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New study: Leaving gangs doesn't always end in violence

December 6, 2013

Leaving a gang—and initiation into one for that matter—does not always follow the violent “fight to get out” or “kill to get in” mentality. That’s according to the latest research on gangs from Loyola University New Orleans criminal justice professor Christian Bolden, Ph.D. His study, published this month in the journal Criminal Justice Review, examines in-depth interviews with 48 former and current gang members in Orlando, Fla., and San Antonio, Texas.

Despite the popular “blood-in,” “blood-out” belief surrounding street gangs, only three former gang members in the study indicated they suffered violence when leaving the gang. Most members in the study simply walked away and faded out of a life of gang activity. Others who believed they had to escape the gang, moved to another city or state, according to the “Tales from the Hood: An Emic Perspective on Gang Joining and Gang Desistance” study.

While leaving a gang may not always end in violence, violence is still a mainstay method for gang initiation, according to the study. An estimated two-thirds of the 48 gang members in the study joined gangs through violent initiations such as fighting, robbing or stabbing, for example. But one-third of gang members don’t follow that mold. Bolden’s research shows that there are several nonviolent methods of gang entrance. Those methods range from being “blessed into” a gang or “walk in” initiation due to family ties to the gang, for example.

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