Questions About Helping by Friends and Family

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Answers

vines

Hey was up Iím 17 and my cousin is also 17. He is a gang member. He also has a lady from the same gang and I was wondering how I can help him get away from the gang life because many people have tried to accuse him for things that he doesnít do. Since the age of 14 he is been in and out of the hall. I want to help him before he hits county and he does something that he will regret for the rest of his life. I will really appreciate if you can tell me what I can do to help him get away from everything before he does something stupid.

Thank you- Maribel

Maribel,

Have you tried sitting down with your cousin and letting him know how you feel. This would be a great start. Let him know how worried you are about him and you don't want to see anything happen to him. Inform him that if he continues to run around these people the accusations what he didn't do will not only continue, but may possibly worsen.

Here is an example: I was accused of doing something which I did not do - that placed me in a position of where I was looking at doing five years in prison. I was lucky the charges were dropped against me. I was also blamed for doing other things I had nothing to do with, but only because of the people I chose to associate with. For every bad act they did, can you guess who was blamed for it? Yes, me. You see, even if I wanted to - I can't blame them for what I willingly did. It was my fault for not learning from my mistakes.

Maribel, your cousin is at a point in his life where if he doesn't open his eyes something bad will happen. He can make all the promises in the world to you, nothing is going to happen to him. But, the bottom line is, if he does not get away from these people, he will regret it for the rest of his life.

I don't know where you are from, but you may want to look in the phone book and see if there are any prison ministries in your area. A great deal of these ministries (if not all of them) are dedicated to pointing people in the opposite direction of where they are headed. What makes it effective, are those doing the ministering - which are usually people who are former gang members themselves. If you can't find any such thing, why don't you invite him to church? I'm sure there is a Christian church in your area, you could attend to. In fact, another good idea would be to talk to the pastor of the church, and explain your situation; I'm sure he would be willing to sit down with you and your cousin and counsel.

Your cousin should listen to you, especially after all that you are willing to do for him. Your letter alone should be enough to convince him of how much you truly care for him. Whatever you do, don't give up. The Apostle Paul said it best - and that is Love never fails.

My prayers are with you Maribel, that you will be successful. Take great care of yourself.

Sincerely - Willard B.
California


Well Maribel,

Your cousin is lucky to have you around his life but he just doesn't know it yet. Sometimes is hard to help someone especially if that person is being hard headed but it's not impossible. Your cousin needs guidance because he's headed in the wrong direction. I advise you to try to find a former gang member to help you out with him because it's nothing better to find someone who went through the path he's going through right now and if you can't, just keep talking to him about choices and consequences. You know sometimes people have to learn the hard way because they refuse to listen. I would hope that your cousin will not be one of those people.

Edwin T.
New Jersey


Dear Maribel,

Try to bring your cousin to the this website so that he can read what is written and get a better understanding of what there is to be read. He will come to understand that he is not alone and feel a little bit more comfortable, knowing he can relate to individuals in the inside, people who have been there and done that, people who have lived what he is living! Your cousin will only fall into the web of county jail if he holds in everything that he is holding in! He is blessed to have you as a cousin Ė someone who cares and is seeking advice to help him! It does not help to be accused of everything that happens. Itís like people just looking for an excuse to try and ruin his life! I know what he is going through but, don't know what itís like to have someone try and help! So Maribel, bring him to this website and believe me, he will see life in a more important perspective and take a second look at the lifestyle he is living! He and you can work together on this!

Jerry
California


Maribel,

At 17 you should be focused on your future. The way to help your cousin is to help yourself. The world is divided between the winners & the losers. You must decide which you will be. To lose is to become idle & drift through life with no real aim or purpose. To win you must act decisively in the pursuit of your own dreams. As a wise man once told me, "damn the course that others take, find your own way." That advice has kept me out of a lot of sh---t. Let your cousin go his way & you find the way that leads you to the things you desire.

James C.
New Jersey


Dear Maribel,

I think one of the biggest things you can tell your cousin is that at 17, if he gets arrested for something serious he has a real good chance of getting charged as an adult, especially since you said he already has a juvenile record. That is before he is 18, after he turns 18 there won't be any ďmaybeĒ involved, he will get charged as an adult. Since being in a gang has gotten him locked up a few times before turning 18, he should be able to see the pattern. The bad part is the sentences are a lot longer and the places you get sent to are a lot worse. Those juvenile places will look like country clubs compared to the adult prisons. Most of these places keep you locked in a cell for all but a few hours daily.

For people in gangs they have special lockup units were guys come out even less, like once every few days and you can stay in this status for years at a time. There are other things like visits with glass separating you from your visitor on a once a month basis and limited to immediate family only; no writing to anyone except immediate family. This is the real deal of what can happen. The odds are real good that is exactly the way his future will go, if he continues. I wish you the best of luck in convincing him. There are a lot of guys in here that got themselves into situations just like he is doing and are in here for the rest of their lives without a way to do anything to change that. The best advice I can give is to tell him to use common sense and try to see he can have a future instead of a dead end.

Sincerely - AL R.
New Jersey


Maribel,

Concerning your cousin, I could understand your feelings and your worries. But in life we all go through phases where we need recognition and want to belong to something. Your cousin is going through a phase where he feels that he belongs to somebody and he is important, not thinking that by being a part of a gang, it could destroy his life and the life of his girlfriend.

My advice to you is to really sit down with your cousin and ask him what he really wants out of life. There is so much more in life than being a gang member. Tell him that he has to find out what he really wants out of life, what are his desires, his dreams, his goals and purpose, because no one wants to be a gang member as a career, when all it will get you is to die or to go to prison.

Tell him he has to find himself, to get in touch with himself and his dreams, that everything could be possible if he really wants it, but he has to be determined on his dream. Tell him to be himself, to find his own identity, not to be a follower Ė that he is much more than what he thinks he is, that he has hidden talents that he doesnít know about unless he tries to do something different. Tell him that he could be anything he wants to be, that anybody could be a gang member and take orders but it takes a real man to be responsible.

Maribel, talk with him every day. Invite him to go with you and his girl to different places, to do different things, positive things, to enjoy the beautiful things of life Ė fishing, swimming, sports, dancing movies, library, roller skating. Get him to get his mind away from his friends and gang members. Also talk to his girlfriend. Ask her what she wants five years from now, to go to prison or visit him in a cemetery?

Tell him to concentrate on his education because without that he wonít get far in life, and to really think about the consequences of being a gang member.

But Maribel, stay on top of him and communicate with him until he changes. Donít give up on him. Keep trying to change him. Itís very hard to change and a lot of people are really scared of change so be persistent with him, OK?

Nothing in life is easy Maribel, but you could do it. Here are the ingredients:

All these things mixed together make the impossible possible. So I wish you the best in life. And always remember; never be scared to find out anything that has to do with you and your loved ones.

God bless you and your family.

Frank
New Jersey

BACK

Hey, one of my homegirls kicks it with hella wannabe G'z. I am not into that, due to the respect I have for myself and the respect I have for my uncle that was in a gang and got killed, he told me not to be into that because of what can/will happen. I tell my homegirl the same thing he told me, but she swears she doesn't claim, and she tells me that she doesn't care and that she's still going to hang out with them... besides preaching what can I do? Should I keep trying to get it through to her head that being in a gang and kicking it with gangs is stupid? Or should I watch as she messes up her life?

Adriana

Adriana,

Your willingness to try and help your friend see the light really shows in the letter you wrote. You are a great friend for even wanting to help out with her life, and shame on her for not realizing this. Even if you wanted to, I personally don't think you would sit around to watch her mess up her life - because of how much you care for her. I wish I had more friends like you when I was growing up, because I could have used them.

There is one thing that I'm curious about. Why would she say she doesn't care? I think she should care! Hanging around a bunch of people like this, is going to get her nowhere fast. What is it going to take for her to open her eyes, and see that what she is doing is the worst thing anyone in life could possibly do? Life is far too precious a thing to just waste, and it is not like you have extras to spare.

Let me tell you about a true gangster. He will never tell you to ruin your life and join a gang. That decision is done on your own. If anything, he will show you just how much trouble it can get you. But most of all, he will tell you life is something that shouldn't be wasted, on being foolish - which is why education is so important. Becoming a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist - is not something just anyone can become. He or she has to apply himself to the studying that is needed to achieve these kinds of degrees. The payoff in the end is a great one!

Becoming a "gangsta", doesn't take a degree in rocket science. I would say 90% of the people I have met in prison, wish they had done something with their life, such as stay in school. The majority of the time people don't realize that they should have done better for themselves, until it is too late. But as the old saying goes, "We learn from our mistakes."

Adriana, you know your friend better than anyone - I'm assuming. What is it that you guys like to do together as friends? Invite her to lunch and have a discussion with about what she's doing. Let her know how much you care for her, worry about her life, and most of all, don't want to see anything happen to her. A true friend would not go out of their way to do such a thing, and I hope you are able to get her to see what is in front of her - a great friend.

You will be in my prayers, that you are successful in all your efforts. Take good care of yourself.

Sincerely - Willard B.
California


Adriana,

Hey there beautiful! Well, Iím going to answer your question of concern for your homegirl. First, let me break this wall between us. Iím name is Jesse, Iím 17 years of age, and Iím in YA for being a down-ass vato. But now Iím a somewhat changed man, trying to help people not do the same mistake I did. Well enough about all that baby girl, let me get to your question. Well look, you already tried to talk to her about your wisdom about the stupid gangs, and let me tell you that all you could do with hard-headed people, you just have to let your homegirl learn from the mistake she is doing, but just pray and ask God to watch over her. Well I got to go to the next question, so adios y que Dios te bendiga.

Your friend - Jesse P.
California

BACK

I have at least five cousins involved in gangs; one of them is from a rival gang. Every time I bring up the subject of getting out of the gang itís always, ďThat's for rankers. Weíre always gonna be down.Ē All I'm saying is ďhelp.Ē I love them and I don't want them to end up serving life for a lost cause.

Dear friend,

Your loving concern for your cousinsí lives is a great blessing for your family, because many family members don't seem to care enough anymore. On the other hand, don't give up on them! Continue to warn them about the many consequences of gang life. Expose the truth by giving them examples of those who have lived it and suffer for it. One good example is the prison gang life. In prison, you don't have to be a ranker in order to be considered one. If a gang member who runs with a particular group or race messes up, he is considered "no good," which is another word for ranker, leva, chavala, etc. The only thing this individual messed up on was a certain inmate prison rule, and not because he was afraid to do something for their lost cause. (Owing drug money, not doing the evil you are asked to do, and many other frivolous rules can make an individual "no good.") Prison politics is like a game of chess. You got your pawns and many other players higher in rank. Nobody cares who you are or where you're from; it's how well you play the game. I've heard many stories of hard-core prison soldiers considered no good all because they messed up once or twice. The longer you've been incarcerated, the more you know and the higher the responsibility to abide by their rules. Gang life is not fun, whether in prison or on the streets. Gangs are a one-way ticket to destruction and many suffer ignorantly in its consequences. Itís not enough to know about it, you must turn away from it in disgust of its evil and painful life. It takes more courage to turn away from gang life than to abide in it.

You can also help your cousins by giving them some good-old-fashioned tough love! What I mean is, don't give them any money for their drugs, alcohol, guns, baggy clothing or any other thing that contribute to their lost condition. I'm not saying not to help them when in need; you just need to know where your help is going. Continue to remind them that you love them and care for their lives, and give them the reasons for your tough-loving actions towards them. In their blindness, they will not like it and may not like you for it either, but in time they'll get over it when they see you standing firm in your decision. I know you will need some help, guidance, strength and comfort as you take on this very difficult task. Remember, you can always call on Jesus! He is always available 24-7, never too busy for you, and is waiting for you to call on Him today. Prayer is the way to talk to God about anything and everything! Open your heart, let Him in, and He will give you His strength, love, peace and courage to accomplish His loving will. I know it's His will to bring you to Him, but he will not impose His will upon yours. If you want to hear from him today, read His message of love in the Bible. He will speak to you through it, believe you me!

May you find some help in these words. I really wish I could do more. Thank you for your question and time. May the Lord bless you and your family by bringing you to His Son, Jesus, who died to pay all our faults (sins against God) so we may have eternal life with Him.

P.S. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains te whole world and loses his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16: 24-26

In His Service - Al
California

BACK

I have a friend who is kind of like a gangster better say a wannabe I been trying to help her because I really care for her I have known her almost for 5 years. We been through hard times together and I used to be like her but I have learned that being a wannabe gangster is nothing and that I was just wasting my time. I wanted to ask anyone that if you could help me because right now me and her are not talking and not friends and I really want to help her because I really care for my friend and she is getting worse.

