Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 18:10
Confronting Gang Violence: Lessons from Massachusetts and Beyond.
The state of Massachusetts has been dedicated to putting gang violence to a halt. A panel discussion hosted by Suffolk University on Tuesday focused on the importance of young men’s needs rather than incarcerating them for their crimes.
Erika Gebo and Brenda J. Bond moderated the discussion titled “Confronting Gang Violence: Lessons from Massachusetts and Beyond”.
“The purpose of this event is how to address the issue and understand the environments and circumstances gang violence happens in,” said Bond, speaking to both the audience and panelists.
Each panelist is involved in gang violence prevention and works with people in the Boston area. Gebo and Bond are both Suffolk professors and editors of the book “Looking Beyond Suppression: Community Strategies to Reduce Gang Violence”.
Mary Beth Heffernan, Suffolk University alumna and Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, explained that the issue of gang violence goes beyond criminal justice; the young men need to be put in aiding services, rather than behind bars.
“This is different than the typical law enforcement effort,” said Heffernan. “Young men, usually between the ages 14-24, cannot be suppressed, they need family support. The top priority is sustaining the problem. We need to address systemically the counseling, the support efforts, suppression, and so forth.”
The moderators agreed that gang violence is a social issue. For half an hour the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. One woman asked how gang violence was going to be prevented and how young men will no longer become involved in gangs?
In response, panelist Andrea Perry informed the audience that someone she knew was killed in a gang shooting on October 1st. She said that it's a serious issue, but if young men are helped in their childhood years it would reduce the chances of them joining a gang later on.
“The majority of gang members have experienced trauma; not just once or twice, but throughout their entire lives,” said Perry, who is involved in both the Youth Connect Program and Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. “Prevention should begin with early childhood. Single mothers should be supported and shelter their children in safe and friendly areas.”
This does not mean every gang member must receive years of serious care and counseling.
“We need to identify the kids that need deep end services versus the kids that are just at risk and need minor services,” said Gebo. “The needs are different, depending on the individual. The response service is tailored to the information gathered about that specific person.”