INTRODUCTION the illegal and non-political acts of violence



Gangs; Violence, Environment, Education.
This report will explore this specific topic/issue within the field of
Criminology and will use theories to best explain this criminogenic
topic/issue. The report will argue that education and the environment plays a
role into the escalation in individuals contributing to gang related violence
in inner city communities. Additionally, it will consider theories in terms of
the extent to which they suitably explain this criminogenic issue and in terms
of their strengths and limitations. The report will further use the left and
right realism theories to critically discuss the impact of education and the
environment on individuals contributing in gang violence. A gang is a group of
friends or family with an identifiable leadership or internal organization, identifying with or claiming control
over territory in a community, and engaging either individually or collectively
in illegal or violent behaviour. (National Institute of Justice, 2011).

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Gang violence refers mostly
to the illegal and non-political acts of violence perpetrated by gangs against
civilians, other gangs, law enforcement officers, firefighters, or military
personnel (Feere, J. 2008). Many reasons influence individuals into joining gangs
such as early academic failure/lack of school attachment, lack of jobs for
youths, poverty, domestic violence, negative peer networks, lack of parental


Gang members often come from dysfunctional and abusive homes,
unfortunate living conditions, a lack of parental regulation, neglect and low
incomes (Muller, R. 2013). Young people might feel that they don’t receive enough
support or attention at home. They may be trying to escape a negative home
life, or may be looking for a father figure. Gangs often make promises to give
unconditional support, and to become the “family” they never

Individuals who also participate in gang violence regularly
grow up with badly influential individuals who may be parents, friends or
strangers. Families can have gang involvement spanning
over multiple generations. This is one of the toughest forms of pressure to
escape, as the gang lifestyle is deeply rooted in family traditions and
values. Individuals could also witness others acting in an unlawful manner,
this could be violence towards other, theft, robbery, sexual abuse etc. This
could then cause the individual too to dictate this behaviour in the future.
Education is another key factor in individuals causing gang violence. If a bad
education is received, this could cause kids not getting the required grades to
advance to college eventually leading too unemployment. If this becomes the
case, individuals will then anticipate other ways to make money such as selling
drugs, theft, joining gangs etc. Another reason how a bad education could lead
to gang violence is the material the teachers teach at the school. If
individuals are not taught the information about the involvement of gangs,
violence and drugs, the basics rules of the law, this would not have got them
anywhere but prison (Castillo, F. 2007).


Using data from the
Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, the Edinburgh university
researchers discovered that poverty is a sufficient condition of violent
offending amongst young people. The study learned that poverty had a
substantial and direct effect on young people’s possibility to engage in
violence at age 15, even after controlling for the effects of a range of other
factors known to influence violent behaviour. Even when taking account of a
raft of risk indicators that would be expected to increase the tendency to
participate in violence (including poor family functioning, lack of attachment
to school, substance misuse, and impulsivity), and a range of protective
factors that are known to act as preventative (such as strong and positive
relationships with parents), young people who were living in a family where the
head of household was unemployed or in low status manual employment and those
who were growing up in neighbourhoods with high levels of deprivation were
significantly more likely to engage in violence (Criminal Law & Justice.


Unemployment & Crime
Statics from Office for National Statistics for September 2015.


–       1/5 of unemployment benefit
claimants have a criminal record.

–       22 per cent of claimants
have conviction or caution, and 1 in 4 released from jail dole.

–       1.1 million of the 5.2
million people who claim out of work benefits had a criminal record.

–       44% of offenders were claiming
benefits a month after being convicted or released from prison.

–       54% of offenders who were
released from prison were claiming benefits 1 month later, progressively
decreasing to 42% two years later.

