Criminal and Gang members Anonymous is a program which involves a 12 step established by Richard Mejico. Criminals and Gang members Anonymous is a dogmatic and a non-profit organization whose primary aim is to help individuals who are honestly willing to quit gang involvement. The organization chief objective is to help criminals and gang members who honestly want to quit from gang and other criminal activities. They offer an alternative lifestyle free of illegal and violent activities through 12 step principles of recovering from devastating addictions. The organization is driven by their principal goal and welcomes all interested members to quit dreadful effects of gang operations. The organization acknowledges that gang involvement is intertwined to other compelling and addictive habits. The gang involvement may be addictive since they may be in form of co-dependency or in form of chemical dependence.
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The organization achieve to help these members to abandon from gang activities by helping them identify the magnetic force of gang manipulation that initiates compelling actions that have repugnant results. CGA members are addicted to destructive activities including hard drugs. These members have experienced a lot and they recognize that the end results of gang operations and destructive behavior is physical impairment, incarceration or death. Their wish is to help gang members abandon these addictive criminal activities and help restructure their communities rather than destruction. The following 12 steps of CGA will help these gang members quit from devastating past and lead decent lives.
Reviewing the pat and admitting lack of guts to control addiction from any form of illegal activity which make life unmanageable and worthless.
Become willing and believe that change is possible by learning from ex-gang members who have passed the path of recovery by learning the end results of destructive behaviors.
Deciding to abandon destructive behaviors in exchange of moral principles and seeking God’s care, guidance and protection.
Thorough review of the past, making a list of the right and wrong deeds and make reform strategies.
Seeking forgiveness from God, ourselves and people around as well as confessing our illegal activities to a trusted person.
Make personal commitment of abandoning illegal behaviors and focus on living manageable and decent lives through moral principles.
Honest recognition of the shortcomings whenever bad thinking comes up and immediately rectifying our actions and thinking.
Making a thorough list of all the destructive actions, realize the impact of gang activities in our lives and become fully committed to undergo reform.
Asking for forgiveness from the people who were harmed and avoiding causing more harm.
Admitting to take daily records of the behavior and have courage to admit the wrong.
Seeking to improve spiritual awareness through mediation and prayer and asking for forgiveness and guidance in living decent lives, being responsible and caring for others.
Realizing spiritual awakening by implementing the 12 steps and share first hand experience to other people who are willing to quit gang activities, assuring them that change is possible and living appropriately.
Richard was sentenced to death for murder case in the Mule Creek prison. He was a hard core gang member, but he learnt a lot from Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. He was given this book by a nun who visited him and changed his way of thinking and living. The book helped him to understand that change was possible and the teachings could be applied to criminals. Richard started to change other inmates and started CGA in 1997. The growth of youth gang and gang violence is being experienced in the modern society. There is an approximate of 3000 gangs with around 800000 gang members in America. Professionals are researching for appropriate strategies of saving the youths from gang crimes. The youths usually get involved in gang activities since they believe there are no alternative lifestyles. Building trust is one of the major barriers towards assisting the youth to abandon these gang activities. In order to get helped these criminals must acknowledge that they are addicted to these destructive behaviors. These criminals and gang members should also understand the end results of their actions which will help them to take necessary measures.
Gang and criminal activities are deeply rooted to a twisted way of thinking. Criminals and gang members think that the advice and opinions from others are inappropriate. They tend to talk more, but they never say what they feel. Their true friendship is basically with addictive behavior, illegal activity or chemical substance. They tend to think that going to school is less significant and reject fundamental principles of success. Principles of success help people to learn on how to live. The existence of gang members and criminals is characterized with confusion and anger thus they tend to seek gratification and relief from alcohol and drugs as well as being violent to others without any valid reason. They only feel life to revolve around them, their needs and wants and never consider other people’s feelings and opinions. They think they are hunters, yet they are hunted since they rarely find peace and harmony. These gangs and criminals have come to realize that change is possible and has chosen to undertake reform programs. Organizations and rescue centers have been founded to enhance radical transformation of the gangs and criminals as well as society’s attitudes toward the offenders. They also encourage the society to have positive attitude towards treatment of these offenders (Alexander, 2000).