Sincerely - Gaby

Gaby,

This letter is in response to a question you asked about your friend getting involved with gangs. But first of all, let me start by saying that you are very smart to realize you had been wasting your time trying to be something you know youíre not. That says a lot about you.

With that said, let me tell you a little bit about my past. I got involved with gangs at about the age of 12. Iím 28 years old now and Iím doing 32 years to life in prison. What that means is more than likely Iím going to die in this place. In 1992, my little brother was killed in a drive-by shooting. Just this year, both my parents died. As a matter of fact, they passed away in June. It hasnít even been three months so the pain is fresh. I have a twin brother who is in jail looking at life in prison.

Iím telling you all this because I do want you to know that I do understand what it costs to live the so-called high life.

As for your friend, tell her how you feel and let her know youíre worried. If you want to be her friend, let her know, but keep in mind that might be all you can do cause itís all up to her. If sheís your friend, sheíll hear you out but if not she wonít. You just might have to let it go. I believe you know deep down inside whatís right and sometimes doing right hurts.

Richard M.
California

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My name is Mere. I am very concerned about my boyfriend he has a lot of pride and most of the times he puts it in front of everything including me. He is 16 years old and I'm afraid that he'll never let go of so much pride. What should I do or what should I tell him?

Hi Mere,

You say your 16 year old boyfriend has a lot of pride and puts it before you and everything else. Mere, tell him how you feel and how he makes you feel when he puts his pride before you. Donít give up; just keep trying to get him to get rid of that pride. Iím sure that if he has any love for you he will at least try.

Jesse G.
California

BACK


I have a friend who is in gang, actually a lot of friends. They don't understand that itís not good and it can ruin their life. How can I prove it to them?? Also their friends in their crews don't like me because I'm a prep. Or I mean I dress like one, just don't act like one. What do I do?

This is a difficult question to answer, but Iíll do my best to help out. Ask your friends if they really know the meaning of the words gang or gang member? = Criminal

A career for a criminal is just like any other profession this society has to offer. If you wish to become a doctor, well you study and take one step at a time. Eventually youíll be a doctor. Same thing for a criminal. We started as juvenile delinquents at Juvenile Hall serving short sentences, from a week to a year Ö Man, I remember back then they used to put me in lock down or the hole for three whole days. I hated it! Those three days used to look endless to me Ö Juvenile Hall memories. Now days, itís a whole different story. Iíve been in the hole since I got arrested back in 1995 - to be exact six years and three months. Anyhow, thatís a different subject.

Then you turn eighteen. Thatís when you become an adult Ö Get ready for county jail. Thatís when the courts donít play around anymore. They might put you on probation but you are a criminal. Probation wonít stop you. Then, after you violated your probation a few times the judge will send you to prison with a short sentence, two to three years. After you finished your first term, those people who run the polls say that 86% of all parolees will come back into the system with a greater charge or crime, which means more time, from seven to fifteen years. Thatís if you get lucky. Life sentences are easy to get!

When criminals come inside these prison walls, itís a different story Ö Now youíre in the big leagues. This type of environment forces people to change for the good, bad and the ugly. Some choose the Bible which is good if youíre for real, not because you are scared to walk the walk which put you in prison to begin with. Others drop their gangster style to become model inmates. The real criminals will stay foot to their own ways and because of that, oh and for the safety of those model inmates and the cops too, the prison system will place us in this hole without any hope to get out. Thatís the future for all criminals Ö of course, if you donít get killed before.

As for how you can show your friends or prove it to them, thatís going to be hard. I suggest, well you as a taxpayer have a right to go into any public facility. That includes prisons, county jails, and juvenile halls. With all the paperwork and the right information, theyíll grant you a tour of these places I just mentioned. That way you can take your friends to tour their future house. You can also come to Pelican Bay SHU to see how we live inside this hole without sunlight and no windows.

You can ask the courthouse of your county to let you see how things get done, to hear and see the judge give out sentences to people - ďcriminals.Ē

As for those people who donít like you because youíre prep - donít worry. They will like you and remember you when they find themselves in jail or prison with no one to call. Alright, hopefully this helps you out.

Good luck - Juan
California

BACK


I have a friend named Mike. I care about him a lot and we're really close friends. I know he is in a gang. I have known this for quite some time and I have always told him that it's not worth it and he should try to get out. He told me that it's not that easy. He said he would rather not get out of it because of the "protection" the gang has offered him. How can I help him see that the gang life is not the way to live his life? I do not want to see him end up in prison, or even worse, dead. How can I help him? Please keep in touch with me... and please be the silver lining in my dark cloud.

Thank you - Amy

Thanks for stopping by the web site and as well for asking me for some advice. I am honored and I'll try to be that silver lining on your dark cloud. The situation isn't something new with your friend Mike. People join the gangs for various reasons and if they truly have it in their hearts, they will find a way out. There's always a way. He just doesn't want to let his pride down and lose face with his homies. What you should do is try to show him that there is a lot more to life than trying to be someone hard. There's nothing in that life. It's not even cool anymore. If I could turn back the hands of time, I'd do things so much differently. My advice is to hit him with the truth about the consequences of being a gang member and then tell him all the things that this life of ours has to offer and to not jeopardize it or see it go by in a prison cell or from a cloud above. That's what I think you should do. He's blessed to have a good friend like you and I'd be honored to have you as one as well. Stick to your studies and make the best of life.

Sincerely, M.O.C.
California



Well Amy, First of all, I would like to tell him that there is no such protection. Only God can stop things from happening. If some rival gang member wants him dead or beat up, they will plot on him and it will happen. Being in a gang is irrelevant; it wonít save him. Most importantly I would ask him if he is concerned about something happening to you. This is what could happen if you are caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they canít get him, they will get those they can like family and friends. If he is a true friend, then his primary concern should be to keep you from harmís way. He needs to think about the consequences of what could happen as a result of his behavior. Once again there is no such thing as protection. It doesnít matter if you are out there or in here where itís a lot worse. I would try to get it in his head that life is too short and precious to waste. He needs to make the best out of his situation and eventually things will work themselves out. Heís still has a chance. I wish someone would have been around to speak to me and give me good advice. I wonít see the streets until the year 2022. At that time I will be 50 years old. This does not include the possibility I may get a hit (which means additional time before I can see the parole board again). Youíre absolutely correct; gang life only leads to prison or death. Neither is a good option. I believe that for some scare tactics are effective, such as being exposed to viewing of dead gang members, crime scenes where gang members are savagely murdered, gang members behind bars, criminal prosecutions of gang members, and a visit to the morgue to identify loved ones. This sounds a bit harsh but extreme situations require extreme measures. Children need to know that joining a gang only leads to pain and suffering for the member and his family. Joining a gang is simply not worth it. Once a life is taken, the only people that suffer are loved ones. There is no coming back, no second chance. And the court feels that you shouldnít have a second chance either. Society would prefer to put you to death by lethal injection or guarantee that you will never leave prison where you will rot until your death. Is this what any human being wants? Wow! What the future to look forward to! Sadly, for me this is my life. I hope you take heed to what I have said and understand that I live this experience. The same mistakes need not be repeated; take it from me thereís no turning back the clock. This is the reality and thereís no way around it.

Angel
New Jersey

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My brother he just got in a gang and I don't want nuthin to happen to him but he wont listen to me. I mean he say they got his back an ain't nuthin gonna happen to him or wateva and then I come on an I read a story about how getting life at 17 and I mean it makes me sad cause I dont want my lil brother to go out like that u know. Well get back at me if u can help me or give me some advice.

Tatyianna

Dear Tatyianna,

May these words reach you when youíre in good health: mentally, spiritually, and physically. I pray that you and your loved ones are not going through any rough times and that, if you are, you may have the love and optimism to pull through the rough together. You spoke about your brother joining a gang and that he feels heís protected and untouchable.

Iím getting back at you now, in hopes that I can help and the advice that I give comes from looking at my own life. I am not a professional, as you know. Before joining a gang I had problems at home. I knew in a way that my family loved me but they did not know how to express it. So I began to doubt if they really loved me at all - speaking at me and not to me. They would say, ďclean your room; donít walk, talk or dress like that.Ē It was all commands or corrections, even curses, and rarely if ever did we speak about anything real like what I would like to become in life instead of what I did not want to end up as, specifically a prisoner. I started to lose that loving relationship with my family. I ended up in a psychiatric ward.

The experience was a good one, I got to deal with the problems I had with myself and problems I saw in the way my family treated the each other. I got to speak out all my feelings and felt that I was not left alone to deal with them. I was made to see good qualities I had in myself and started to see a better life for me; I became more optimistic. Then I was released.

At the beginning everything went well with my return home. I was still the person I became in the hospital, happy about life, optimistic about my future, and back in love with my family. Then things started to change. I began to feel like I had before. See, I had changed but my family had not. So the same situations brought out the same feelings and way of thinking in me.

I got into a situation at school and the way I handled it was admired by some guys who were in a gang. They asked me to sit with their group and after some time they initiated me into a gang. I joined it for several reasons, though I see now that it was all a hoax and lies I allowed myself to believe so that I could feel I wasnít doing anything wrong. One of the reasons I joined was because they spoke of unity and family love. Not getting it at home in a way that I could understand, that made it easier for me to join. Also if Iíve always felt different and misunderstood, that no one could understand me at all; what better thing is there than to join people who felt the same way: that society did not understand them as individuals, as poor ghetto kids and/or Black or Hispanic. Another reason was that they did take any stuff from anybody and I admired people who stood up for themselves; thatís how I saw it when they acted out. The last reason I will mention is that while in a gang I had people that would let me do whatever I wanted to try and not judge me and be there even if I messed up, because they have at one point or another in their lives known what it was like to mess up.

The unity and family love was only if you did and were down with everything they said. Like there was a time when I didnít want to beat this kid because he didnít really do anything and was small. They started questioning my loyalty, and every time since then, when they did something, it was like a loyalty test. Didnít I prove myself before and isnít that the reason why was initiated? I guess not. If it became a test of who could be the toughest, craziest dog out there, and your competition was your own boys. I wanted to show I was a man and, having no one showing how to become a real man, I followed what the others did - all thinking we were becoming men none actually knowing what a real man was. Our perception was twisted. There was love, and I donít want to say that everything in a gang is bad. You get some things youíre looking for, like love. Thatís why it is so difficult to get someone out.

To get me out someone should have said that yes there is love from your homies is but thatís not the only place where you can get love, and then it gave me examples of other sources. Then they should have helped me realize or helped me find a way to test the gang's love, to show me how it doesnít compare to the love of your family. Maybe one homie would die for you but many family members would do that. Just because someone holds love for you doesnít mean they hold your best interest at heart. Now I see that it is more important to have someone who is willing to live for you than to die for you. I feel a lot stronger knowing that I live for myself and my family than wanting to die to prove my love or loyalty.

As for feeling different, every kid goes through that at adolescence, so in reality thereís no difference in that. There are adults who still feel that way. A lot of things happen to a person. Puberty isnít just growing hair in places you had no hair before; there are lots of psychological and emotional changes as well. Some of us need help through these times and shouldnít feel like thereís no when we can speak to. The biggest mistake I made was to believe I was alone to deal with every problem by myself or that, that is the way a man should do it. The reality is there are many older people who can understand that feeling, and unlike someone who is the same age, they can give advice to you on how to live through this. This is not to say that older people are better than younger people but only that they have more experience which you can only get with time. One shouldnít be in a rush to grow up either, but we should always try to be more mature. I was so busy worrying about how others saw me I didnít take time to see myself. Rarely were the times that I looked at who I was and where I was going, because I didnít like what I saw when I did. I should have dealt with it and realized that I didnít have to stay that way and that I could have changed.

I also realize that we werenít standing up for ourselves, we were bullies. The type of guy I used to hate was now someone I called my homie. How things can get twisted! If I really want it to stand up for myself and the people in the neighborhood I could have gotten an education. I know that sounds weird but when you look at the fact that there are some people who donít want Black or Hispanic or ghetto people to progress and become better as a whole, what better way to stand up than by doing or getting what they donít want you to do which is to excel and get an education. Thereís a better way to fight the system, the man, or whatever you call it, and thatís by helping each other instead of killing each other, staying ignorant, and making it easier for us to be controlled and kept inside ghettos.

Lastly, thinking that they would be there for me no matter what I did was a joke. The only ones there for me were my family. With time things change. What you feel and think at 11 isnít what you feel and think when youíre 21. Your thoughts and feelings can change a few times during that time. Well, so does the love your homies claim they have. Parents may not want you to do whatever you want because that would not be preparing your right for the rest of your life. You cannot do whatever you want even as an adult. However, your family will always be there.

