Missionaries of the Sacred

Leaving A Gang PDF Print
Saturday, 12 September 2009 00:00

It is not easy to leave a gang, for several reasons. A person wishing to leave a gang may have to en­dure the “Jump-Out” ritual, which is similar to the “Jump-In” rite of initiation where the person must fight several gang members at once. Yet the chal­lenges faced by a person who wants to leave a gang aren’t limited to tests of physical endurance. Leaving a gang means losing all the protection that was provided while being a member without los­ing one’s former enemies. In addition, the person must find a way to successfully re-integrate into mainstream society and support himself/herself.

To re-integrate into society, a former gang member needs the support of the larger community, support which unfortunately is not always found. Former gang members may experience discrimi­nation and mistrust from the established society, which affects their ability to find a job. Many employers refuse to hire former gang members. The visible tattoo mark often is an obstacle, communicating to others, including potential employers, that the person is a gang member, even though he/she no longer is associated with the group and has reformed his/her life.

A former gang member also may be asked to testify against another gang member. Witness intimidation often occurs in court cases having to do with gang-related crimes. Intimidation may be overt when “someone does something explicitly to intimidate a witness into withholding, changing, or falsifying testimony”.1 Intimidation can also be implicit when “there is a real but unexpressed threat of harm.”2 Fear is an example of implicit intimidation. If the intimidation is extreme, the court may have the plaintiff enter Witness Protection, where he/she will have his/her identity completely changed.3



1.  National Institute of Justice, Preventing Gang and Drug-Related Witness Intimidation, U.S. Department of Justice, November, 1996, p. 1.
2. Ibid.
3. This knowledge comes directly from my own experience with a former gang member who had to testify in court against a gang member and a former gang member of several years. Correspondence stopped once this person entered into the Protection Witness Program.