promoted by Rosi
It is great that Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pallone are introducing federal legislation to deter gang activity. It is a serious problem in NJ and nation-wide. Part of their plan is worthwhile and the other part is atrocious.
The bill will fund billions of dollars to create programs for at-risk youth through community service initiatives and will help offenders transition out of prison. These types of programs have been demonstrated to deter gang activity.
The second part of the plan as explained in the Star-Ledger is not all beneficial; it’s barbaric and counterproductive: sentencing someone to prison for up to 30 years for committing two or more gang-related crimes or placing a 20-year penalty on recruiting minors into gangs. In some neighborhoods youth have little choice but to join gangs and doing so might be the best way of protecting themselves. Just being present at the commission of a crime can lead to a first offense. For some joining a gang is a badge of honor, and an even bigger badge when they recruit others. Spending time in jail becomes viewed as a routine rite of passage. The biggest Badge of Honor was to be incarcerated in the Gang Unit at Northern State Prison where the baddest of the bad were sent. These are not attitudes we want to encourage. Incarceration and ever-increasing sentences do not deter gang activity.
I am surprised and disappointed to see Menendez and Pallone take such an antiquated and discredited approach. It might help them get some Republican votes but it won’t help youth. Neither will it burnish their reputation for sound, progressive legislation. Rather, the focus should be on prevention programs that provide alternative activities (basketball, GED education, self-esteem training,) that engage youth, serve as empowerment, and steer them toward a more productive life.
We need more Officer Krupke’s and the social worker who wanted the West Side Story gang members to stop blocking the street and attend a dance, as opposed to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio who just wants to lock them up.
What do you think?