My advice is to have your brother speak about what is going on inside him, to speak to you at first if it is more comfortable for him, then to your parents. If he doesnít want to speak with you at first, then let him know the offer is still open always and that, no matter what he tells you, he is your brother and you love him. If he seems like he doesnít want to open up after awhile (a week or two) remind him that the offer is still open. Tell your mom, dad, uncle or whoever to make that offer as well and to remind your brother they are there for him. Donít feel you are alone in helping him. Get as many good people as you can involved. Show your brother people care for him.

Try to find a mentor or someone who can give him direction in life. I know older family members are at times worse off than the kids so get someone outside the family - a friend, pastor or whoever has sincere interest in helping out. Whatever you do is not to give up on your brother ever; the day you do is when he might need you the most and youíll miss out on the opportunity.

With love and respect - Luis B. Jr.
New Jersey

BACK

I am 24 years old and I have a younger sister named Sonya she's only 13 but she looks as though she is 16. She is very pretty but sheís starting to hang with the wrong crowd like a gang at her school. Itís like an all-Hispanic gang. I asked her if she was in it and she told me no but I know at that age I used to hide stuff from my older sister too. But all of a sudden 16 & 17 year old guys are calling for her. Can you give me any advice as to what to do with her? I donít really think she is telling me the truth and my mom died a while back and I am trying to raise her now.

Thanks - Lisa

Dear Lisa,

Your sister may be acting out of pain from the suffering she has experienced because of your motherís passing. You need to find out what it is that she is carrying inside her. You do it by sitting down with her and listening. Try not to get upset with her so quickly. Get her to feel that she can sit down and talk to you about anything. Right now she needs someone to talk to.

Best wishes - William
New Jersey


Sweet concerned Lisa,

Tell Sonya that ďa loose woman is like a gold tooth in the mouth of a pig.Ē It doesnít matter how beautiful she is on the outside, if the mind is filled with corruption, the body will soon follow. If you want to help your sister do better, you must be a better example. Get involved! Donít just sit back and hurl accusations. Go our and do something positive with your own life and perhaps Sonya will see a new light to help guide her aspirations.

James C.
New Jersey


Dear Lisa,

Hi! Iím presently incarcerated for a serious crime as a result of being with the wrong crowd at the wrong time. I think you should read your sister this letter.

Friends come and go but family lasts your lifetime. Those so-called friends use you until they canít no longer, and when you wise up and stand up for yourself, they no longer want to deal with you or hear from you. Whatís so wrong with making your own decisions or standing up for yourself? If someone doesnít like the fact that you speak your mind, then part from them, cause theyíll only bring you down to the point that your in jail for life, hooked on drugs for life, or living shameful for life because you werenít tough enough to stand up to those fake friends. Family only has so much love and patience. Donít abuse your family. My moms always told me, ďWatch who you hang out with,Ē but I didnít listen. Iím serving a 50 year life imprisonment for not listening to the advice my family gave me out of love for me. Donít make the same mistake that I made. When the time comes, say no!

A prisoner
New Jersey


Lisa,

Honesty is everything. You stated that you used to hide things from your sister. Show her that she does not need to hide things from you. Be the sister that she needs you to be. Set aside time that can be shared only by you and her. Do activities that sisters do. Show her that you are there for her, unconditionally. It may take time and patience. When she does share the truth with you, do not get upset with her. That may only make her not share anything else with you. Do not force her. She may be missing something at home that she feels she can find in her friends. Be there for her as a sister would another sister, not as a mother would a child.

Otto S.
New Jersey


Lisa,

My name is Jay. Iím forty-one years old. Almost twenty of those years have been lived in prison.

I have a seventeen year old daughter that I barely know. I asked my mother to take her to an emergency room in the Bronx on a Saturday night, back when she was thirteen years old. I asked her to do that because I wanted my daughter (Jessica) to see the affects of anti-social behavior. Young people today arenít afraid of violence itself because most of them think it wonít happen to them. So telling them about it does very little. Itís like ďin one ear, out the other.Ē But her actually seeing the results will most likely have a life-long effect.

Getting a break-down of the statistics on gang-related violence and that overall life-style can also assist you. Show her what her chances of surviving that type of life are if she chooses to go down that path. She needs to know that being used and abused is a bad existence.

Last, but not least, show her the better side of life. Try and do something with her that someone else would benefit from. Let her experience the good feeling that comes from doing for others. Give her options that would not otherwise be given to her by her gangster associates. And let her know that you are there for her. Most kids get down with gangs because of lack of attention by family members.

Good luck!!! - Jay
New Jersey


Hi Lisa,

My name is Hector and I hope I could help you because to me family is the most important thing in the world.

Thatís one of the problems that we have today, our young kids look like women and they think they could do what they want. Well she is growing too fast and it is hard to stop her but the best thing you could do is talk to her and ask her what she wants. As you know, the only way we can communicate with our loved ones is by talking to them and letting them know that you are the only one that loves her. The best thing you should do is sit down with her and talk to her. Try not to be a sister. Be a friend to her and find out what she likes or what she wants to do.

Lisa, what I think you should do is take your sister for a trip and let her see how much love you have for her because as long as he is hanging around with the wrong crowd, you have got a problem.

As right now the crowd is number one in her mind. Yes she will lie and she will go against you for the crowd. So donít ask her too many questions. Just let her know that you love her and if she ever needs a friend all she has to do is ask you and you will be there for her.

I think that you and your sister have to go for a trip together. Once you get there, let her talk. Like that you could understand what she is saying.

Listen you are young too and I feel good to see a big sister trying to help her little sister. God bless you and have faith. Donít ever give up.

Your friend - Hector S.
New Jersey


Lisa,

Hi. My name is Carlos and I read your little note about your sister Sonya. I want you to understand that what your sisterís doing is not out of choice because being 13 we do anything to impress the next person. Iím serving time in State Prison and have a younger brother. I left him when he was 9 years old. Heís 14 and starting to do wrong but the good thing is heís listening to me. But what matters most to the young is the love and attention you give Ďem. You need to be her best friend. Donít yell or punish her for her dumb choices but earn her trust and show her you care. Give her guidance. They follow our footsteps. Weíre their role models. If you change, they change with you. When you go out to a place she can go, take her with you. If her own sister wonít be her friend, can you blame her for going elsewhere to find it?

Remember Lisa, your words and the love and attention can do more than you think. The best advice anyone can give is to show her you love and care. Give her guidance, meaning show her what she can become and she can be anything she wants. Be her best friend. Put her first before your friends. Earn her trust so she knows she can turn to you and not be punished for her mistakes. Oh, remember one thing more. It takes years to build up trust but only seconds to destroy it.

Carlos G.
California

BACK

I have lived life with a gangbanger son for almost 5 years. We have been in and out of court and he is getting ready to return home after his third training school. He is 17 now. Has he changed or do I have to continue to live this life all over again when he does come home??? Everyone talks about this "TOUGH LOVE." Yes I have done it but how much more can I take??? I love my son more than anything in this world but this GANG stuff just takes me. Any advice or comments would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time. - Marissa

Marissa,

Does your love have limitations? We cannot always choose the course we desire our children to take in life; however, they need our love and support just as much when theyíre non-conforming. We donít all come up on the right side of life. Some of us struggle in the mud of society before we realize that there is more to life than simply existing. Did you know that non-conformity brings new ideas and new approaches to old problems? Perhaps your son will do something good with his life. Give him a chance to make his mistakes because little mistakes give birth to big improvements. Hang in there!

James C.
New Jersey


Marissa,

My name is Jay. Iím forty-one years old, twenty of which have been spent behind bars.

I am not a big advocate of ďtough love.Ē I think life is tough enough without having to be tough on your loved ones, especially your own kid(s). Knowing your kid has been through three training programs should be enough evidence that tough love is not working.

One of the best ways to change a thugís life is to change his environment and overall perspective on life. Find out what is important to him, where he wants to see himself in five years. Teach him how to achieve that and be there for him.

Tell him there is a better way by showing him the ugliness that is associated with that lifestyle. Take him to an emergency room on a Friday or Saturday night. Let him read about gang-related statistics. Take him to meet and speak with victims of gang violence. Prisoners are a good resource for this type of guidance. They are living proof of what can happen if bad decisions are made, or hanging around with the wrong element. Beat him down with all the negative that that life employs.

But more than anything talk with him. Let him know that you will always be there for him. Most kids get down with gangs out of loneliness or lack of family attention.

It is obvious that keeping our youths away from a gangsterís life is very hard to accomplish, but we must continue to try. Donít give up on him. He needs to see that there is more to life than what he sees in the hood.

Good luck!!! - Jay
New Jersey


Marissa,

I cannot tell you that your son has changed his life when he returns home. Many young men learn their lesson after the first time being arrested and held somewhere away from home for a long period of time. Some change after being arrested twice or three times. Then there are those that donít learn their lesson until they find themselves behind bars for the rest of their lives. That is what you must help him understand. He has been given a gift - going home. Some of us behind the wall will never see the streets again and thatís because we were too blind to see all those times we were given the privilege of going home to start anew. I end with this: Your ďTOUGH LOVEĒ is what will help him change.

Donít give up, William
New Jersey


Marissa,

My name is Hector and I hope that I can help you and give you some kind of idea to help your son. The problem that we have today is that we donít look at the law to find out about our kids. The full first time it he got locked up it was nothing because he knew that they were going to let him go, or have him do small bits. But now he is going to be an adult and things are going to change for him so the best thing you should do is sit with him and tell him that things are going to change, because if he gets caught again he is going to do TIME and his friends are not going to be there for him. Now I donít know how much time they give out there, but in New Jersey they give you a lot of time for anything. Is not about ďTOUGH LOVEĒ because he gets that when he is with his boys. Now is the time to use our mind. I know in my heart that you are a strong and smart woman. Take one day for you and him to go out to the park and talk with him and let him know that this is what you want from him one day.

Life is hard but donít give up.

Hector S.
New Jersey


Hi Marissa,

Well, sometimes thatís what we need to learn right from wrong until we get it straight. But who knows if he has changed or not. Only he knows. Until you put a stop to all this, thatís when all the things youíre going through, theyíll stop; but like I said, when you put a stop to all this. I think it works when you just push him aside and let him know that youíre tired of his shit. I know it helps because my mom did it to me and my two brothers. Thatís why I know. Well, just think about what I said and try it. Maybe it works. Take care and God bless you. I wish you the best in life.

Becky
California

BACK

I have a boyfriend who is a gang member. I would like to know how I can help him to leave his gang. He does want to leave the gang but he has a brother in the same gang as him who still tells him to gangbang and do bad stuff. He says he does want to get out but he is afraid his own brother can do something to him.

Daisy

Daisy,

Until your boyfriend finds the courage to stand up for what he feels independently, he will probably continue following others.

Brian
California


Daisy,

What you feel is what you feel and that makes it real. Do you and your boyfriend ever wonder about life? Do you fear that little river of death glistening in the sunlight? There are only two paths to choose from in this life. One path is wide and the way is broad. It leads to destruction and many are on it at some point in their lives. This path seems so fun at the time it offers the dope, sex, gangs, and for the most part respect. This path always ends his death or prison and sometimes prison until death.

There is also a path that is very small and the way is narrow. It leads to life and few are those who find it. If you find it you must wade through the mire or you will never see the golden pavement. Daisy you and your boyfriend are like diamonds put on a grinding wheel of life. Life cuts on all sides. It loses much - much that seemed so costly to itself. This cutting process is not fun or it easy. In the end when the sunbeam shines upon us, we will glitter with rays and flashes of the real diamond, or will be contemptible crystals of death. The right way is never easy. Try to keep your eyes on that small path.

Jeff
California

BACK

I am a young lil hyna trying to find some answers. Well one of my guy friends who I so call homie thinks is firme to gang bang and doing every thing a "g" does in his words. Well my question is what should I tell him when he tells me that he wants to go to jail and show every one who is the real "g"? I guess for him gangs are every thing but for me they're not just cause of the reason that I almost got shot because of him plus my family is in gangs in and out of jail but I really want to help my friend could you help me?

To the lil hyna trying to find some answers:

So your guy friend is trying to be a real ďGĒ? Everyone wants to be a real ďGĒ. You say he wants to go to jail and show everyone heís the real ďGĒ? He must not know heís greatly out-numbered and that they look for the young guys to get them to do all the dirty work and then they turn on you after everything youíve done for them. Tell your friend to check out the web-site before he decides to do bad things.

Jesse G.
California


Little Hyna,

I think itís great you have an idea of what you donít want to be, surrounded by a gang activity and even trying to help out your homey who thinks going to jail to prove himself is a good thing. Maybe ask him what he truly wants in life. Then ask him what that will give him. Then ask him if there is any other way to get it than sacrificing himself, his freedom, and his own ideas that he has underneath the exterior?