Homeboy industries is an organization that was formed to transform the live of offenders. They serve risky ex-gang members by offering free services and programs and also operate several social enterprises which serve as job-training centers. In 1972, Soledad Enrichment Action Inc. was found. Soledad Enrichment Action Inc. is a non-organization that was found by mothers who had lost their loved ones in gang violence.SEA has grown from a humble beginning to a famous service provider to high risk people, gang victim communities and families around Southern California. SEA main objective is to empower families, youth and communities by providing them with resources, guidance and support. SEA currently operates seventeen education centers, where they provide alternative education model to families and the youths. Their education program is personalized and hence enables high-risk persons to earn high school diploma. SEA admits an estimate of 3500 students per year who are the age of 14-18. SEA has a 77% successful completion due to their intense focus and rigorous standards. SEA provide intervention, civic engagement, reintegration, and support to victims of crime.
SEA’s holistic program encourage individuals to learn to become better parents, accessing social services, gain employment, live successful lives, and completing high school education. SEA works with victims by helping them realize their potential, where they are, and help them to create a success path. SEA uses a multi-faceted approach to succeed in their objectives. The L.A. gang violence prevention and intervention program to be held in 2014 is focused in determining the initial cause of gang violence and come up with resolutions to combat those causes. Research reveals that social determinants and multiple environmental impacts push young youth into gang involvement. These factors include; poverty, early childhood trauma, addiction to the lifestyle, structural racism, traumatized communities, parenting as well as violent culture in the community. Abuse which includes substance abuse, sexual abuse and mental health might also be causal factors to gang involvement.
Change should start from within rather than expecting others to initiate change. However, many people confuse the world change with system change because they believe that it is challenging for an individual or a single organization to transform the entire system. Another organization that transforms lives of offenders is Californians for Safety and justice. Californians for Safety and Justice is a nonprofit oriented organization which works with Californians from different walks of life to replace justice and prison system waste in general reforms that create a conducive community. Through partnership, public education, public advocacy as well as support to local best practices, California for safety and justice is able to promote effective criminal justice objective aimed at preventing cycles of crime and enhancing a peaceful community.
Californians for Safety and Justice has a network of more than 5800 crime victims. The organization coagulate community and business leaders, law enforcement, health professionals, policymakers, crime prevention professionals and educators to replace expensive, old fashioned approaches of conducting business using latest justice priorities that advance public safety without depleting resources from social amenities. Californians for Safety and Justice is greatly supported by other foundations with similar objectives. Beit T’Shuvah is another residential and treatment center. Their services include family counseling, support, prevention programs, professional training and court advocacy to the community. The treatment admission programs that Beit T’shuvah offers include sex addiction, drug addiction, gambling addiction, alcohol addictions and other violent behaviors to male and females.
The mission of rescue and reform centers is to strengthen and unify voices of individuals and other members of the organizations who are committed to abandon the epidemic of gang violence through provision of resources, education and policy advocacy. These gang and criminals wish to abandon destructive behaviors since they acknowledge that they jeopardize community health, build up and initiate health inequalities. There is relationship between gang, drugs, firearm violence and firearm accessibility. There is high prevalence of gun violence and homicide in many European countries. In order to combat gang and criminal activity, it is vital to understand the role of drugs and gangs in enhancing violence. Acknowledging the trend and reasons behind gun violence increase especially among youthful gangs has become an issue of concern. Governments have designed and implemented various policies aimed at reducing gun violence, however, some pose more harm than good. The increased gang violence can be associated by the increase in urban street gangs. Most firearm homicide cases have been associated to wars among groups of youth and gangs who are involved in the drug activities (Alexander, 2000).
