Youth gangs

Appropriates funds for the rehabilitation of youth gang members.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES                H.B. NO.           
TWENTIETH LEGISLATURE, 1999                                
STATE OF HAWAII                                            

                   A  BILL  FOR  AN  ACT



 1      SECTION 1.  The legislature finds that over ninety youth
 2 gangs have been identified by name and place on Oahu.  Most of
 3 the members of these gangs are low-income minority males from age
 4 eleven and up.  These gang members do not believe they have a
 5 place in the American, social, economic, and educational
 6 mainstream and, therefore, feel alienated from it.  The Honolulu
 7 police department estimates that 1,500 youths are involved in
 8 these groups on Oahu.  A survey of gang members conducted by
 9 Adult Friends for Youth suggests the number may be much higher.
10 The problem of gangs, however, is not limited to Oahu.
11      The prevailing view of youth gangs is that they are menaces
12 to society, whether they are drawing graffiti, committing thefts,
13 using and selling drugs, in possession of weapons, or engaging in
14 violent acts that result in permanent injury or death.  Since
15 their acts are frequently criminal in nature, the common practice
16 has been to treat them as law violators and attempt to control
17 their destructive behaviors through the intervention of law
18 enforcement and the justice system.  Increasingly, gang members

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 1 have been viewed as incorrigible.  Punishment or the threat of
 2 punishment is perceived as the only means for protecting society
 3 and deterring further destructive behaviors.
 4      Too often, responses to youths in gangs ignore how these
 5 youths become involved in gangs in the first place.  An eight-
 6 year examination of the subject by Adult Friends for Youth
 7 reveals that most gang youths believe that they are unacceptable
 8 in the mainstream because they look different from the racial or
 9 ethnic groups that appear to be in leadership positions.  This
10 low self-esteem is enhanced by poverty, a history of few
11 successful role models, and physical, emotional, and sexual
12 abuse.
13      Additional obstacles faced by gang members include living in
14 high crime neighborhoods where alcohol and drug abuse, crime, and
15 violence have become learned lifestyles.  Youths who turn to
16 gangs do not believe they will live long enough to graduate, so
17 they see no point in attending school.  Consequently, high school
18 graduation rates are low and unemployment is high.  Gang members
19 often seek refuge on the streets from crowded living conditions,
20 and since generations of family members have experienced second
21 class status, they perceive themselves as second class citizens.
22      Gang members appear to be aware that their lives are
23 precarious.  While they may hope for something better, they may

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 1 be uncertain about what to do to improve their lives.  The
 2 frustration and anger that they experience results in destructive
 3 acts toward themselves and others.  A study completed by Adult
 4 Friends for Youth among gangs with whom it works revealed that
 5 over thirty per cent of the gang members surveyed have
 6 contemplated suicide.  Not infrequently, they will put themselves
 7 in harm's way, not caring whether they live or die.  One gang
 8 member was quoted in a newspaper story as saying, "I was just
 9 waiting for death to claim my worthless soul."  Thus, the problem
10 of youth gangs appears to be one that is at least as much a
11 mental health problem as a police and juvenile justice problem.
12      According to the National Resource Center for Youth
13 Services, Hawaii has the only replicable model for therapeutic
14 youth gang intervention in the United States.  This is the
15 Redirectional Method published in the book Toward a Gang
16 Solution: The Redirectional Method.  This model has been applied
17 primarily in Kalihi, Oahu, but used in other communities as well.
18 Over a four-year period, this model has increased high school
19 graduation rates of gang members from an average of twenty per
20 cent to an average of seventy per cent.  For some groups, the
21 average is ninety per cent.  Gang members have acknowledged a
22 reduction in alcohol and drug abuse.  Many have become
23 successfully employed and gone on to higher education, and gangs

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 1 have come to an end.  Thus, it has been demonstrated that youth
 2 gang members are not necessarily incorrigible lost causes and
 3 that they can be rehabilitated.
 4      The legislature also finds that the State has no
 5 rehabilitation plan or program for members of youth gangs.
 6      The purpose of this Act is to provide funds to the office of
 7 youth services through the department of human services to
 8 implement a program based on the Adult Friends for Youth
 9 Redirectional Method to rehabilitate and integrate members of
10 youth gangs into the mainstream culture, thus significantly
11 reducing youth gangs in Hawaii and the destructive and criminal
12 behaviors with which they are associated.
13      SECTION 2.  There is appropriated out of the general
14 revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $500,000 or so much
15 thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 1999-2000 and the sum
16 of $500,000 or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal
17 year 2000-2001 to implement a program for the rehabilitation of
18 members of youth gangs based on the Adult Friends for Youth
19 Redirectional Method.
20      SECTION 3.  The sums appropriated shall be expended by the
21 department of human services for the purposes of this Act.
22      SECTION 4.  This Act shall take effect on July 1, 1999.
24                           INTRODUCED BY:  _______________________