Posts Tagged ‘Adaption to change’

Have you ever been at a loss for words when it comes to something that you are passionate about? The feeling is so overwhelming that you just can’t find the exact words to describe it? Well, if you have, that is where I am at when trying to describe my summer so far… There is no words to really describe how it is working as a Youth Squad Supervisor for Summer Night Lights – unless you experience it yourself, of course.

The morning of July 7th, I had no idea how the summer was going to be like. However, I did know that it was going to be challenging to me and help me grow – through what experiences though, I would have never imagined. I have stressed over big problems involving the safety of the community to small ones such as running out of buns for the night; all in all, I learned from the obstacles I was faced with each night. Now, with a week left of the program, I can honestly say that I am very sad to know that I only have a little while longer at the park. In my last post, I had tons of energy promising that I was going to post and keep my blog updated of SNL events and happenings. Little did I know that I wasn’t going to have time or energy to post about it, so for that, I apologize. Another thing that also hindered my posting was that my camera was stolen from the park. Lucky me right? But that is only a minor setback in blogging about my summer. I wish that there were more pictures to document my summer but here are a few.

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Summer Night Lights was a great experience for me. It has definitely entered into my heart as Homeboy Industries has… ::Quick Sidestory: The most recent winner of Last Comic Standing, Felipe Esparza comes from Boyle Heights and is associated with Homeboy Inds. Word up! Congratulations to him!:: … I am definitely proud to be a part it and continue on with the work that I love doing.

P.S. Anyone know of a job opening? I’m now unemployed again 😐




A criminal is going to jail – what does that mean to you? To most of society, it is great news because the ‘dangerous’ are kept off the streets. Yet, let us really think about this one: When it is someone’s first time going jail they are introduced to a whole other world that most of us cannot comprehend. There is another set of rules in prison that does not apply to the outside world. From stories, reading books and watching documentaries, I know you have to comply not only with the guards but also the gangs within the jail, or else you are in hot water. Gangs inside the walls of prison have essentially become the control centers for street gangs. Police thought of breaking up gangs by jailing gang members and their leaders; however, this only united them and made them stronger. Now, rather than having hundreds of different gangs, prisons have been a place where ethnic groups band together. Here, they share their experiences and learn from one another on the workings of gang life on the streets.

Now, let’s go back to our friend that is about to have his first visit to the “big house”. I have heard many different ways of coping with hearing that a juvenile is going to adult prison for the first time: ‘It’s better that they are going to be kept off and away from the dangers of the streets’, ‘At least they are kept away from their friends who influence them in a negative way’, ‘This way, he/she will learn the hard way of their actions producing negative consequences’ and ‘My baby is too young for adult jail’. All in all, it is very hard to hear a parent of an 18-year-old whose child is going to adult jail for the first time; and, as a counselor [Miss Smith, not myself] what do you say to the parents? “Sorry to tell you, but your child will come back knowing more and more influenced than they were on the outs”…? What purpose does jail do for a juvenile? Does it save them from harm; act as a safe house? Does it school them in the newest tricks of the streets, a schoolhouse? Or does it “do its job” and jail them keeping them away from society, jailhouse?

As Hagedorn states in his book:

Rather than prison being a place to send gang members in an attempt to break up the gang, gangs have adapted and have used prison to advance their interests.

With institutionalization, gangs adapt to such change as losing their leader to being imprisoned rather than breaking apart.

Our criminal system needs a makeover! I’m not blaming Law Enforcement at all, but I believe we really need to think of and start talking about rehabilitation rather than just throwing everyone is jail that breaks a law. To finish, back to the first question, when we send another young adult to prison for the first time for a crime, what say you? All we know, they might be learning another way of thinking, a more dangerous set of ideals to follow… Maybe not, maybe that is exactly what they deserve… who really knows?


Parenting is a job that no one can really understand until they are put in the position; as my mom says: “You’ll understand when you have your own kids”. So when it comes to parenting, who knows best? When caring for a newborn/toddler there are general tips and rules to follow, books to read, classes to take, but as children grow older, where are the tips? Who do you turn to for advice?