Brian
California

BACK

My boyfriend is thinking that the world is his, selling drugs and doing all the bad things. There is not a day that I don't tell him to think, to do something good, to think in his daughter and his family but it seems like he doesn't care. One day he tells me that he doesn't want to be like that, that he wants to change but the next day he is doing the same thing driving drunk, getting high everyday. I wish I could do something but Iím still thinking of what and no answer at all I just love him like that, and I don't want to see him locked up or dead but I don't know what to tell him he just doesn't understand he has a baby and is the same.

Olga

Dear Olga,

When your boyfriend tells you he wants something different in life, ask him about these things he wants. When you see him slip and slide to the other way, try to bring him back by asking him about those other things he wanted and help him try to figure it out. Youíre already the stable one in the relationship. Continue being the strong one.

Brian H.
California


Olga,

The hardest thing is trying to change someone who doesnít want to change. You need to think about your life and what you should do. How long are you willing to wait for him to change?

I went in and out of juvenile hall and CYA, and my lady waited for me and hoped that I would change. But I didnít change because I was too caught up.

There are times when you need to make some tough decisions. Ask your boyfriend to log on and asked me a question I will tell him the way it is.

Mike D.
California

BACK

I wanted you to give me some advice about my boyfriend. He and I go way back to my days with the gang. We got into all sorts of trouble for stealing, drugs, fights and just about everything we did. Several months before my 14th birthday I learned I was pregnant with his baby. Finally I have learned that I need to clean up and stay out of the gang for my baby, so that I can offer him a better life. My boyfriend though is still runnin wit his boys and he is always in and out of lock up. I really want to help get him out of all of this but I don't know how to get through to him that he needs to do this for his son not just for me and him. He always tells me that he has no choice but to keep doing it. Yet he also says he wants the best life for our son. Do you have any advice for me on helping him leave this behind him?

Meg

Dear Meg,

Your boyfriend is torn between the two loyalties of his homies and his family (you and his baby). He has you both right now which makes it easy for him. He says he wants the best for his baby and you. Then make him prove it. When he puts you and the baby at risk, you find safe ground for yourself and the baby let him know he is welcome, but not the danger he brings and be very strong with this point. After all youíre talking about your future and your babyís future.

Brian H.
California


Meg,

I had a homegirl like you. She was your age when she got pregnant and she did the same thing. You need to ask yourself, ďWhat is good for me and my babyĒ? Am I going to give him a good future the way Iím going? I know youíre a good person, because you chose to change. I just pray and hope that your boyfriend sees what you saw - that there is no future with the gang.

Mike D.
California

BACK

Iím 19 and my brother is only 17 and my boyfriend is in a gang. But they have my brother doing a lot of things he shouldnít be doing, Heís been in juvenile hall since he was 13 and got out two months ago. Since heís been out the only time he comes home is when he needs a ride. And my boyfriend is also in the gang but heís there for us he tries to help my brother out a lot. Itís just too hard for us to let him realize that his gang isnít everything. Maybe you can give me advice that will help my baby bro out.

Lacey

Dear Lacey,

I read your question many times. I can see you love your brother a lot. What I donít understand Lacey is if your boyfriend is in the same gang as your little brother is, what makes it OK for him but not for your brother?

I am in no way judging you. I am only trying to understand your feelings on gangs. I wonder if your brother feels that if your boyfriend is in a gang and itís OK, then itís OK for him to be in the same gang.

I donít know what your little brother is getting out of being in the gang. Have you ever asked him what it is he gets out of being a gangster? From what I know of my life as a gangster and what I have seen in the sixteen years I have been in prison, most guys join gangs so they will have a place to belong, so they can feel, if not loved, at least needed and protected. When youíre clicked up, you ainít alone.

I donít know what is going on in your brotherís head Lacey, but if you know what he wants or feels like he is missing, then you know what to give him. Sometimes if we know what someone needs, we know how to give it to them.

Rick M.
California

BACK

Iím 17. I have a boyfriend who thinks heís bad in the gang. But Iím 3 months pregnant and he still wonít stop nothing. Heís been locked up before. Heís been sent to boot camp but he donít care. I donít know what to do. I love him a lot Iím just scared. Thereís been a few times when people who didnít like him came to my house looking for him saying that they were going to kill him. That kind of stuff scares me.

Michelle

I really do hope that you realize that the only way your child will ever have a promising future is if you give him or her the chance. Gangs and violence will overcome anything unless you make sure it's otherwise. Don't think about yourself, but about your child. If your man wants to be a part of his child's life that bad then he'll change his life around. Unless that happens, you don't need him in your life.

Love - Lupita
California


Dear Michelle,

Hello, mija! My name is Diana. I am an 18 year old woman with a 3 year old son. I would like to help you. I am currently in CYA. I'm away from my son and I miss him dearly. Look, mija, I used to be involved in gangs, and by you staying with your boyfriend when he refuses to calm down is not only risking your own life but your baby's, too. Without his gang he's not bad at all. You need to tell him to choose! Think about your baby, mija. That baby deserves to be safe. OK, I understand you love him but love your baby more! Because when you start to feel that precious child move around inside of you, I hope you feel joy. That child is a part of you. You need to take matters into your own hands and make him choose. Don't let him put you and your baby at risk, because his enemies won't care if you are pregnant. If they want to get to him, they will come after you and that child, and possibly take you both out! Or just the child. Then what? I'm scared for you, baby girl. I don't want you to get hurt! You may think, what can I know, I'm in jail. I know that there's a void in my heart for missing my son, and since you're gonna be a mother, I sympathize with you and I want to help you. If your boyfriend don't care about you and your baby, then go and live with a family member. Man, come live with me at my dad's. I want to help, will you let me? If you can, write back I gotta go. Be strong.

Diana M.
California


Michelle:

I am happy to hear that you are expecting. Your boy friend should be more happier than me. I would advise you to have a serious talk with him, being the fact that you love him. It is no longer about you and him. It is about the baby and his/her welfare. You know you don't want to expose your child to violence and possible death. Give the baby a chance to live, and more so give yourself a chance to watch your baby grow. These are the things that you need to discuss with your boyfriend... "it's time to get real!! Don't you think??

T.
New Jersey


Michelle,

Regarding your question, it sounds as if your boyfriend doesnít have his priorities straight. I know, at the moment, you may believe youíre in real love, but youíre both so young and have plenty of experiences life is going to bring you. But only you can make that decision if you should leave him. But now you got a baby in your life and people are showing up at your home. You may want to make you and your baby your priorities so you arenít in danger, or let him know itís time to get his life on the right track and think of you and the baby now so you may have a family. If itís not something he can do, then you may want to move on. I wish you the best during your difficult time.

Respectfully - Robert
California


Michelle:

You're about to be a mother. First, it's a responsibility but it's also a blessing and a privilege. Right now your child is #1, you're #2 and your boyfriend has his head up his ass. He's not on the chart.

It's only obvious that he doesn't care and honestly, you don't need him in your life. Not now, not like this. So you have to be strong and cut him loose because he's bad for you and your baby! One day, he'll piss someone off who'll take it out on you. That's the nature of people like that. "No honor." And I'm really afraid you'll end up more than just scared. I don't know you and that frightens me.

I have five sisters. Each one of them had their first child while in their teens. It's hard, Michelle, an uphill battle. But there is hope. Programs like WIC and the church that will offer a helping hand if you want a good life for your baby.

Forget about ol'boy. I'll probably be seeing more of him than you if he doesn't grow up. I don't like preaching, but there is power in prayer. Pray for strength and wisdom. And more than that, love yourself. Love yourself so you can love your baby.

OK now, I'm going to close this. Remember, you can give your baby the world with God.

Sincerely, Pharoah
California

BACK

I have a friend that has already committed crimes. He is quite the musician. He has raw talent and is headed somewhere in the right direction. My friend and I both know that gang bangin and entertainment donít mix. I know that if he had the chance to get out of the lifestyle he has chosen for himself that he would. He is too afraid to be rejected or looked at like the kid who was too scared to stay in a gang, if there are any ideas in how to leave a gang but still stay friends with the people in it (which are some of his best friends) please let me know!

Thank You - Erica

Erica:

I am a musician too. I know what it takes to be a little different. Your friend has been blessed and it really would be a shame to lose his blessings over something like wanting to belong too. Let him know that he already belongs to one of the biggest gangs in the world. He is a musician!! That is an honor to be one. The fact is, we can change the world with music. He needs to know that his friends, if they really are his friends, will understand his passion for music and should encourage him to keep pressing toward the "mark" which is success and happiness. Try to talk with him and encourage him. It really sounds like youíre a good friend. I think you can do it!!

T.
New Jersey


Erica:

First, allow me to commend you on your efforts to reach out to a troubled mind. Believe me when I say your presence alone is a great thing. I myself had someone to guide me right, however, circumstances prevented her from taking a larger role in my life. Had she been able to take more than a passive role, I don't think I'd be here now.

Erica, the thing is, you have to bring more positive people around your friend. Surround him with good people to take the place of his gang. It's true that it takes a village to raise a child, because acceptance is a large part of our lives.

Let your friend know that he has a gift from God, but it won't get him anywhere. Only determination can earn him success. He needs to hear it every day that he has an obligation to share his gift.

As for separating him from the gang, it's easy. Tell him to express his goals to his friends. To surround himself with people his homies would consider lames. To stop wearing baggy clothes so he doesn't stand out. But most of all, tell him that staying in the gang life is the easiest thing to do. It takes no effort to get shot and killed. It's just dumb to commit crimes and come to prison. Each person I speak to in this place agrees. They would have done it different if given the chance, with the exception of a few dumb asses.

It's hard to remain close friends with the homies if you want to better yourself. 'Cause they can be like crabs in a bucket, pulling you back the second you're about to break free. But remaining on speaking terms or friendly is cool.

Yeah, I'm beginning to think they'll look at him differently and even comment that he is weak, but his success will also be the neighborhood's success. The homies that got out while I got in trouble are all role models to me. Today, I hold no hard feelings towards them, and your friend has to know neither will his homies--especially if he does something good.

Erica, you're a special person. Don't give up; you are more powerful than you realize because you care.

Sincerely - Pharoah
California


Erica:

To add to the good advice Pharoah gave, I would suggest that you encourage your friend to look for a church that has a good youth music group or worship team. Often, there are very talented musicians, some even with music industry connections. It's a positive environment, and a way to develop and share his talent. His homies may even want to come to church to hear him play, and who knows, they may hear something, either in the music or the pastor's message, that will touch their hearts and be an instrument for change in some of them?

Another opportunity along the same lines, is to seek out a 3-day faith experience, such as the Catholic "Search" or "Cursillo" weekends, or the Protestant "Walk to Emmaus" weekends. There are others--"Via de Cristo", "Chrysalis", etc--that are similar. You can find information by doing an online search of each of the weekends. Besides being loads of fun, each has music as an integral part of the ministry to the attending candidates and is a way to form close connections with positive peers and mentors. After completing the weekend, fellowship is encouraged by attendance at monthly or bi-monthly gatherings, including an opportunity to be a part of the team which presents the next weekends to others--another chance to be involved with performing and building a new set of friends with common interests. Good luck!

Phyllis (volunteer)
California

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Hi my name Amanda and a couple of my cuzs want to join a gang. I tried to stop them but they just say they really want to do it and no one's going to stop them what should I do?

Amanda,

Donít follow your cuzís by joining a gang. I know you want to help them. The more you try to stop them from joining, the more theyíll want to. When youíre around them, donít talk gang stuff. Let it be known you donít want to talk about that stuff, but make sure they know you love them. Do other things with them. To be honest, you have to worry about yourself first and do whatís right. You know in your heart this life is drama. I could hear it in the few words you asked.

Thereís a lot in this life Iíve never done, nor will I be able to do. My parents died in June of this year 19 days apart. I couldnít go to their funerals cause Iím here in prison. Iím told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. I donít have no one to blame but myself, you know why? Because I joined a gang.

When you go home today, look around and stop and think about what you have. It might not be much but itís home. Prison ainít home; itís hell. Iím 28 years old and I got nothing to look forward to. Donít take for granted what you have. Do yourself a favor and live right cause life is hard enough. Donít make it harder by joining a gang.

Richard M.
California


Amanda,

You can only try to talk your cousins out of making a mistake but what you should do if they donít listen is to make sure you donít follow in their footsteps. Itís good you are trying to help them but they can only be helped if they want help. Just make sure you donít join!

Someone who cares
California

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I have a son who is now reached the age of 17. I believe my son is in a gang. I don't understand, I have been a loving and caring father and he also has a caring and loving mother. He has been in jail off and on since he was 13. He was sent to boot camp by the court and was very successful. He outshined all of the other juveniles and was said to be the most successful and most able to succeed but when he got out he got back into his old habits. He has a little bother that is now 14 years old and he is now becoming quite nasty, like is older brother. How should I handle this situation? My younger son tells me he wants to be like his bother. I can relate to this because my older son comes home with new cars, trucks, clothes, women, and money and who wouldn't want that? But I don't want that for my little baby boy he has to good of a heart to be a gangbanger. My older son has tried to talk to his younger brother but he also says "It goes in 1 ear and comes out the other". I think that if he becomes a part of the gang scene he will not last. He is not as smart as his older brother and doesn't have the heart 2 hurt a fly but still Iím just very worried so if you get this email please write me back.

