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50 Years of Madness, Drugs, and Death on the Streets of America

Lewis Yablonsky

Publication Year: 1998

The effects of gang violence are witnessed every day on the streets, in the news, and on the movie screen. In all these forums, gangs of young adults are associated with drugs and violence. Yet what is it that prompts young people to participate in violent behavior? And what can be done to extract adolescents from the gangster world of crime, death, and incarceration once they have become involved?

In Gangsters: 50 Years of Madness, Drugs, and Death on the Streets of America, Lewis Yablonsky provides answers to the most baffling and crucial questions regarding gangs. Using information gathered from over forty years of experience working with gang members and based on hundreds of personal interviews, many conducted in prisons and in gang neighborhoods, Yablonsky explores the pathology of the gangsters' apparent addiction to incarceration and death.

Gangsters is divided into four parts, including a brief history of gangs, the characteristics of gangs, successful approaches for treating gangsters in prison and the community, and concluding with a review and analysis of notable behavioral and social scientific theories of gangs. While condemning their violent behavior in no uncertain terms, Yablonsky offers hope through his belief that, given a chance in an effective treatment program, youths trapped in violent behavior can change their lives in positive ways and, in turn, facilitate positive change in their communities and society at large.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

My personal and professional understanding of gangs has been influenced by many people. My brilliant and beloved son Mitch, a Los Angeles County probation officer, supported me throughout the travails of researching and writing this book, and pointed me in many...

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pp. ix-xx

Street gangs in America prior to the end of World War I were relatively nonviolent when compared to contemporary violent gangs. In the first half of the twentieth century, the behavior of juvenile gangs was marked by a sense of camaraderie, a territorial imperative, some...

Part One: Gangs: Now & Then

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pp. 1-54

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1. The Current Gang Problem

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pp. 3-27

On any given evening, along with the weather report and sports scores, the TV evening news in large and small cities throughout America present the horrendous toll of assaults and deaths that result from gang violence. The incidence of gang violence has escalated, and the...

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2. Gangs in the Twentieth Century

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pp. 28-54

There have been four periods of American juvenile gangsters, violence, and gang warfare in the twentieth century...

Part Two: The Contemporary Gang

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pp. 55-121

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3. Gang Characteristics

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pp. 57-71

The overt rationale for gang violence and murder committed by the violent gangs of the past was based on territorial conflicts, a sense of being disrespected by another gang, and revenge. These earlier justifications for violence clearly remain in place for gangs in the...

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4. Black and Chicano Gangs: In and Out of Prison

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pp. 72-100

There are various things and forms of gangs in the United States. Throughout the country, there are white gangs in urban and suburban areas, motorcycle gangs, white skinhead racist gangs, Ku Klux Klan gangs, various Asian gangs, Jamaican gangs, South American gangs...

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5. Why Gangs Kill: The Sociopath Factor

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pp. 101-121

Kody Scott had an interesting viewpoint on gang murders: Who fired the first shot? Who knows? But, too, who cares, when one of theirs is lying in a pool of blood with his brains blown out. This question becomes weightless in the aftermath of a shooting where someone...

Part Three: Treatment Approaches

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pp. 123-166

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6. Some Effective Interventions

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pp. 125-147

WHATEVER ULTIMATELY DETERMINES THE emergence of a specific violent gang at a particular time and place, there is no doubt that the existence of violent gangs as a continuing social phenomena in American urban areas is ultimately related to deeper, more...

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7. The Therapeutic Community Approach to Gangs

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pp. 148-166

THE THERAPEUTIC COMMUNITY APPROACH was originated in 1958 in Santa Monica, California, by an ex-alcoholic, Charles Dederich, who overcame his alcohol addiction through Alcoholics Anonymous. He based his approach on the AA principle that people who have...

Part Four: Gang Theories & Treatment

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8. Varied Theoretical Viewpoints

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pp. 169-185

A NUMBER OF SIGNIFICANT sociological and social-psychological theoretical and research efforts have contributed to the understanding of the structure and function of gangs, and many of them have been woven into the context of the book. It is useful to summarize...

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9. The Violent Gang as a Near-Group

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pp. 186-205

THE DEVELOPMENT OF AN adequate theory on the violent gang requires an extensive foundation of relevant research data. The importance of such research for adequate theory building and the pitfalls of not carrying out such empirical investigation are cogently...

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10. Joining a Positive Gang: A Plan for Treating Gangsters in a Therapeutic Community

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pp. 206-222

IN GENERAL, ABOUT 65 percent of the 1.6 million prisoners who have been in custody in the United States are rearrested for various crimes within a few years of their release. A summary analysis of a five-year research project built into the Amity Prison Program in...


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pp. 223-227


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pp. 229-237

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814789131
E-ISBN-10: 0814789137
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814796887
Print-ISBN-10: 0814796885

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 1998