As I come to speak and get to know some parents of juvenile offenders, I often wonder how much influence home life, such as parenting, has on the behaviors of these young adults. Granted, all families that I have met through my journey all come from the same socioeconomic background – they all share that. Yet, what they also share is the heartbreak and anguish over their children and their decisions. How much can you really parent a child coming into his/her young adult age? I know that teenagers are known for their lack of compliance with their parent’s wishes. And when they have an extremely hard personality to work with, how much more can the parents do?


You are a parent of a juvenile offender. They are coming up on their 18th birthday and is still is getting caught up by police. What do you do? What can you possibly say to your child to have them understand that being an adult has its different set of consequences? Jail and prisons are not the easy camps they go through as children; it’s a different atmosphere, different set of rules.

Do you:

  • Become an over-bearing parent? Monitor their every move, set a stricter curfew, restrict who they are able to hang out with?
  • Become an easier, more laid-back parent? Let them “learn from their mistakes”, “whatever happens, happens”?
  • Balance the line between? Take care of them as much as you can until you cannot any longer?

If you think of these options [not the only ones, but have been the most standard options] there are clear pros and cons to each bullet point. What is a parent to do, especially when you do not have enough resources to support your family? As I have mentioned earlier, most of these families share the same lower socioeconomic class. When you can’t pay the bills of the house, have hardly enough food for the family, how can a parent post bail for their child? Or just have enough energy, time, and effort to look after them as much as they’d have to?

After reading this, just think of your parents and all that they have done for you. A simple, random ‘thank you’ will leave a smile on their heart :]


When people think of gangs,  progression usually doesn’t come to mind; simple thoughts of a group of young men that “enjoy” vandalizing, harassing and ultimately committing crime usually come to mind. The actual definition of ‘Gangs’ only recently changed due to the new studies and information that has been surfacing within the last several decades. In the beginning, criminologists believed wholeheartedly that “most street gangs were the urbanized equivalent of primitive tribes, recruited from broken families and disturbed psyches, pursuing essentially nihilistic objectives” (Mike Davis). However, gangs today are much further progressed than what we have once experience way back when. According to the newest study by John M. Hagedorn: neither War nor Peace, gangs have recently institutionalized themselves.

In the study, Hagedorn and his fellow colleagues traveled around the world in attempt to learn differences among gangs in different countries such as Cape Town, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro – as well as the underlying common factor they all have. Some of the many conclusions that they have found are as follows:

  • Migration + Cities + Poverty + Slums + Discrimination + Youth = Gangs
  • The world cannot support the rate of the urbanization of cities
  • “By 2020, the UN estimates, half of the world’s urban population will live in poverty”
  • Children of immigrant parents are not supported properly
  • Due to rapid urbanization, formal institutions (schools, church, family) are not strong enough to replace the traditional ones immigrants leave behind in their countries.

By the world’s growing urbanization and the lack of support of such growth, there is a “retreat of state”; more commonly known as “social disorganization”, youth come together as organization to fulfill their needs. The lack of the formal institutions lead to youth groups to emerge and “take care” of their ethnic groups in their new world. Eventually, these groups gain control of territories and provide for their people; they learn to take care of themselves without any set institutions in place – also becoming institutionalized along the way.

With the said factors in place, youth organizations cannot afford to falter under changes with society. If this was the case, then many impoverished groups that lived in the slums would die out quickly. Rather, gangs turn to institutionalization to remain stable and able to adapt to change. To do so, organizations, or gangs, “develop rituals and ceremonies… produce a formal… structure with rules and role expectations, its members identify with the organization” (Selznick/Hagedorn). By developing their own identity, loyalty of members is strengthened and “work” for the organization is completed. This mindset makes institutionalized gangs adaptable to any change. Therefore, certain gangs can last generations after generations.


Does this concept ring a bell? With the work at Homeboy and USC BEP, I have come to know that there are hundreds of different gangs – in Los Angeles alone. Some, we all know [Crips, Bloods, MS13], others, we have never heard of. I believe that this concept of institutionalization applies to these long-lasting, international gangs. Had it not been for their organization and structure, the Crips, Bloods, MS13 would not be as “successful” as they are now. Now, on the other hand, there are some gangs that will never see the light of celebrity. Is it because they’re not institutionalized? Maybe not violent enough? I wonder if the unknowns want to be known? … Maybe reading more of this book can help clarify some of these questions.