Sincerely Jay

Jay,

What you are asking is very hard to answer, but I know someone who is in the business of changing peopleís lives and his name is Jesus Christ. If you have faith and are willing to pray for your boys, all things are possible with God if you believe. I say this because I too was once lost in the gang life, but now Iím free from its bondage. Iím not free from its temporary pain and consequences, but Iím no longer controlled by its deceiving way of life. All gang life gave me is four life sentences, separation from my family, and a heart tormented by regrets (a lesson Iíll never forget).

God alone changed my life, brought me to repentance of my past deeds, and forgave me because of Christ. The outward appearance of my life didnít change (the consequences of my bad choices), but everything inside me He made brand new. God gave me the courage to leave the gang life in prison (which is almost impossible to do here), and all He asked was to leave the consequences to Him. I now have a hope and future in heaven (by Godís grace alone through faith in Christ), and my joy, peace, and happiness no longer depend on circumstances.

Warn your boys that if they continue the same destructive way of life, prison will be their home as well. All the new cars, trucks, clothes, women, and money mean nothing without God in your life and the freedom to enjoy it rightly. Itís not wrong to use the things we need; we only go wrong when we abuse what we want. If your sons continue to gamble their lives and freedom, they will lose in the end. The end never announces its coming, but itís never late for an appointment! ďA man reaps what he sows.Ē (Galatians 6:7) Their choices today will effect them tomorrow, and they best know this now because they will find out later in life. You must not let them train you to accept their gang lifestyle; you are the parents and need to train them in the right path of life. Donít get discouraged. Stay strong and persistent because prayer and a good example are more powerful than we know. Seek the guidance of God in the Bible (Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are good for guidance), and through His word, He will speak to your heart. I will pray for you all and I hope everything turns our right for you and your family.

Thank you for your question and time. May God bless you as you seek Him with your heart in humbleness. (ďThe fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.Ē Proverbs 14:27)

In Christ - Al
California


Jay,

Itís not out of the question that your younger son will admire his older brother. Iím not quite sure how to teach your youngest a better way without sacrificing your oldest, which would push your youngest to his brotherís defense.

I would be asking your youngest what exactly he found to be so admirable about his older brotherís life. When he said, the cars, girls, etc., I would ask him if h also found the jail scene worthwhile. I would try to point out the downfall of his brotherís life as you see the points to make clear.

If he is unable to learn from his brotherís mistakes, he will more than likely make them himself. The only thing that comes to mind that might be of help in my particular selfÖ Are you able to show him how he can be successful in getting the acceptance he needs without all the drama? As a kid, I worked summer jobs away from home. I always did well with that form of independence. Once home (with loving parents), I would start my rebellion again after only a couple of months. In short, I wanted to be grown. I loved the independence of working my summer jobs. Back home, I was back to being someoneís kid. This I hated. I went to extremes to prove I was not anyoneís little kid. Hope something helps you reach your younger boy before itís too late.

Brian H.
California


Hello Jay,

ďMan,Ē I truly feel you on this issue with your sons. Itís not only serious but itís crucial. I believe that the violence of our youth and the level itís risen to is our greatest and clearest sign of failure. Your older boy seems to have genuine compassion for his little brother, and it very well may be the catalyst for reaching the younger one and vise versa. Some of us inmates here are involved with a ďMenís Support GroupĒ and some of the processes we use are ideal for facilitating a dialogue between the three of you. Jay, I wonít be coy as I express my heart talk to you. Please forgive me if you feel Iím rude. I believe that the involvement of our children in gangs is largely due to some neglect of the parents. Knowing this is hurtful as I am guilty myself. Yet the loving parenting you have rendered is the silver lining. Iím kind of reluctant to express this because the process requires complete understanding. What it basically entails is a semi-private emotional, truth dialogue between the three of you - no holds barred. And not simply one session, but regularly, perhaps for the rest of your lives. But again, there is a process that must be employed when facilitating such a dialogue or it can very well do more harm than good.

I agree that your older son does appear to possess an admirable character and I think that the positive side of that character can be reached through his compassion for his little brother. I think you have to save both to save either Jay. There are some men from all over the U.S. who volunteer their time to come into this prison and teach us inmates of the ďMenís Support GroupĒ the process of facilitating such issues. Iím almost certain that some of these men are near you, wherever you are. What they are sharing, every man needs to learnÖ It will save your sons and you!

Sincerely - Blue Cloud
California

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Ma gfriend says he wanna be in a gang. What does he have to do fight? I am trying to help him out to get out of the gang but he says that he wants protection. I said no that not good what does he have to do?

Dear friend,

I hope your friend has not joined any gang yet. The initiation into a gang is different depending on what gang it is your friend wants to join. But it usually involves hurting someone or you being hurt. If you are a male, then sometimes all the other guys in the gang get together and ďjump you inĒ to where you cannot fight back. After they try to kill you or put you in the hospital, then they call you a ďbrother.Ē

Tell your friend that joining a gang is not the way to get protection. Gang members are either carrying their ďbrothersĒ to the cemetery or watching from a hidden spot as the cops take them away to prison. That is not any way to protect yourself. Obviously you care a lot for your friend. Just continue to be his friend and keep him out of trouble, which means keeping him from joining a gang.

Your friend - Luis
New Jersey



First of all, there is fighting involved and you will have to prove yourself to the gang. Now you say that you want to help him out of the gang. I myself think what you should do is talk to him and make him realize that there is going to be death as well as a lot of pain and suffering for him and his family. As for protection, protection only lasts so long and once something happens, that is when you see how much protection you got and itís not what it seems to be. If you really want to help him, suggest to him moving. Try to keep him from going to the gangís neighborhood. Slowly stop him from hanging out with the ďhomies.Ē Show him who really loves him and who will protect him from the pain, hurt and suffering. I hope that what I say helps you in some way.

Respectfully - Albert
California



Being in a gang does not mean you have protection. It only means you have even more danger coming to you, cause your buddy has an enemy who wants to harm him and heíll harm you as well because youíre part of his gang. Even if you have nothing to do with their unknown misunderstanding, you will pay the same price. One more thing, no one will protect you the way only you can. Fight danger with knowledge.

Jean M.
New Jersey



I want you to tell your friend that love comes from yourself first. Then if you still feel lonely then you go to your family and ask them, why do I feel like nobody wants me. Let them answer your question.

Tell your friend that gangs are not about protection and when he comes into a gang he will have to kill someone to be loved. ďNOĒ thatís not the way to go! Tell your friend if he wants protection all he has to do is go to school and talk to his teacher and let her know whatís going on with his problem. I donít want him to tell on his boy; I just want him to think before he makes a big mistake because gangs are about killing and more killing or be killed. ďGANGS ARE NOT ABOUT LOVE.Ē

Let your friend know that you have friends in prison that are doing life because they needed love and lost everything they had.

God be with you always.
Your friend - Hector S.
New Jersey



Well, Iím not in a gang and never was but as for your friend what he needs to do is to talk to some one that used to be in a gang to let him know what itís like to be in one. Just keep on talking to him and let him know thatís the wrong path to go. I hope this answered your question.

Edwin T.
New Jersey



Gangs have been around for a long time. In fact, the first efforts to organize society sprang out of a group of people who desired to be more than just a gang. Gangs represent societyís untapped resources. The young men and women who join gangs give their talent and ability to those who recognize that they have something worth offering. Your friend needs self confidence and moral courage. The way for him to increase these characteristic traits in himself is to find a true purpose for his life. He must understand - none is created without an aim or purpose. It just takes some of us longer to wake up to what our purpose for living is. Until we wake up to that startling reality of what our purpose is, weíll continue to wander aimlessly. Find a purpose for living; then heíll experience the glory of aiming for something praiseworthy and noble.

James C.
New Jersey



Your friend wants to join a gang for protection but what protection will he receive? What, that one gang will not get him? But now he has to worry about all the other gangs coming after him just because of the colors he represents, people who didnít even think about him before. Now he has hundreds, maybe thousands of people who are after him just because of the colors he represents. How about if he winds up by himself wearing a color and gets caught by a rival? He canít deny his colors or the people who he was down with will be after him too. Is getting protection from a gang even worth it? What he has to do is be his own man, do something constructive with his life. If those gang members are really his peeps, theyíll protect him from the criminality of the environment.

Otto S.
New Jersey

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Hi. My name is Selene and I have a really good friend who I respect with all my heart. He was involved in gangs before and managed to get out. But now he is heading the wrong way again. His friends pressure him to join again which breaks my heart. I've asked him why he wants to get back in, and he said all he wants is respect from people. Ya que he doesn't get the same respect that his friends do, which makes them look tough and koo. I donít want him to get back into that lifestyle porque there will be consequences at the end. But I just wish I had the right words so he would listen to me. What can I do to make him think twice and change his mind on joining a gang? I hope you guys can help me outÖ
With all respect - Selene

If your friend is getting involved in gangs again, thereís not a whole lot you can do other than talk to him. Reason with him. Try to get him to see the consequences of his bad decision. Point out to him the disadvantages of being a gang member.

  1. By being a gang member, youíve committed yourself to a life of crime and violence. A commitment of this nature can only end one way - bad!
  2. By being a gang member, you can never have a normal life. Youíll always be at the beckon call of your gang.
  3. Youíll make enemies, enemies you may not even know, who are serious about taking your life just because you belong to that gang. You can never go anywhere and truly enjoy yourself because youíll always have to be on the lookout for your enemies. And if you donít care about yourself, then consider what could happen if one of your loved ones is with you when you run into one of your enemies.
  4. Most gang members will be in prison or dead by the time they reach 30 years of age.

If your friend is looking for respect, he needs to first respect himself. By that I mean he needs to first believe in himself. He needs to understand that although it may be cool to be part of a gang, a gang is not necessary to have respect. A person who is strong enough to stand on his own two feet and make his own decisions is a person who will get more respect than any gang member ever will and even the gang members will eventually come to respect that person because, in choosing not to be a gang member, this person has now taken control of his own destiny. In actuality, he has become a leader where, as a gang member, he is nothing more than a follower who will forever be committed to follow the gang mentality. The better person is smart enough to know when to walk away. It takes a strength not many people have, but if you donít have it you are just a weak follower. As I said before, eventually most of these same gang members will come to respect and even envy you once they grow up and realize that you were the stronger one. But most important is you can respect yourself and be proud of ypurself when you let go of the gang on your own terms.

So Selene I hope my words of wisdom will help you make a difference in your friend's life and save him from himself before it's too late. Good luck and God bless you.

Sincerely yours - Sergio G.
California



Dear Selene,
I hope that I can be of some help. First of all, I feel bad for your friend cause theyíre just going to use him. He might not realize it but thatís exactly whatís going to happen with him because, now that he left the gang, they think he couldnít hang. He might have a friend who really likes him but others will have a different perspective on him. I know from experience from old friends who got away from gangs but now their own gang beats them up or even shoots at them. I myself donít care anymore what anyone thinks. I know who I am and what Iím about. I donít need to prove nothing to no one, even though itís a little late now - Iím doing 20 years to life. And Iím sure your friend will feel different when one of his so-called buddies gets a life term. I pray he doesnít end like one of the many people I know, and I hope he thinks about what heís doing cause heís only going to be used. Well, take care Selene. There is hope. God bless.

Sincerely - Jesse G
California

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I have a familia that is down for their shit and a lot of people know us and we have a bad reputation in the streets in school where ever we go we have a bad reputation. Iím 12 years old and I kick it with the gang members and I party and I get into trouble in school and in the streets. My older cousins are in jail like 3 of them and the rest of them are representing. I have a big familia...and there's more to come, but I donít want my younger cousins and my lil bro to get into problems when they grow up. I donít want them to have a bad reputation like us. Iím already jumped into a gang here and Iím young but at least Iím down for my shit. I became a gang member cause Iím from my familia I want to be down for my shit. Do you think I did the right think? My lil cousins are already want to become gangster cause they say there proud to be from our familia too and to be down for the brown what should do with my lil primos??

Jackie

Dear Jackie,

I see youíre proud of having a big family and the reputation your family has. You mention that three of your cousins are in jail. Is that where you want to be? Youíre already getting in trouble. You ask if I think you did the right thing. I will tell you ďnoĒ you did not make the right choice. You didnít need to join a gang. People already donít want to mess with you because of your familia. You say you donít want your cousins and lil bro to get in the mix. Thatís nice, but you need to lead by example. Show them that they donít need to join a gang to be down. Show them that going to school and doing something for the family besides getting locked up is being down for the family. Like you say, youíre young and who best to change things for the better?

