. The rumor is that once you're in a gang you're in for life, but that's not true. It's up to you whether you want to live you life watching your back every day and thinking if you are going to make it through the day or living your life not worrying about what might happen to you, or being able to go anywhere you please without watching your back. My advice to you is just stay away from gangs and drugs because that's not a way to live your life. Because one, you are going to end up dead or in prison, and at the end, the one who suffers is you and your parents, not your homeboys and homegirls. They might think about you one or two times, but that's it. If you want to be someone in life, stay in school, get an education, follow your dreams and don't let anyone put you down. Remember, everything is possible; nothing is easy in life, but if you really want to be someone, you can do it. (Education is the key to survive in life.)

Sincerely - Joey A.
California

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Why did you decide to get into the gang?

Mrs. Moxleyís Class

I guess in the neighborhood I grew up, it was all about protection. If people knew you were with a crew, it was not so easy to pick on you.

A Prisoner
New Jersey

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Do you feel that if you had been loved, supported, and provided for by a stable family, would you still have joined a gang?

If I had a stable family who gave me the attention I was looking for, I don't think I would have joined my gang. I grew up with only my mom to support me and my twelve brothers and sisters. Our dads were never around and moms was an alcoholic. So we had to basically survive on our own. It was still my choice though to join the gang because I was doing good. I was playing soccer & traveling up and down California for tournaments. We even went to Arizona & Mexico. But I got caught up in the gang life style.

In my case, I think that if I had a supportive family I wouldn't have messed up; but then again some of my homeboys have good families that are always there for them and they still mess up. So I guess that it all comes down to what you want to do. My advice you is "DON'T JOIN A GANG"!! I'm now stuck in "the system" because of my gang and the bad choices I made. But if you do join, consider it your marriage 'cause it's 'till death do you part.

With respect - Sal
California

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Were you really trying to prove something or simply searching for REAL love?

Peace n Love - Vedrana

Vendrana:

I guess I was searching for love, a feeling of being accepted and cared for, the friendship, the knowledge that I was being looked up to, the camaraderie, the closeness that you feel. So yes, you're right. Searching for love is exactly right.

Respectfully - Oscar
California


Well Vedrana, I wasnít really in a gang but when I was younger I was involved with a group of individuals. I used to chill with these individuals not to try to prove something or searching for love, because I didnít have to prove anything to anybody and I was receiving from my family. But the only reason why was because I thought it was cool until I really sat back and said to myself, ďWhat am I doing? This ainít for me; so I just stopped chilling with these individuals. I hope that answered your question.

Respectfully - Edwin T.
New Jersey


I used to be in a gang for eight years. When I first joined, I thought that it felt great. I thought that I found the love I was so desperately searching for. I came from a very abusive household, where I would get hit of just about everything. So yeah, I joined because of the love I wasnít receiving at home. But it was a false love that I received. Iím serving 50 years for killing a rival gang member. It took me losing 50 years of my life to realize that you canít search for love. Love comes from within. By first loving yourself, then love comes to you. Is joining a gang worth it? No it isnít. I killed a man for the sole reason of believing in a different doctrine and representing a different flag. He never done anything to me and I never even met him till that night that I shot him. Gangs are about nothing but the destruction of our own youth. It was the worst thing I ever done in my life, joining a gang. I lost 50 years of my life because if it.

Respectfully - Otto S.
New Jersey

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Why do girls join the gangs? How did it affect your life?
Lil Wun & Christina

  1. Acceptance--A lot of times they are being abused in the home so they seek love and acceptance wherever it is given.
  2. "Love"--Some become a part of the gang to be with a boyfriend.
  3. Family--Some are raised in gang-affiliated homes.

There are many reason, but the outcome is never pretty. For girls, there's a lot of gang rapes. There's shootings and there's jail life. Some are even killed.

Lupita
California


Hi. I'm an 18 year old mother. My son is 3 years old and I'm currently in CYA doing 7 more months. I've been down for 3 years. I joined gangs at a young age. My family are all involved in it. What side I joined is non-important. My dad was a gang member, my mom also. I was raised by my grandparents and their family members are gang members also. I was brought up into it believing it was right and I felt they were my family even if they weren't. I later had a choice to change but didn't. By then, I wanted to prove I was hard and earn my stripes. It affected my life because I made a lot of enemies and didn't have a chance to make other friends. I have to live with the fact that because of my own wrong, innocent people got hurt. I had to grow up fast. I got pregnant at the age of 14 1/2. At that point I knew I had to stop and I did. I went to a group home and had my son. There were times I got approached by my rivals. I was at risk even after I changed. Living a gang life ain't worth it. I affected my son with the gangs.

Diana
California


Girls join gangs for many different reasons...My perspective why is: