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Underlying Causes For Gang Involvement Amongst Juveniles

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Read the case study and answer the following questions:
Ronnie Cabernelli was a lonely young boy. His father had left his mother before Ronnie was born. His mother had spent all her life being an alcoholic, neglecting and abandoning Ronnie when he was 5 years old. Since then, Ronnie had been looked after by his uncle, who loved Ronnie very much. When Ronnie was young, his uncle would spend hours with him. He was very intelligent and read books all the time. He was also very warm to his uncle, the only person who cared about him. Yet, there was something keeping Ronnie back. He never talked about himself. His uncle often worried about him.

When Ronnie was 7, his uncle encouraged him to go out and make friends with the other boys in the trailer park. At first, Ronnie simply joined this gang because he was trying to fit in and these boys were seen to be powerful in their trailer park. This gang was made up of 15-17 year old angry boys. At that point, Ronnie did not know that the vein of anger and hatred running through each of the boys in the gang was powerful enough to be dangerous. The gang gave him a feeling of belonging to a community; it gave him some hope that he was not alone after all. To Ronnie,
he was doing nothing wrong.

At first Ronnie didn't do much but run errands for the older boys. To "belong" to the group, Ronnie starting taking drugs when he was 10. When he turned 12, the gang began initiating Ronnie into a life of petty theft. The risks were high, but it was too late for Ronnie. He couldn't escape this gang and he didn't want to. Among the initiations, Ronnie was made to rob homes and grocery stores. There were also some cases of auto theft.

On the night of September 17th, 2005, Ronnie was put up to his first major challenge. The gang decided to enter a high school and kidnap the daughter of a store manager who had refused to give one of the gang members a job. The intent was simple — to avenge the store manager by scaring his daughter. Ronnie was scared from the beginning but the gang members assured him that they would not harm this girl.

Unfortunately for Ronnie, things did not work out as planned. Security personnel attacked the boys causing the older boys to open fire. Three students were killed and many were injured. Once the shooting was over, Ronnie was found hovering behind a classroom door. He had not shot anyone.

Later that day, Ronnie was arrested. The judge at the juvenile court wanted to be lenient because Ronnie was only 14 years old. But, all facts about Ronnie were weighed. When the judge heard about Ronnie's petty crimes and his history, he decided that Ronnie needed to be prevented from further incidents such as this. A boy like Ronnie was considered "a risk for society". He was placed in a correctional facility for three years.

The night he got out of this facility, he went straight to the house of the judge who sentenced him, and shot him dead.

Ronnie is now facing lifetime imprisonment.

How are Ronnie's patterns of delinquency different from other youths?

Did Ronnie's disposition have anything to do with his future patterns of behavior? Could the courts have handled Ronnie's case differently? How?

What should the juvenile court's goal have been for Ronnie—to punish him, deter him, or rehabilitate him? What factors contributed to the judge sentencing Ronnie to three years in a correctional facility?

Do you see some underlying causes for gang involvement amongst juveniles? There is an overall feeling that the juvenile justice system can address these underlying causes. How do you think that these can be addressed?

Please cite sources.

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Solution Preview

How are Ronnie's patterns of delinquency different from other youths?
Ronnie's patterns of delinquency are common in regard to how the youth has experienced neglect from his biological parents and began with petty crimes. His longing for acceptance in the group is the impetus for his behavior as he wants to "fit in", which is typical for juvenile offenders.

Did Ronnie's disposition have anything to do with his future patterns of behavior? Could the courts have handled Ronnie's case differently? How?
The courts handled Ronnie's case how it was supposed to be handled by not ...

Solution Summary

This response looks at the causes for juvenile gang involvement.

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Sociological Theories on the Causes of Juvenile Delinquency

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1. Which school of thought do you find most compelling? Why?
2. Which school of thought do you find least compelling? Why?
3. Imagine you have been given a large grant to start a program designed to decrease juvenile delinquency in your community. How would you allocate your resources and structure such a program? Which theory of juvenile delinquency would most support your approach? Why?

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