(Barret, D. 2015)




Left-wing and right-wing ideologies
centre around the rights of individuals vs the power of the government. The
left-wing believe that society is best assisted with an expanded role for the
government. The right-wing consider the best result for society is achieved
when individual rights and civil liberties are paramount and the role of the
government is minimized. The right realism theory argues that criminals have
made a rational choice to break the law and the role of the government is not
to eliminate the root causes of crime but to punish the criminal who are seen
as naturally self-centred and greedy. The Right Realism theory sees that crime
can never be eliminated but only reduced (C N Trueman. 2015). James Q Wilson further explains this theory with the
zero-tolerance policy. Wilson sees small crimes that go unchallenged leads to
further serious offences being committed. He additionally argues that high
levels of crime occur where informal social control over anti-social behaviour
has broken down. The Left Realism Theory emerged from critical criminology in
the early 1980’s in Britain as a reaction against what was perceived to be the Left’s failure to take a
practical interest in everyday crime. Left realists do not see employment and
poverty as a sufficient condition for a growth in crime. Two prominent
supporters of this perspective are Jock Young and John Lea. Jock Young (1997)
argues that you
have to be tough on crime, but this does not just mean being tough on
criminals, it means being tough on trying to change the social factors which
have a long-term impact on crime rates and ensuring that the criminal justice
system promotes social justice.



realists believe in many causes of crime. One being that a growing underclass
and a breakdown in social order and moral fabric in society causes the
opportunity for crime and people to commit crime as a deliberate and rational
choice. This relates and too an extent backs up to the criminogenic issue as
the topic explained the one of the main causes of gang violence is the
individual coming from an underclass lifestyle due to low incomes and
unfortunate living conditions and the lack of parental supervision. As right
realists believe that one of the causes of crime comes from a breakdown in
social order and moral fabric in society, this also is associated with the
criminogenic issue which explains the gang violence is also caused by the
dysfunctional/abusive homes and a lack of parental regulation. As the Left
Realism Theory is the opposite of the Right Realism Theory, the Left Realism
Theory argues against the criminogenic topic, therefore left realists do not
see unemployment and poverty as a sufficient condition for the gang violence.
Left realists believe that individual most at risk from being criminalized
suffer from Relate Deprivation. Relative
deprivation theory is a view of social change and movements, according to which
people take action for social change in order to acquire something (for
example, opportunities, status, or wealth) that others possess and which they
believe they should have, too (Chegg Study, 2003). Two other concepts that Jock
Young and John Lea base their attempts to explain crime are ‘Sub Culture’ and


both Left and Right Realism provide a base understanding for the causes and
prevention of crime, both theories have been criticized for a number of
reasons. Right Realism has been criticized for not taking social division under
the account for the causes of crime but rather blames the crime as free-will.
The theory reacts to the phenomenon of crime and seeking to prevent
it without a substantial body of empirical evidence
as to whether patterns of offending are related to age, gender, race, location, social class, etc. The theory takes the utilitarian idea that
people act rationally without bearing in mind as too why people may choose to
break the law. Indeed, people have the capacity to engage in a wide range of
behavior. If they’re truly rational, the decision to break the law must be informed
by their social condition or other factors that are relevant to them. They do not provide any research into metrics of success or failure for
proactive policing and education as a system for imparting values. Recognizing the factors that form the decision would both assist the
prevention process, because government policies could address those issues, and
support the establishment of a suitable curriculum in the education system to
explain more clearly why the commission of crime is a “bad” decision.
As the theory is criticized for not taking into account the wider structural
causes of crime such as poverty and only explains crime as free will, it
ultimately distinguishes the criminogenic issue explaining the causes of gang
violence comes from the individuals background as the right realists believes
that everybody is equal.


