Following the protocol approved by the IRB, the research team explained the goals of the study to the potential participants and answered any questions before and after the survey that the individuals had. This helped ease any concerns of the participants. Researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with all participants and wrote down their responses. While the researchers applied 1, surveys, were discarded either because the interviewee did not complete all the questions or because the researchers had doubts about the participant ever belonging to a Salvadoran street gang.
The majority of survey interviews occurred in Salvadoran prisons or juvenile centers with both former and active gang members. Regarding the total number of surveys, active gang members constituted Thus, it is important to note that most respondents of the survey were prisoners, who were not participating in a religious-oriented rehabilitation program.
Moreover, the survey respondents joined the gangs at young ages: Nearly half of all individuals surveyed Finally, Following the tradition of Hispanic gangs in the United States, in which gang membership is for life and, in some cases, even transmitted from generation to generation Moore Moore, Joan W. Going down to the Barrio.
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Homeboys and Homegirls in Change. Philadelphia : Temple University Press. Austin : University of Texas Press. Maras y Barras. To explore whether this is a practice that occurs among the Salvadoran gangs, the survey asked if the respondent knew somebody who had calmed down. The vast majority Thus, the survey results suggest that it is possible for an individual to desist from a gang in El Salvador, despite what law enforcement and active gang members usually contend Seelke Seelke, Clare Ribando. When comparing these findings by crucial variables such as age, the position of the respondent in the gang, and gang organization, the results did not return significant differences.
In other words, in every category, most interviewees knew peers who have successfully calmed down and abandoned the gang life. Furthermore, the survey revealed that For instance, plans to leave the gang went from What mechanisms are thus available for those who want to leave the gang? Furthermore, However, Statistical significance tests of potential differences using chi-squares were conducted for each variable.
Throughout the research, exiting through a religious experience emerged as the most common mechanism to leave gangs in El Salvador. In this case, it refers to gang members abandoning the gang organization to join what is usually an Evangelical church and following the precepts and norms dictated by such forms of Christianity. This finding corroborates what ethnographic studies have found in other countries in the region Brenneman Brenneman, Robert. Peterson , M.
Vasquez , and P.
Space of Detention: The Making of a Transnational Gang Crisis between Los Angeles and San Salvador
London : Rutgers University Press. Longmore , Ryan D. Schroeder , and Patrick M. The in-depth interviews provided a rationale for the frequency of the religious way of exit: it is the safest mechanism not only because it ensures success but also because it allows for a safeguard for those leaving. Gangs respect God. And the gang understands and respects it. They observe former members to ensure that they are serious about their religious experience and newfound life. Even the first two weeks after I decided to follow Jesus, I continued doing the paro [favors] for them.
So, one boy came to me and told me not to continue. These statements and the in-depth interviews also show that the mechanisms for gang desistance depend, to a large extent, on the acquiescence of the gang. I was in the process of jumping in chequeo , but God had other plans for me.
And the gang gave me permission to leave. They just warned me that there was no way back and if I turned back, I would have problems.
I have no contact with them now. If you want to change, you are free, if you become a Christian.
I just left, the leader gave me the green light [to leave the gang]. Hence, the process of leaving is closely monitored by the gang. But when someone is supervised they do not tell you that. They watch where, at what time, with whom you go and what you do. In most cases [if you divert from the religious path], they the gang correct you once, by beating you up. It is pretty tough and can end up with a broken rib or other injuries that stay in the body. The second time they correct you in a worse way. It can be beaten with a bat. Some have been left paraplegic.
In fact, the results of the survey show that However, the main differences are found when comparing groups based on the position in the gang: respondents who are classified as collaborators tend to seek permission from their bosses more frequently than those who are regular members soldiers or occupy leadership positions see Table 1.
The position within the gang is usually associated with the time spent in the organization, so people in positions of leadership have spent more time in the gang than those who are in the early stages. If not, the other option is through Church. The in-depth interviews shed light on the process of speaking to the leaders. In other words, members cannot leave a Salvadoran street gang based on their own free will. But it was really hard. I spent a year telling them [the gang] that I did not want to continue and they would not let me calm down.
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It is not just what I want, there is a strict hierarchy and you have to obey. At that time, my brother was in town visiting me from Guatemala. He was a pastor. We were many there, seven men and three women from all areas of San Salvador. Each one had their own problem. Some of us wanted to leave […] The leaders assured us that everything would be fine, that they gathered us to solve our problems and to see if we continued in the gang.
However, they killed everyone, one by one, after they talked. When my turn came, they spoke to me and asked me three times if I was going to stay in the gang. I said no. They spoke by phone to someone and then brought in a man with a bag on his head, he looked very beaten up. When they took the bag off, I saw that it was my brother!
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According to most in-depth interviewees, all gang members will eventually have to speak with the leadership of the gang about why they desire to leave the organization. Gang members seeking to desist from the gang need to have a valid reason for leaving the organization, and, as seen above, that reason generally revolves around a religious experience. The interviews also revealed an interesting element in the mechanisms to exit a gang in El Salvador.
The gang leadership evaluates the worth of a particular gang member and how useful this person is to the organization based on his history within the gang and his position in the hierarchy. You will keep this member.
It is easier for a bad gang member to leave. He is less useful for the gang. And the last one is the one who gets all the pressure. These [the lowest ranking members] are the ones who want to leave and have more opportunities for that. But we [leaders] see things in the opposite way because we see them differently.