Your friend - Jesse G..
California


Jackie,

Hi. My name is Becky. I got your letter and I just want you to know that you donít need to show anybody that youíre down for your hood! Youíre just 12 years old. What are you thinking, huh? Look, forget friends, especially friends that are going to fÖ you over in life. Let me tell you something. I have two older brothers and I love them so much, but the only bad thing is that theyíre from a gang and Iím from one too. But let me get to what I want to tell you; my older brother was in prison for 5 Ĺ years. Now heís out but hiding from people. I havenít seen him, but my prima tells me that she gets to see him. Then I ask her why didnít I get to see him. Thereís times that I cry myself to sleep because I donít know if heís doing good or whatís going on with him. Thatís something that you need to think about. At first you have them, but then you donít even know where they go. I know itís hard but either itís a life or death choice. I really want you to think about this, OK, and I wish you the best in life.

Becky
California

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Hi. My boyfriend is getting ready to be initiated into a gang. How can I convince him not to? How can I explain I feel about him joining?

This is very serious, because once he becomes a gang member, you will become a gang memberís girl. Now you are a part of it. Is this your choice? You have a big decision. Is this what you want to be? You have to make a decision and stand by it. Remember; Itís your life, and if he really loves, you he will understand and maybe even come back.

A Prisoner
New Jersey


At this point, your boyfriend has his mind made up. Your battle begins with his mind. History teaches us that a colonized mind easily controls the body. You will be battling a culture, a way of life, and a mindset that has great gravitational pull. You start by confronting his mind with consequences of his choice to be initiated. It has to be done in a way that is not condemning or putting him down. You have to support him but let him know that he is putting you in a dangerous position by being initiated, because someone trying to hurt him could potentially hurt you or his family trying to retaliate against him.

Ask him where he sees you both in five years and tell him where you see you in five years. You have to, in a subtle way, encourage him to be there for you more than his gang. You have to help him realize that you and his family are more important than the gang, and you all will have his back and support him more than the gang will. But words will have to be supported by deeds. If you really want to your boyfriend not to join or to get out if he decides to, youíre going to have to let him see your disappointment and refuse to accept any part of his gang life. Accept him and be there for him but not his gang life and make sure he understands this. Right now youíre about to enter a war for your boyfriendís life. So youíre going to launch your own counterattack against the influence of the gang over your boyfriend. This will be a long-term battle with a lot of short-term failures. As long as you stay committed to keeping him out of the gang or getting him out, you will be successful.

Antonne H.
New Jersey


Your boyfriend is already set on joining the gang. What can really be said to a person that has his mind set? The truth is there is only one way you can go. Donít be scared to tell him what you really feel, that you do not want to see him in prison, paralyzed, or dead. You have to be persistent. Let him know that if they really are in his interest, they would force him to do positive not negative things. I used to gang bang on the streets. I am serving fifty years for gang banging and not one of my peeps came to see me, send me money or make sure my family is alright. Once you are gone, there is somebody else to fill your spot. Is joining is something that may cause you to lose your life because of something negative worth it? The only thing I can say is tell him the truth about these realities. I hope it works out for you.

Otto S.
New Jersey


First you need to tell him that you do not want him to, and explain to him in your own words, from your heart why. Itís obvious that joining any gang or organization that is involved in drugs, guns, crime and death affects the membersí loved ones. What you need to ask him is how much he cares about you and his family. Does he have more love for the gang than he does for you all? Because, if he doesnít, then he must think about how much will it hurt his loved ones if he was to get shot or end up in prison. As for you being his girlfriend, you should offer him the choice as to whether itís being your boyfriend or being a gang member, because as a gang member he is taking his chance to lose you one way or another anyways. If he truly cares for you, nevertheless himself, he will not join.

Giovanni
New Jersey


There is a fine line between loyalty to self and loyalty to Non-Sense. What we have to do is to let individuals know that the only reason they are becoming involved in a gang is because they are looking for love acceptance and belonging. Love is what you seek when there is something missing out of your life. Love is one of the basic fundamental emotions, which gives you a sense of belonging. Acceptance is what you desire when you're looking for love. Belonging comes to you in the form of delusion. It is a superficial mask that is deception and will lead you to rise or fall. We live in a shallow materialistic society. Everything from what we hear and what we see has layers. What we need to do is to allow ourselves to look at each layer and decide which one will lead us to love.

Now you might say, "This is my family." or, "Everyone is doing it." Your family doesn't put you on the life of destruction. You must determine if you will settle for second rather than first. Let it be known that there are other opportunities out there. You have a right to choose from them. For some reason, Blacks and Hispanics have the paranoid sense that the only way out of poverty is the life of crime or drugs. There are a lot of choices; you just have to want to look for greater challenge and experience.

R.A.
New Jersey


Your second question basically answers your first. You must strive to convince him not to join by explaining to him how you feel about him joining. Give him reasons why you do not want him to do that. For example, if you love each other and plan on getting married or having children, let him know you do not want your future husband or child's father to be a gang member. Be specific as to some of the things that happen to gang-members. Many are hurt if not killed over things that really do not mean much. Many are locked-up for the things they do. In here gang members have it real bad. There is a big crack-down on gangs in prisons which will make it even worse for him if he gets locked-up for gang related activity. You have to let him know that that is not the life you want for him or yourself. If he really loves you and cares about you then he will consider your feelings very carefully before making that kind of decision. After letting him know how you feel and probably even giving him an option, if he still joins the gang then he really did not think much about you should reevaluate your relationship.

Words of advice: do not let anyone drag you down or have you doing something that you in your heart know is wrong; the gang life stile leads to nothing but pain and negative encounters that can only destroy your life.

Pucho
New Jersey


The first of all I would like to tell you that this is a very interesting question. Do you know why? Because at that early age one, as an adolescent, wants to call the attention of others and be the strongest. One wants to be part of the gang. Now to let you know, or better yet to answer your question, pertaining to your boyfriend wanting to join a gang, one thing I would like to say is that he is taking a wrong path. Once one is in that situation they have many friends until they commit a mistake and fall into the prison system. Then their friends turn their back on them.

You that love him should advise him and make him understand that his joining a gang is not going to help you or him, and that there are many other things in the world which are positive that he can get involved in. Ask him if he wants to live the rest of his life, losing his youth and everything he can accomplish for life, behind bars where youíre stripped of your dignity and youíre no longer yourself and you cannot do any of the things you desire to do. Besides those friends and that form the gang do not have his best interest at heart and will soon forget about him. Tell him to think about it carefully and you who wish that he does not join must help him not to.

You ask how you can convince him and the only way that I see your doing that is by sitting together with him and watching one of those programs on television where the juveniles are dieing and are falling in prison and given the maximum sentences for the crimes committed. Take him to a courtroom so he can see it personally or go to a hospital. There you will find many answers for X reasons, where many are going through problems for errors committed that have pushed them into drugs, or pushed them into gangs just to be the most popular. It might be the only method that will open his eyes to the reality of what he will be getting into by joining a gang and only way you canít convince him not to.

You have to speak clearly with him and make sure he listens to all that you have to say. Let him know that you feel fear to be walking him because someone from another gang can come to do him harm right in front of you. Tell him you donít like the way he sees life and how it hurts you, that you donít want to be with someone who will bring your problems. Let him know that all you want is a good life with him and your children. You want your children to feel proud of their father. You must find the time and place where you can sit with him and explain the fear and worries you feel. Speak from your heart into his. I wish of the best.

Angel C.
New Jersey


Look; tell him how you feel. Be honest with him. Let him know that you care, and if he still joins, then at least let you let him know and he wonít have an excuse to be mad at you when you leave his dumb ass.

Jean M.
New Jersey


It is very hard to convince another to change their mind about getting into a gang, 'specially if they can't see anything wrong with the decision they are making. Hard, not impossible. You can and should explain the way you feel about him joining a gang, and do so in a gentle and caring manner. Try exposing the truth concerning the consequences that his decision will bring upon him, his family, you and your family. Gangs do not give life, only take it and destroy it. There are many examples about the consequences of gang life, and I'm one of them, with many others here, too.

Now, what will you do if he does join the gang? Will you be wise and look ahead at the needless suffering that the gang life will bring, and so decide not to live that life with him? Or, will you stay with him, hoping that things will get better when they won't? Count the cost, girl. Gangs are a dead end, a waste of time and life. If you stay with him and his gang, you will do him and yourself more harm than good. May God and Jesus bless you, May His Word be your strength and comfort as you are led by Him to the right path in life. Read your Bible (Matthew 7:13-14) P.S. Thank you for your time.

Alex P.
California


I would let that individual know how much I love and respect them the way they are, and by them joining a gang, that they will lose my love and respect. Only punks and losers join gangs, and I know you are neither. I would ask him, ďWhat do you have to prove by joining a gang? What would be gained from that? Where would you be in three years? Probably dead or in prisonĒ! So is it worth being dead or in prison? Hell no!

Angel
New Jersey

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My brother was kind of getting into a lot of trouble not so long ago. He was really interested in the gang way of life. He even got to the point of hitting me, and even our mother. He is not with us anymore... at least not for a while. He is in a boysí home. He still acts like he would like to be a gang member, and I don't know how to help him anymore. I am scared that he is going to waste his youth on nonsense things that will hurt him.

Marisol

Marisol:

Regarding your brother, he has a misconception of gangs if he thinks it's OK to hit you and your mother. Respect and discipline are greatly emphasized. Tell him it's not worth it. There's too much to lose and in the end all he'll have is you and your mom to depend on.

Respectfully - Oscar
California


Marisol,

I think if you want to help your brother, maybe you should let him see for himself what heís doing to you and your mom - and if he has enough common sense, he will realize that in jail, or in that place he finds himself in.

I have two younger sisters. One was 12 years old and the other one about 4 years old when I got busted. Now, after all this time in prison, I really miss them, even though I never got a chance to know them that well. Itís been a long time since I saw them. One of them has a daughter of her own now. I have seen her in photos only. Sometimes they write me, but you see I now realize the value of their love. Maybe itís too late though.

Iíve never hit them. Still, I feel so guilty because I was their brother and I let them down. I was only thinking of myself. You sound like you care about your brother a lot. But thereís only so much we can do for our loved ones, and maybe heíll see in time that you want the best for him, but if he doesnít heís going to regret it. I know, because even though it sounds silly, if I could take back all the pain Iíve caused, I would. I know you feel bad for your brother. Let him learn his lesson on his own.

Respectfully - G. Alvarado
California

BACK

How to know if your kid is in a gang?

Rick

Rick,

One of the best ways to find out if your son is in a gang is to look at who he hangs out with. His friends tell a lot about who he is and what he's involved in.

Kids are good at hiding things from their parents. They put out the image they believe their parents want to see, and a lot of times, as parents we don't want to believe the truth.

Don't think for a minute that your kid is any different than his friends because the biggest influence over your kid will be his friends. And if your kid's friends don't meet your standards, then as a parent, you should do everything in your power to end those friendships, because your kid's life and/or freedom are at stake.

Richard M.
California

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My brother is into that drugs and jacking people for there money. I can't say anything to him because he won't listen to me. Me and him aren't really close sometimes I wish he would just leave and sometimes I think I hate him but deep down inside there is always that family love. And family sticks together.

I can really relate to this question because I used to be a drug addict myself. Now I know at times you may be disappointed and sometimes disgusted by the things your brother does, but you have to keep in mind your brother is a drug addict. His addiction for drugs is what is driving him to do those things. He is not the real person you see. Iím sure the real person inside your brother is a lot different and youíd probably like him. The things he does behind his addiction are hard to understand if youíve never been a drug addict, but believe me, being addicted to heroin or cocaine is a terrible thing. I canít speak for your brother but I do know that about 90% of people addicted to drugs really do want to stop. But for most people, itís just too hard. Imagine going through a bout of food poisoning for about 10 days. Thatís what a drug addict will go through when he decides to kick or gets arrested. So Iím sure you can understand that no one wants to be sick like that and you can better understand what a powerful force an addiction can be. The only thing you can do when he is addicted to drugs is try to talk to him and not by yelling or screaming. Explain to him how he is hurting himself and how heís hurting other people who love him. Explain to him how heís wasting his life and what he can look forward to if he donít stop - jail, prison, or death. Some people will never stop no matter what you tell them, but if your brother decides he wants to stop one day, his family should be there to support him. Remember, itís the drug addiction you hate, not your brother.

Sergio
California



The only way for your brother to stop doing that is either having him go on a tour to jail so he can see what life is like in jail, or for him to be locked up himself. That will help him realize.