The ex-gang members explain how gang destructive behavior is associated to gun availability and drugs. Participation in gangs increases the probability of the youths getting involved in guns. Violence is a complex issue which governments are unable to control through regulation to gun access. The limits to private ownership of firearms aim at cutting down the access of firearms by the offenders. However, the criminals still access firearms from black markets. Richard Mejico, the founder of CGA recognized that his glory was destructive thus he started the mission of requesting his fellow prisoners to abandon gangs and prison lives. The organization is also likely to cut down crime outside the prison. On September 21st, the officials held 65 corrections and politicians in a forum set for CGA. This forum aimed at spreading the organization. Mejico and at least 30 robbers, rapists, and killers testified how the program had changed their lives. Mejico criticized people’s view of gang members; he said that they have fear and all they need is love from the society. They should not be asked about what they have done since that is their past rather people should focus on helping them to reform. They can learn to love the same way they learn violent behaviors. Retrieved from http://www.gblc.se/2013/11/16/seeking-freedom-from-gangs-grip-criminals-and-gangmembers-anonymous-19253584
CGA program has spread since its humble beginning at Mule Creek in 1997, where inmates are transferred to other prisons. Mejico’s objective is to inspire others to spread the program in schools, communities and prisons. He also added that he did not start the organization for recognition, but because it saved his life. Mule Creek spokesperson said that Mejico served two years imprisonment for killing a man who defiled his girlfriend. Two months later, Mejico committed another murder for his group in Los Angeles. This was a double murder and he was sent to death line. In the prison, he gained reputation as the Mexican mafia due to other gang members’ loyalty. A nun regularly visited him at San Quentin State prison and pestered him to abandon gang activities. He usually listened but he never changed until the Supreme Court ruled out that his death sentence be changed into life imprisonment in 1978. He also acknowledged that change is strategic and not immediate. Mejico studied degree in psychology in San Jose University. Alcoholics Anonymous program is another field that he pursued, but it did not touch his issues. He came to understand how he developed hatred since his girlfriend was raped. He came to understand that his hatred was initiated by emotions rather than any reason.
The first step for the people undertaking the program is to admit that their lives are not manageable. Then they should research on what propelled their deviance, look for divine growth and formulate amendments with victims. In a meeting at Mule Creek prison, prisoners testified of how their youthful pains initiated violent crimes. One of the prisoner by the name Willie, spoke of how his hate for his abusive and often abusive dad. His father’s meekness propelled him to kill to get behind bars. Willie also stabbed a man in the prison. He also admitted of how he was addicted to destructive behavior. Mejico said that the resentment force driving violent actions should not be an escape goat. Being honest and humble with one self and cutting short the false comfort of gangs or crime is very significant to achieving transformation. Mejico acknowledge that there is additional tranquility for the potential victims who are undertaking the program.
A 26 year old prisoner, Joey Ray Lucero who pleaded guilty for attempted murder came to learn that gang life is wrong. While serving his sentence at Mule Creek prison, he joined CGA and he is currently helping potential victims to abandon their destructive behavior. He is also undertaking lectures at East Los Angels College where he also joined football club. Lucero said that he was raised in San Diego as a third-generation member of a gang in his neighborhood. His peers were heroin addicts where he was shown to be loyal to show no pain to the gang. Lucero said, “”You spend all those years fighting for a street corner or number or color that isn’t yours, lot of bloodshed – five, six generations – for what?” He regrets he cannot pay a visit to his old neighborhood because of the fear of being killed for betraying his gang members. On the other side he is happy since the CGA program had completely changed his life. Mejico believes that he can spread the program through CGA website and writing letters to the public as well as other potential victims. He also said that offenders should speak out their problems so that they won’t harm anybody. He also asked people to support his mission since he is still serving his life sentence. Retrieved from http://www.gblc.se/2013/11/16/seeking-freedom-from-gangs-grip-criminals-and-gangmembers-anonymous-19253584
In conclusion, CGA is a very significant program that helps offenders to understand that being courageous is not characterized by actions of violence to earn praise from the gang members. True courage can be defined as the act of doing what is right and best to ourselves. It is the ability of refusing being manipulated by other and taking positive direction to achieve decent and manageable lives. Gang and criminal activities is an addictive behavior and should be addressed just like any other epidemic. The first step towards transformation is for the potential victims to realize that their lives are unmanageable followed by identifying what initiated their deviance. This will help them seek spiritual growth and in making amendments with other victims. The offenders should also believe that change is possible; however, it is gradual rather than immediate.
Seeking freedom from gangs’ grip – Criminals and Gangmembers Anonymous . (n.d.). http://www.gblc.se/. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from http://www.gblc.se/2013/11/16/seeking-freedom-from-gangs-grip-criminals-and-gangmembers-anonymous-19253584
Alexander, R. (2000). Counseling, treatment, and intervention methods with juvenile and adult offenders. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
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Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles – Who We Are. (n.d.). Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles – Who We Are. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from http://new.vpcgla.org/who-we-are