The Left Realism
theory and Left Realists have also been criticized for a number of reasons
which question the validity of their explanations of crime. One of the key
criticisms that has been
directed against left realist explanations of crime and criminality is that its
focus on economic deprivation clarifies only economic crime but does nothing to
account for the other indicators of offending behaviour that are dominant in
society. Similarly, to the Right Realism
Theory, its focus on high crime inner-city areas gives an unrepresentative view
and makes crime appear as though it is a greater problem than it actually is. This relates to the criminogenic issue as
Left Realism does not account poverty and unemployment as a key factor in gang
violence. Therefore, the topic is criticized as there are no clear explanations
as too why individuals participate in gang violence. The
relationship that Left Realism has with the offender and the victim can also be
criticized heavily by Left Wing Approaches. As Ruggiero (1992) identified: left
realism contains an assumption that the power relationship between offender and
victim is always one in which the former is more powerful than the latter. This
one-sided approach is another critique that suggests why it’s hard to
acknowledge Left Realism as a theory that concerns progression. Furthermore, as
Newburn (2007) correctly identified, Left Realism generally rejects the
possibility that some working-class criminal activity may be understood as a
means of managing and coping with the limited opportunities allowed by current
social arrangements.


The Right Realism
theory is also further criticized as the theory does not address the root
causes of crime. It has been argued, that Right Realists are not interested in
corporate crime, white-collar crime, political crime, state crime and neglect
female subcultural delinquency. Right realists focus on young males and street
crime (C N Trueman. 2015). Marxists further argue
that the concentration of these ‘minor offences’ rather than corporate crime
leads to the more serious offences being ignored by authorities which further
leads to more street and gang violence being committed (Robinson, 2010). This
suggests that the right realist response to the official statistics is not
sufficient. Right Realism is further criticized due too it broad focus on crime
control. The theory focuses on how to control crime rather than the prevention
of crime and the causes of crime themselves apart from its blame on inadequate
socialization. This criticism is further explained to include informal control
measures. The systems used such as CCTV and neighboured hood watch has been
criticized for displacing crime rather than discouraging it (C N Trueman. 2015). Right Realists have
also been criticized by the Left Realists themselves. The Left Realists accuse
them of both over-dramatizing and distorting the nature of the problem with the
talk of sick societies, moral decay, and crime rates out of control also
accusing the Right Realists for causing a negative picture due to their over
dramatic behaviour.


The approaches Young and Lea
developed to explain criminal behaviour such as gang violence ultimately argues
that crime is rooted in social conditions and argue that crime is narrowly
related to deprivation but reject the possibility that poverty and unemployment
are factors responsible for criminal behaviour such as gang violence. This
ultimately argues against the fact that individual participate in gang violence
due to the environment they grew up in and the education they had received. Left
Realists argue that the most at risk for associating with crime are the ones
suffering from Relative Deprivation. Although, Left Realists explain
criminality to be caused by relative deprivation, this concept to explain crime
has also been criticized. Critics claim that relative deprivation
does not explain why some people join movements that apparently do not benefit
them directly (animal rights movements, say) (Chegg Study, 2003). Critique of
this concept has pointed out that this theory fails to explain why some people
who feel discontent fail to take action and join social movements. Relative
Deprivation has also been criticized as not being able to fully explain crime
as not all people who experience crime, commit it.


Although the Left and Right Realism
theories argue against each other for the causes of crime, they do share
similarities. For instance, both theories focus on street crime rather than the
more important crimes such as white-collar crime, political crime, state crime
etc. Another similarity both theories share is that they believe that crime is
ultimately rational. Although they both left and right realists argue against
each other for the causes of crime, they both ultimately explain crime as an
act of free-will, which therefore demolishes the idea that the environment and
education are drive individuals into participating in gang violence.





All in all, while the
environment individuals grew up in and the education the individual receives
can be said to have an influence on gang violence, the Left and Right Realism
theories says otherwise. The Right Realism theory describes criminal behaviour
as free-will and the individual makes a rational choice when partaking in gang
violence. The Left Realists such as Young and Lea also argue against the fact
that poverty and unemployment are not sufficient conditions in crime growth.
The Left Realism theory describes criminal behaviour as ‘Relative Deprivation’
explaining that individuals partake in criminal behaviour such as gang violence
because they feel they deserve something that another other process. Although
studies have somewhat determined an association with gang violence and the
environment and an education, the left and right theories begs to differ,
ultimately raising the question “Is the environment an individual grows up in
and the education they receive key factors in the causation in gang violence”?







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