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Family Support as a Gang Reduction Measure


Jon Shute, Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK, Tel.: 0161 275 4789. E-mail:


Recent public concern about youth gangs in Britain has prompted a narrow, almost stereotypical, range of US-derived policy responses. This paper argues that family support is an unexplored but potentially effective gang reduction tool, but in order to overcome persistent concerns regarding misidentification, stigmatic labelling and policy misdirection, programmes must not only be ‘good science’ but also be non-punitive, acceptable to families and context-sensitive. Beginning with a discussion of the grounds for intervention, the paper identifies likely barriers from the point of view of the parents of gang members, and from these, derives necessary standards for effective support. The paper describes some promising (‘public health oriented’) and unpromising (‘criminal justice oriented’) programmes, and argues for more ‘gang-sensitive’ family support and a related research agenda.

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