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The Pico Gardens housing development in East Los Angeles has a high percentage of resident families with a history of persistent poverty, gang involvement, and crime. In some families, members of three generations have belonged to gangs. Many other Pico Gardens families, however, have managed to avoid the cycle of gang involvement. In this work, Vigil adds to the tradition of poverty research and elaborates on the association of family dynamics and gang membership. The main objective of his research was to discover what factors make some families more vulnerable to gang membership, and why gang resistance was evidenced in similarly situated non-gang-involved families. Providing rich, in-depth interviews and observations, Vigil examines the wide variations in income and social capital that exist among the ostensibly poor, mostly Mexican American residents. Vigil documents how families connect and interact with social agencies in greater East Los Angeles to help chart the routines and rhythms of the lives of public housing residents. He presents family life histories to augment and provide texture to the quantitative information. By studying life in Pico Gardens, Vigil feels we can better understand how human agency interacts with structural factors to produce the reality that families living in all public housing developments must contend with daily.
In Streetsmart Schoolsmart, two respected scholars present original research on youth gangs and school success to explain why some boys become disengaged and join gangs while others do not. Chapters vividly describe how urban boys from different ethnic backgrounds (Asian, African American, and Latino) approach schooling and identify the sociocultural factors that affect their choices. The authors concentrate on three areas: (1) the role of marginalized communities in the formation of urban gang youth, (2) the role of community-based organizations in reengaging urban youth, and (3) the role of schools in creating opportunities for urban boys to succeed despite disparities in their economic and social circumstances.
Refusing to cast gangs in solely criminal terms, Robert J. Durán, a former gang member turned scholar, recasts such groups as an adaptation to the racial oppression of colonization in the American Southwest.
With nearly 1,000 gangs and 200,000 gang members, Los Angeles holds the dubious distinction of being the youth gang capital of the United States. The process of street socialization that leads to gang membership now cuts across all ethnic groups, as evidenced by the growing numbers of gangs among recent immigrants from Asia and Latin America. This cross-cultural study of Los Angeles gangs identifies the social and economic factors that lead to gang membership and underscores their commonality across four ethnic groups—Chicano, African American, Vietnamese, and Salvadorian. James Diego Vigil begins at the community level, examining how destabilizing forces and marginalizing changes have disrupted the normal structures of parenting, schooling, and policing, thereby compelling many youths to grow up on the streets. He then turns to gang members' life stories to show how societal forces play out in individual lives. His findings provide a wealth of comparative data for scholars, policymakers, and law enforcement personnel seeking to respond to the complex problems associated with gangs.
With nearly 8,000 gangs and 200,000 gang members, Los Angeles holds the dubious distinction of being the youth gang capital of the United States. The process of street socialisation that leads to gang membership now cuts across all ethnic groups, as evidenced by the growing numbers of gangs among recent immigrants from Asia and Latin America. This cross-cultural study of Los Angeles gangs identifies the social and economic factors that lead to gang membership and underscores their commonality across four ethnic groups-Chicano, African American, Vietnamese, and Salvadorian. James Diego Vigil begins at the community level, examining how destabilising forces and marginalising changes have disrupted the normal structures of parenting, schooling, and policing, thereby compelling many youths to grow up on the streets. He then turns to gang members' life stories to show how societal forces play out in individual lives. His findings provide a wealth of comparative data for scholars, policymakers, and law enforcement personnel seeking to respond to the complex problems associated with gangs. James Diego Vigil is Professor of Social Ecology at the University of California, Irvine.
Within the Mexican American barrios of Los Angeles, gang activity, including crime and violent acts, has grown and flourished. In the past, community leaders and law enforcement officials have approached the problem, not as something that needs to be understood, but only as something to be gotten rid of. Rejecting that approach, James D. Vigil asserts that only by understanding the complex factors that give birth and persistence to gangs can gang violence be ended. Drawing on many years of experience in the barrios as a youth worker, high school teacher, and researcher, Vigil identifies the elements from which gangs spring: isolation from the dominant culture, poverty, family stress and crowded households, peer pressure, and the adolescent struggle for self-identity. Using interviews with actual gang members, he reveals how the gang often functions as parent, school, and law enforcement in the absence of other role models in the gang members' lives. And he accounts for the longevity of gangs, sometimes over decades, by showing how they offer barrio youth a sense of identity and belonging nowhere else available.

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