Armando G.
California

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I have a brother who just turned 18 he is handsome but walks around like a bum dirty clothes smelling getting high and drunk all the time and causing havoc in our mothers home? Nobody can tell him anything he thinks he knows it all! I have a love for my brother like a mom has to her son but he just wont listen Iíve been there and did a lot of crazy shit but he just does not listen what would you suggest.

Yelena

Yelena,

You asked very hard questions to answer. I would try to think of a way to help your brother to understand that he is welcome but not the havoc.

Brian
California


Yelena,

It sounds like your brother is just on a one-way road and until he reaches the point to where he wants to change, there isnít much you or your family can do. Myself as you, Iíd never turn my back on family regardless of their faults but a person canít be helped unless they want to. All I can recommend is to not give up hope and continue to show that love for him and try to convince him to enter a program or counseling because he still has that decision. Once you end up here, thatís all over and life only gets rougher for all involved. Iím sorry for you and your family, but keep your head up and I wish you the best.

Someone who cares
California

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Well I wanted to ask a question regarding my brother. What should I do or say to him because I noticed how much drugs he's been doing and little by little his parting from our family?

Ana

Ana,

I can only speak for myself. When I was in that place your brother is in now, I felt too distracted with the feeling of inner disappointment. Drugs were just a fine way for me to numb myself from the world. I would suggest being patient, being an open ear, non-judging, and letting him know youíre concerned.

Brian H.
California


To Ana:

Concerning your brotherís drug abuse, if you are already noticing him parting from your family, I think you should step in to address that issue full force with him and/or, if it comes to it, with the whole family and him. If not, this could very well become a 10, 15, 20 or even a 30 year issue that gets more detrimental as time goes on. I think you should learn what drugs he is using, what potential damage they cause, as well as the process to recover from such a drug or drugs. Then sit down with him and confront him in a manner that allows him to know that youíre coming from a position of sisterly love and concern. And if that opens up his confidence, enabling him to be totally honest with you, I think you should be willing to hold his hand (so to speak) through his recovery process. That should very likely include a structured program of some degree. Ana, if you canít gain his confidence on a one to one, perhaps a committee of family members equipped with the aforementioned information. His life is at stake Ana, and he needs to be made to embrace the reality of that fact and so does the family. As for what to say, I suggest ďHeart talkĒ!

Sincerely - Blue Cloud
California


Ana,

What you should do is tell your brother how much you love him and how much it is hurting you to see him like that. Hopefully he sees how much you and your family love him and he stops. If this doesnít change him, you have a responsibility to tell your parents so that they can get the professional help he needs. Donít worry about him getting mad at you. Later in life he will be grateful. I know you donít want your brother to get hurt or end up in jail. Thatís why itís important that you tell your parents.

I pray that your brother may come out well and that God may help you resolve this problem. I know itís not going to be easy, so donít be discouraged. It is always painful to see someone you love doing something that will harm them and their family.

But it would be more painful if you do nothing. I hope everything goes well with your brother.

Eddy
California

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What should I do with my 2 little cousins? They're only 8 and 11 but they act and fight, like adults. They're always bragging about becoming gangsters, and running from the cops when they're older. I got some of my cousins up in jail, and I don't wanna see them in there too. They're starting with the little things like stealing, fighting, and I wanna help them before they end up like my cousins.

Melissa

Dear Melissa,

My heart goes out to you. I admire your need to help your two little cousins become well-adjusted adults. Iím unable to advise you how to best accomplish this feat. I can only speak on what I think would have helped me stay clear of riding into the dark side looking to develop into what I imagined to be the ideal man, which at that time was a man without fear, doubt, and a man who knew what he wanted out of life and would stop at nothing to get it, while setting examples along the way for others to steer clear while I made my way. It is my hope that you will find something here that will trigger in you a way for you to help your little ones.

As a child, I wanted to be an adult. Even though I was to shy to admit it, I wanted a girlfriend who would be to me what my mom was to my dad - best companion.

As a youngster, I mowed lawns, washed cars, weeded flower beds, and swept parking lots, whatever I found to do that would fatten my nest egg so I would be ready for life when I set out on my own. All this made me feel good about who I was. During these moments of development I stayed out of trouble and was socially equipped to haggle with adults over payment for services rendered. I enjoyed this simple life I was creating for myself.

When the reins were pulled back on me (too young for serious relationships, too young for the understanding of what seemed so simple to me, to young to put distance between my family and myself by becoming more independent), it seemed to me I was being told I was too young to know or do anything but play in the back yard where it was safe. This I rebelled against with all my heart and soul. I looked for trouble and often found it by walking down the school hallways where I would sometimes attack a group of boys my age or older for looking at me (they might not of paid so much attention to my walking by had I not been so easily cued). I was stealing, cutting school to experiment with drugs, and crime became routine.

I look back now and see a small boy trying everything he could think of in an attempt to initiate himself into adulthood. If I could meet that troubled child today, I would pull him under my wing and talk to him as a person who has his own ideas of responsibility. I would try to help him understand people are not perfect, even adults make mistakes due to things that have happened in their lives that have nothing to do with him trying to grow up. I would try to help him understand that the violence he commits is misdirected confused frustration turned to anger, that drugs were being used only to numb the feelings of guilt for hurting people for little or no reason, to numb all the emotions difficult to identify and deal with. We instinctively know right from wrong or we wouldnít try so hard to get away with things. I would try to help him understand that it was OK to feel sad, confused, or anything else he felt. I would invite him to talk about these feelings. In time, I would earn his trust by never betraying anything he ever said which would help him open up more. I would even talk with him of my own doubts and confusion and trust him with my own feelings to build a tighter bond with him. I would love him for who he is and never judge him. I would try to help him better himself in his own eyes by trying to help him understand why and how he feels the way he does so he himself is better equipped to overcome any insecurities so he will be able to face life on his own two feet, to follow what he feels to be the truth of his own heart by not letting his actions be dictated by the actions of others. I would encourage his work, his growth in personal relationships and in his preparation for his adult future of responsible living.

Melissa, please never stop trying to reach your two little cousins. Please keep in mind the possibility children striving to become adults may mimic those adults they see command what they themselves want, recognition, respect, love, acceptance, etc. I also believe in the possibility that the more independence a child displays, the more responsibility he is ready for. This I believe may help him become better equipped to handle lifeís pressures as they arise instead of going off on an auto-pilot where people, themselves included may get hurt.

In closing, I wish you luck in reaching your little ones.

Brian H.
California



Dear Melissa,

Here is some advice. Get your cousins out of that environment. If all they see every day, all day, is violence and gang banging, theyíre gonna be left with no choice but to join in. Show them all that love you have for them. Let them know how much you love them and need them.

Picture a precious jewel inside a bag of garbage. If you take the garbage and dump it, you probably wonít see the precious jewel. It doesnít mean that itís not a precious jewel, it means that itís part of some garbage. But separate it or remove the jewel and it will show you itís beauty. Your cousins are jewels.

Jean M.
New Jersey



Dear Melissa,

Your two young cousins are learning the vices of a fragmented society fighting against itself. Their conduct is a clear illustration of how destructive misdirected energy can become. The question is, ďHow do you channel this energy into positive and constructive forms of behavior"? Well, I would say teach them the way of peace and how to use the power of their minds. It is evident that they are strong willed individuals even at such an early stage of development. Challenge them to think rather than to react. They must come to understand that knowledge is where the real force and power lies. Physically beating your opponent into submission is certainly admired by a savage society. However, to bring your opponent into submission without physical force or the threat of violence is a much greater virtue among the more refined of the world. Teach them to think and raise them to a higher plain of mind power by becoming an example of wisdom in motion.

James C.
New Jersey



Dear Melissa,

Well about your two cousins, the first thing you should do is ask them what they love the most, and then ask them how they would feel if they lost what they love the most. Let them know that freedom is the most beautiful thing in the world and we need them to become someone in this world because our generation is lost.

Listen, take them to the courthouse and let them see how the judge punishes young kids. Like that they could see what life can be for them when they do wrong.

Gangs are the talk of the world today and thatís going to be one of your worst problems today. Now I know that a lot of kids want to be gang members but they donít know what they are getting into. When you join a gang the only thing you are doing is hurting yourself and your family.

So this is what I want you to do with your cousins, when they come home from school ask then how was school today and then tell them that we are going to the courthouse. Like that they could see and hear what the judge is doing to those kids who donít want their education and they want to become a gang member. I want you to take your cousins to prison and visit your family members who are in there and ask them to talk to your cousins. Like that they would see what will happen to them.

Iíve been in prison for 15 years and I see a lot of young men get into gangs because they feel lonely, but when they join the gang, the first thing they ask them to do is to hurt someone.

I wish you the best and I hope that God will give you the strength to help your cousins, because we need more young ladies like you to understand that gang is not the way for our kidsí future.

Your friend - Hector S.
New Jersey



Dear Melissa,

Iím sorry to hear about your cousins and the only thing I rally could tell you is to be on top of them. Itís not about hitting them but punishing them. Since they are young, take away the things they like to do when they act bad. Since you said that the 8 year old is attached to you, talk to him. Theyíre both young now and that means you have to be on top of them. Donít be scared to punish them. Just donít give up on them cause eventually they could grow out of that. They need your help. I hope this answered your question.

Edwin T.
New Jersey



Melissa,

Dealing with children can at times be a difficult task. Children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. They are still young and have the chance to change their view on the false glamour of being a gangster. They think itís cool because they see everybody else doing it. Itís a stereotype that has been implanted into their minds. Also the eight year old may be following the actions of the eleven year old. What may be done is activities that takes them out of that environment into one that involves things that are more constructive. Show them the destructive side of a gangster such as prison, etc. And one thing that can never be overlooked is to show them the love that they need. When they do something that is good, praise them. Never stop showing them that you care. I was a gangster. Now Iím a prisoner serving 50 years.

Otto S.
New Jersey

BACK

I'm 19 and it's kinda hard for a female out here. I ain't in a gang but my mom thinks my brother is. All his homeboys are either in gangs or just a bad influence on him. My mom thinks if I talk to my brother he might listen. But I know he knows nothing good comes from being in a gang. I don't think he is but I don't know sometimes. I don't want him think I don't believe him or think he's a bad person just because I ask about it. He gets mad so fast. My parents separated about a year ago & that's when everything just went crazy, nothing's like it used to be. The drama just goes on and on it seems like it's just part of my life & I don't know what to do about it. I could run but I can't hide. And it's like don't nobody understand. I don't feel comfortable tellin people around me like friends & family cause I be feelin real low or whateva & it always end up everybody arguing so I quit. I don't even let them in on shit that be botherin me I just handle it on my own!

First, let me acknowledge that I know how hard it can get for females everywhere. I used to be one of the reasons why, if not for just what I did as an individual but also for what I did not do, allowing others to do females wrong in my presence. For that, on behalf of all the cats who have grown [the fÖ] up, I would like to express my sincerest apologies to all the females. No matter what form or manifestation your pain derived from: from a relationship, the professional arena or other ambitions in life.

I would also like to tell you that the world gets no better and it is a sad fact, however, you can get better yourself and your love ones also. Form a nucleus of positive, and things will seem to move in a better direction. I do not want to give you a ďla-la dream.Ē Things under positive eyes makes bad things look worse, but you will be closer to your truer nature and will seek ways to succeed. By deducing from the manner in which you wrote on the web-page, I know you will. You came across real and that is the only way I am going to come atícha - for real.

I lived in your part of the country and I miss it so much. Thatís also the spot where my life changed for the worse. It was a confusing and fatiguing time. Here I was living the best time of my life right along with the worst time. Excitement and depression, no in between, or when it was ďin betweenĒ I either walked like I was dead or slept all the time.

Things were hectic at home so I stayed away as much as possible. I ran the streets when I finally realized something was missing from my life. So in running the streets, the hole in my chest, that emptiness I felt inside even when having fun, eventually was filled with my click. I figured that since I lost one family, one support system, Iíd create or become part of another. So, as much as I thought I was ready to deal with the world on my own, deep inside I knew I needed family. Since the individuals in my family couldnít or wouldnít come outside of their own pain to see the pain in other members of the family (myself included), I went out to see if someone could see it. So I did a lot of crazy shit which just amounted to me digging a deeper hole and everyone labeling me a thug.

The only ones who ďseemedĒ to understand me were my dogs. Who better to understand the pain I was in than someone who was as damaged as me. We seek comfort and answers from those who resemble ourselves: whether the resemblance is in pain, race, gender or whatever. Misery does live company; that company however should bring you out of that hole.

At that chaotic point in my life, I chose my click as my priority. I mean, how could unity, pride and love, which the gang claimed to give, be wrong? Even if I had to pay certain dues, thatís what I wanted/needed at that time: Unity, Pride, Love! Well like I said I was confused and to a mind like that, fake can seem real; feel me?!

