'To have once been a criminal is no disgrace, to remain a criminal is the disgrace'
- Malcolm X
In 1946, 20-year-old Malcolm X entered the state prison in Charlestown to begin serving a sentence for burglary.
While in jail, he joined the Black Muslims, a new branch of Islam. Burning to know more about his faith, he began a campaign to improve his reading and writing.
After copying an entire dictionary page-by-page, he read every book the prison library had in philosophy, history, literature, and science. He later said, "Months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I had never been so truly free in my life."
When he was paroled in 1952, under the tutelage of Elijah Muhammad,Malcolm X became one of the country's most compelling black leaders.
What is a 'Gang'?
Gangs often make it into the news, but most people don't and will never belong to one. But maybe there's trouble with gangs in your neighbourhood or perhaps you know someone who's involved in a gang. Get facts about gangs and group violence here.
What is a gang?
The word "gang" can mean different things to different people. It could be:
- a "crew" who breaks the law
- a criminal organisation in which the law is broken regularly
- a group of friends hanging around in the street, parks or shopping centres
You might think this last one - of a group of young people "hanging around" on street corners - as a gang. But as long as that group stays within the law, the police wouldn't usually use the word ‘gang’ to describe them.
So what's the official definition?
A gang is usually considered to be a group of people who spend time in public places that
- see themselves (and are seen by others) as a noticeable group, and
- engage in a range of criminal activity and violence.
- They may also have any or all of the following features
- identify with or lay a claim over territory,
- are in conflict with other, similar gangs
However, if the majority of offending is of a lower non-violent level then they would be considered a peer group not a gang.
A criminal network (which is different to a gang) is:
A group of individuals involved in persistent criminality for some form of personal gain this includes profit and/or to gain or demonstrate status) which is causing significant harm to the community
- a group that keeps breaking the law to make money
- this law-breaking is causing harm to the community
- or, this law-breaking is a problem internationally (e.g. people trafficking)
- violence is used in order to make money (e.g. to scare people into giving them money)
- they are running an illegal business (e.g. drug trafficking)
Why do people belong to gangs?
Here are some of the reasons young people might give for being in a gang:
- a sense of belonging
- they think it will make them safer
- they think they will make money
Bonding and group identity are an important part of social life and growing up. But when a bond is based around crime, violence is usually not far away.
Gangs usually have rivals they are fighting and may give the reasons as being about:
- a dispute over a girlfriend or boyfriend
- an argument where "someone said something about someone"
+ Organisations - [click to view]
Nacro's Resettlement Advice Service is a national, dedicated, confidential public helpline that provides free advice, guidance and legal advocacy for people who face barriers in various aspects of their lives due to having a criminal record. A separate, dedicated Employer Advice Service is also available providing free expert advice and operational support for employers and other organisations on managing criminal record matters. Nacro Legal Officers also offer training and consultancy to organisations on understanding relevant legislation, safer recruitment and admissions and undertaking risk assessments.
Unlock's self-help information site, a comprehensive source of online information on a wide range of issues that criminal convictions can affect.
Unlock's Criminal Record Disclosure Calculator is a web tool that can be used to find out when a criminal record becomes spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA). The Disclosure Calculator makes it simple for you to calculate when a clients criminal record becomes ‘spent’ and no longer needs to be disclosed under the ROA (e.g. to employers and insurers), removing the discrimination which acts as a barrier to successful reintegration.
ESF-Works is the showcase and forum for policy and practice lessons from the 2007-2013 European Social Fund (ESF) programme in England. It is aimed at all professionals working in the areas of employment and skills, regardless of their European funding experience.
European Offender Employment Forum The Offender Employment Toolkit was created to help people plan, design, deliver, promote and evaluate their own offender employment projects.
Business in The Community works to improve the ability of ex-offenders to find employment. Not only does it provide individuals with the necessary resources and self-esteem to improve their lives but benefits all sections of society through reduced levels of crime.
Careers Advice from Gov UK has a section with advice and options for exoffenders looking for education, training and work. You can also find out how criminal records work and what your rights and responsibilities are when looking for work.
The Prisoner's Education Trust is developing a series of Career Briefings, providing information on distance learning courses available and suggestions on a range of career pathways prisoners may wish to consider on release.
Blue Sky The social enterprise that reduces re-offending by offering employment to ex-offenders in contracts with local authority and private sector clients.
+ Funding for offenders - [click to view]
The Prisoner Funder Directory presents a collection of funders who are interested in individual support for offenders and ex-offenders. This could range from support to buy equipment and household goods to training and clothing for interviews. It is available here
The Hardman Trust seeks to:
provide a window of opportunity whereby a long-term prisoner's project proposal might be brought to a successful conclusion through the financial support provided as part of an award.
highlight special achievement by long-term prisoners showing that such prisoners can make good and that they do have something to offer to the community, principally through a celebratory award ceremony held twice a year in one of HM Prisons.
raise awareness within the prison service of the extent of outside charitable support available by sending annually to every prison in England and Wales a one-off mail-out of ‘The Prisoner Funder Directory’, produced by the Hardman Trust in association with the Prisoner Funder Forum.
"I want a way out"
Sheldon Thomas is the Founder and Chief Executive of Gangsline. An inspirational and pioneering individual, Sheldon has an unprecedented insight into gangs through his own experience as a leading gang member in the 1970s. He now dedicates his life to engaging directly with gang leaders and members and using a ‘no holds barred’, yet spiritual, approach to changing young people’s lives.
Gangsline is a non-profit organisation established in 2007 to provide help and support to young men and women involved in gang culture. We work with individuals from the deprived parts of our communities and with deeply entrenched social, educational, spiritual and family issues. Central to our ethos and success is a proactive, spiritual and non-enforcement led approach to gangs, and the gang violence embedded our local communities.
Get Outta The Gang
Get Outta The Gang was founded in 2012 by Temi Mwale. (pictured) Get Outta The Gang tackles gang culture, youth violence and surrounding issues, using innovative and creative, youth-led methods. We tend to operate in areas of London where gang culture may not be seen as substantial in comparison to other areas. We aim to:
- Raise awareness about the effects of gang culture both directly and indirectly (not only to those who are involved but to the community as a whole), highlighting the complexities of the issue and the varying levels of involvement.
- Challenge misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding the ‘types’ of people who join gangs and their reasons for doing so as well as the way gang culture manifests.
- Provide support to young people involved in gang related issues.
- Provide support to young people who are deemed to be at a high risk of becoming involved in gang related issues in the future.
Gangs Unite CIC
Gangs Unite CIC is a youth-focused social action group that aims to bring young people together along their common interests, and to help divert often violent energies toward self empowerment, social change, and unity.
We are building and nurturing the next generation of leaders through our innovative programs that nurture and develop the youth voice and promote positive social dialogue across boundaries of age, race, class, gender, culture, and sexual orientation. Throughout each facet of the organization, Gangs Unite encourages active literacy, honest self analysis, and critical thought.
The mission of Gangs Unite is to realize the potential of inner-city youth to build healthier and safer communities and schools. Our programs are based on the belief that urban youth represent a valuable, untapped resource and can significantly contribute to the rejuvenation of communities and local institutions.
There is another way brothers and sisters - checkout these videos below and seek out inspiration!
Did you know 51% of media coverage on young black males is crime-related whilst only 1.1% is about role models?
Click on the graph below to view the Report of the REACH media monitoring project titled "Media representations of black young men and boys"