Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Gangs in El Salvador

A group of researchers at Florida International University wrote a lengthy report on gangs in El Salvador, based on surveys and interviews. The title is "The New Face of Street Gangs: The Gang Phenomenon in El Salvador." I know from talking to one of the authors, Jonathan Rosen, that he personally went into Salvadoran prisons to do the interviews. That's some serious fieldwork (with some serious IRB requirements!).

Some key points:

--contrary to widespread opinion (including mine) there seems to be little connection with migration/deportation. The interviewees were born and raised in El Salvador and had little connection with peers in the U.S. I think this deserves even more attention. The gangs are indeed transnational but the connections are not always clear.

--another transnational connection is the long-term effect of the civil war, which tore families apart. "El Salvador has been left with a broken social fabric as a result of the prolonged civil war" (p. 23).

--leaving gangs does happen, though it's not easy.

--having a religious experience is a major part of leaving gangs.

--kids join gangs for the reasons you would expect, such as economic deprivation. The results strongly suggest that they'd prefer something else. They want education and jobs.

It's well worth a read.


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