John Black is a 14-year-old boy from a single mother home who is serving a five-year probation and community-based anger management after being found in possession of a firearm at school. Recently, a tattoo was seen on John’s hands that imply he has joined the local gang and a drug screen also shows he has been using crystal meth and marijuana.
Risks Associated with Juveniles Abusing Drugs and Joining Gangs
Drug abuse and gang membership among juvenile offenders are related in that juveniles joining gangs are more likely to engage in drug use due to the environment that gangs expose them to, while juveniles abusing drugs are also likely to end up in gangs since drugs lower a person’s inhibitions.
Juveniles with drugs and substance abuse problems are likely to get arrested for drug possession. Other risks associated with drug use in juveniles include pattern behaviors such as chronic stealing to finance their drug problem, running away from home and issues in school such as poor performance and attendance and eventually expulsion or dropping out.
Youths who join gangs tend to associate with delinquent peers and avoid peers with positive behaviors. This makes them develop aggression at early age and often engage in violent activities. The juveniles also exhibit antisocial behaviors, are always deceitful, have negative outlooks towards authority, and shun religion (Martinez, Tost, Hilgert, & Wodard-Meyers, 2013).
Reasons for Drug Abuse and Gang Membership in Juveniles
A recent research done to find out the reasons for drug abuse and gang membership among youth showed that social class was the primary factor for these vices. More than half of all teens found to abuse drugs and engage in gang activities were found to be from families with an annual income of less than $20,000 and live in high crime neighborhoods with high gang prevalence (Hill, Lui, & Hawkins, 2001). Most of the teenagers were also from single parenthood homes with the parents not able to exercise authority over the kids such as John’s case.
The percentage of male teenagers likely to engage in drug abuse and violence was found to be twice as much as their female counterparts. This is because boys have less insight into their health and well-being and engage in risky behaviors (Merz, 2014). Also, society is more likely to condemn girls who take drugs than boys, making the experience shameful.
Although African Americans were found to be the race with the highest population of youth engaging in these vices, there is no direct relationship between race and drug abuse or gang enrollment (National Institute of Justice, 2013). Most gangs nowadays are multiracial, and all races engage in drug use.
My recommendation as a probation officer is that both John and the mother be involved in counseling to develop their relationship. This would be enough to help John since many juvenile offender use drugs but not all abuse it to the extent of requiring intervention as in John’s case. The therapy sessions will make John open up more to his mother allowing her to get a better understanding of her son. This will enable John’s mother to note any character changes in her son, gain control over him and steer him in the right direction.
Hill, K. G., Lui, C., & Hawkins, D. J. (2001). Early precursors of gang membership: A study of Seattle youth. Juvenile Justice Buleting. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/190106.pdf
Martinez, J., Tost, J., Hilgert, L., & Wodard-Meyers, T. (2013). Gang membership risk factors for eighth-grade students. Nonpartisan Education Articles, 9(1), . Retrieved from http://www.nonpartisaneducation.org/Review/Articles/v9n1.htm
Merz, T. (2014). Why do men take more drugs than women?. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11000117/Why-do-men-take-more-drugs-than-women.html
National Institute of Justice. (2013, September 16). Race and ethnicity: What are their roles in gang membership?. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from National Institute of Justice, http://nij.gov/publications/changing-course/pages/race-ethnicity.aspx