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Injunction Junction, What's Your Function?

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One of the most publicized weapons in the city’s decades-long (and some would say, losing) battle against street gangs has been its gang injunction, which prohibits known gang members from hanging around with other gang members, having alchohol, not following curfews and more, under penalty of arrest. Today’s LA Times covers city attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s announcement that the injunction would receive a much-needed overhaul.

Why? Well, in addition to it not working very well, it turns out the injunction inadvertently helped enforce the gang tenet “from the cradle to the grave.” City council members and community activists pointed out that not a single person named in the gang injunction (which has swelled to more than 11,000 people over two decades) has been able to have their name removed from the list. Once you were designated a gangbanger, you were deemed a banger for life, because in order to have your name removed from the list, you had to publicly declare which gang you had membership in, which anyone with a brain knows would be a death sentence for many gang members. Basically, the injunction had criminalized entire communities in Los Angeles, as it amounted to having a criminal record, even if you'd never been to prison.

Under the new system, people can have their names removed from the list without publicly declaring their gang affiliation through an independent review process. It really is a nice, though small, solace to finally see something that aims at reform as opposed to simple suppression, which has clearly not been working as intended. As evidenced by the recent bust of 22 Crips members across south Los Angeles, which netted an embarrasingly meager take. Seriously, 22 arrests and only $50,000? And after a three year investigation? Most readers of LAist probably know someone who owes more than 50 grand in student loans. Now that it's actually possible to not be legally considered a gang member (in the eyes of the law) for one's entire life, maybe we can kick-start some more city-funded youth programs aimed at early prevention?

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Photo by Sean Hawkey via Flickr