Maybe your brother is going through similar scenarios or emotions that, for either lack of experience and or confidence (real confidence) he canít articulate what heís feeling inside. You donít even know whether or not he is in a gang but you do know that maybe heís got bad influencing friends, which can be just as harmful.

My advice, and it comes in several stages, is as follows. If you donít know for sure if heís in a gang, ask! Donít knock his friends Ďcause theyíre the people he feels close to. So if you put them down, youíre putting your brother down. We usually chill with those like ourselves. He may even want to tell you but heís scared you will look down on him, so you open up communication by asking him and reassuring him of your love and support for him.

Next, if he is in a gang and is not from the stone-age, he knows that nothing good or real comes out of a gang, especially if heís been in it for awhile. The longer youíre in, the more you realize this and the more you feel trapped. However, like me at that time, he probably doesnít see an alternative. ďO.K. you say I have a future but I canít see it. I donít know which road to take.Ē I used to run that through my head but never told anyone; hence I never got any help. Show him an alternative -- take him out of your city, show him that thereís life beyond his barrio, that there are people who donít bang and are making a good life. Find out about job opportunities if heís old enough. Call 411 or speak with a school counselor.

Also instill pride in him and this can be done in two ways. Give him projects where he can create something and latter look back on and say, ďYeah, I did that!Ē By project I mean something that will further him on the path to success; Iím not necessarily speaking of arts and craft project, although they can also be helpful. Have him compose a collection of poems that can latter be turned into a book, I bet heís got a lot to say, or work together to turn the family around. Be each otherís crutches when shit gets hectic. The second way is by feeding him and yourself with information about your people (culture) whoever they may be. They have made a contribution to the world. So dig that info up Ďcause if we know who we were collectively, we can stand more firmly individually.

You wrote about your parents splitting up about a year ago and that he gets mad so easily. Well I know about anger and in saying that, Iím saying I know about fear. Think about it and you could trace anger back to fear. Your brother may be far from a chump but it doesnít mean that your parents split didnít instill a fear that he may not understand yet, so it comes out as misdirected anger. He may feel betrayed Ďcause he thought they would have been together for him and you forever. He may feel betrayed by you because you may not have expressed your pain that stemmed from the situation.

Any real man or real woman does not deny their feelings of pain or fear; they deal with them. The best way I know how to do that is by expressing yourself to the ones closest to you, your family. Even if you trip up at first, eventually things will fall into play. Who better to listen to his pain than you or an uncle or someone that has your best interest in mind. I understand about feeling low, I also kept it to myself to avoid the bull@#$%! Sometimes it takes an argument here and there. When itís over or in the middle, ask everyone involved how does it help to argue. Realize that everyone may have a point or an issue but it wonít mean nothing if everyone feels they are the only ones who should be heard.

Sometimes arguments could be because no one knows how to get there so they mask the frustration of not knowing with anger about what is being argued. I know one thing for sure is that lack of communication can destroy a family. I kept things to myself and now Iím by myself serving a double life sentence since the age of 16. I am now 24.

Remember that your MOM is hurting, you are hurting, and your brother is hurting - hurting about the same things but separately. Come together and give each other a break; lifeís already hard. Not letting people in on shit just makes it harder and if you mean that you just bury your problems and try to forget about Ďem (when you said ďI just handle it on my ownĒ!) then soon enough those issues and problems will be handling you. It may be in 3 months or 2 years and youíll probably forget where itís coming from, which will make it harder to deal with. Trust me, forget your emotional pains if you like, but they wonít forget you. The only way is to confront them. Deal with them and after itís resolved, then and only then can you move away from the issue.

Sometimes youíll have to grind your teeth, humble yourself and bite your tongue, but thatís what builds character. Youíll feel a real strength, a real pride when you climb that tough emotional mountain and master it. Donít allow pain, fear, and hate to dominate your life because it makes everyone else feel comfortable. Seek it and destroy it. Love, Family, Communication, Honesty, and Understanding will change your situation. Find different ways of introducing them into your household. If you have no ideas, suck it up and ask the rest of your family; someone will help. Unrecognizable resources are usually the difference between success and failure.

Well Iím going to leave it at that Ďcause I know Iíve beaten you over the head with this, so you must have an incredible headache by now (SMILE)!!! Know that it is from the heart and hopefully it helps.

In progress - Luis B.
New Jersey



Jazmin,

You really took me back with your pain. I too grew up in a household of its own chaos. I too blocked things our while I figured them out on my own. I felt there was something wrong with me for not being able to understand all that was going on around me. This triggered fear. Fear scared me to the point of covering it up with anger. Anger seemed to fit anyway because it protected me from getting hurt both emotionally and physically.

I feel your pain Jazmin, and my support goes out to you. I now believe people around us suffer from their own self-made demons that have nothing to do with us but how they accept lifeís terms. These demons seem to haunt them to the point that they try to protect all their loved ones by holding everything inside where they think it canít harm them. It seems so much effort goes into holding this pressure in, that the rest of the world gets shut out, blamed, or scolded for trying to help. Understanding this does not make it right Jazmin. Understanding only tells me not to take their bitterness and lack of time for me personally. Sometimes it hurts to feel all alone in the world.

I have found that I continue feeling the same painful situations repeating themselves in my life until I learn to work through them with the person/ people by letting them know how I feel about what is going on. Sometimes they do not respond in the way I wished, but I do seem to feel better for not holding everything in to become the same pressure cooker that is taking so much control over my life. Letting things out somehow lets me go back to becoming who I will eventually be instead of becoming a product of their demonsí pain on me. Iíll close for now Jazmin, hoping I man have been some help to you, if only in a small amount.

Brian
California



Jazmin.

Hola! Greetings out there. First of all, I extend my regards to you and your loved ones as well. All right then, letís make this letter all about you and your questions. Allow this brown fella the opportunity to illuminate ďchaĒ on some of the things that you brought to the front lines. Understand that with todayís society, our youth are consumed with the idea of the ďthug mentality,Ē so your motherís concern is not misplaced, although your ďbroĒ may just be chilliní out with some wild ass youngsters, not necessarily ďgangstersĒ but troublesome just the same.

My advice to you is to love your brother. He canít be forced to change. Thatís a decision that one makes from the soul! But if he senses love and acceptance of the family, he may feel obligated to consider the loss that accompanies the act. That, young Jazmin, is how you can step up and best affect him, his soul. (Take it from one whoís been in the life and then some.)

Hey mami. I feel for you. Divorce is tough to go through. Some people donít understand that the kids suffer. Iíve been though that drama. It ainít cool. So my heart goes out to you.

Tu amigo - Angel R.
California

BACK

What advice would you give to someone now that is outside your situation, and you notice is going down the wrong path?

Noelia

My advice to people out there is: Do you like to be stuck in a cell 8 by 10 ft. sometimes for months? Do you like people to see you naked, because you have to strip down to nothing and let them inspect for weapons or drugs? Do you want to be far away from your family, boy or girlfriend? Do you want people to tell you when to eat and when to shower? Do you mind people sitting by you when you use the restroom? And are you willing to kill others to survive? Are you willing to kill your cellie because at times you will get a jay-cat and he will try to kill you. If you answer yes to all these questions and still others, then I think youíre ready to join a gang. By the way I will save you a bed just in case someone will try to take your shit. Please, little homies, me and my cellie are not trying to scare you in any way. We are expressing the truth. You can learn from us or come here and join us. Donít make foolish to decisions that you will regret for the rest of your life.

Mike D.
California


Gang life is wrongÖ hurting and killing people - for what? When you come to prison, your gang on the streets isnít helping you. If someone in your gang kills someone and you get caught, even if you didnít do it, you must keep your mouth shut and go to prison for your so-called friend, ďgang-member.Ē There is no true love in gangs. No, I do not like what I have done, so I have left the old gang life. I even started living for Jesus for almost 8 years now.

Manuel
California

BACK

I have 24 year old sister addicted to crack I donít know what to do any suggestions? She had been in multiple rehabs. I just wanted to say thank you for your inspiration. It's sad that you're still locked up but always remember God won't put you through what you can't handle. Keep you're head and be strong.

Thank you. God Bless - Emily

Dear Emily,

I would like to first thank you for your words of encouragement. Life is good, and like with all good things, you must continue to fight for it. Having a loved one who is addicted to drugs is a very hard thing. Believe me, I know. I have an older brother who has a very bad drug habit. I do not believe there is a family member who he has not stolen from in one way or another. He has been in prison, but only for short periods of time, and he has been in a number of drug rehabilitation programs. He does well in all of them, but once out in the streets, he is back to his habit. I hate my brother's weakness, as I am sure you do not like your sister's addiction to crack. But they are family right? I am not going to give up on my brother, but I do voice or express my opinion to his addiction at every chance he gives me. Right now I can't get in my brother's face, I am in prison; but you can help your sister. My suggestion is that you continue loving your sister; even when her addiction hurts you the most. Keep loving her, but at the same time show her in any way possible how very much her addiction hurts you and the rest of the family. Your sister will not search out the help she needs until she is ready to receive it; this is why her time spent in rehabs have had such little effects. She must find a reason to get better. So try to get to know what is most important to her, and come at her from that angle please share with us any progress your sister accomplishes with your help.

With you and your sister in prayer - Luis D.
New Jersey


Emily,

I'm not a prisoner, but I work with them as a volunteer for 16 years and am a professional substance abuse counselor. I just want you to know that crack is an extremely difficult (but not impossible) habit to kick. The cravings are very strong, and there is no such thing as going back to being a recreational user once you've completed rehab. An addict's brain has established a sort of "minimum daily requirement" which is the level of heaviest past use, and as soon as the substance is reintroduced to the body, the brain is going to recognize that it's back and want to get back to that level almost immediately. That's why I'll bet that each time your sister relapsed, she got worse. It's true for any substance of abuse, even food or gambling!

I commend your sister for returning to rehab when she relapsed. She is wise to recognize that she has to get into an abstinent environment in order to maximize her success in overcoming her addiction. I wonder if she is following up with the recommended aftercare once she completes the program. If she comes back to the same environment, hangs out with using friends and is not attending 12-step groups often (NA or CA are best for her) her chances to sustain her sobriety are not good. The recommendation is 90 meetings in 90 days following rehab, really listening to both speakers and shares, getting a sponsor and working the program the way it's supposed to be worked, not just going to get an attendance card signed! She really has to have all the support possible.

Emily, also understand that her habit is no longer a moral weakness that she can control with willpower alone. It's a disease. She uses because feels she can't NOT USE, though she may want to quit very much. The crack has altered her brain chemistry and it's going to take quite a while to return to normal functioning. With cocaine/crack, the cravings come in waves and are especially strong at 30 days, 60 days, 6 months a year and 18 months. She will need to be sure she has continuing support, via NA/CA, sponsors and loved ones to guard against the cravings. I suggest that even if she refuses to go to those groups, that you attend Nar-Anon, Co-Anon, Alanon, or a similar support group for families of addicts. They will give you the help you need to be able to set boundaries, detach with love, if necessary, and know the best way to help your sister. Good luck and God bless you for your concern. Tell your sister to hang in there. She CAN do it--a day, an hour or a minute at a time, if that's what it takes. God won't put you, or her, through what you can't handle, with His help, either.

Sincerely - Phyllis
California

BACK

I have a cousin who is in a gang and every time I want to show him how much I love him he tries to stay out of my way when he knows I want to do that. What do you think is with him? - Lucy

Lucy,

It's very difficult for me to give you a precise reason for your cousin's response to your displays of love and affection towards him without actually knowing his past history. However, my best guess would be that his reason for avoiding you is because he doesn't want to hurt you and/or be hurt.

In any case... if I may, allow me to suggest that you try not to be discouraged by his avoidance of you and your love. Personally, I feel that at this point in his life (while he's still young and growing) there's nothing he needs more that the love, support and guidance of "family," those who genuinely care about him and his welfare. Think of your other alternative. Yikes! Stay strong.

Good luck & best wishes to you and yours,
Tomas - California



In response to Lucy's question...

It may be nothing more than a hard-core exterior that he is trying to portray. I'm sure that in his own way he loves you too but he probably does not feel comfortable openly displaying it. Continue to show him that you love him and in his own way and time he'll come around, you just have to be patient and understanding.

Chris - California



Dear Lucy,

About your cousin, don't worry. I believe he's just embarrassed when you show so much love to him. He's growing up and he doesn't want to be pampered. I believe if you treat him like a friend he'll come around and sooner or later he won't mind you giving him a hug and stuff.

Jesse G.
California



Lucy,

Hi Lucy. I'm sorry to hear about the problems you're having with your cousin. I hope that my advice and my experience of being an ex-gang member myself can be of some help to you.

I encourage you not to give up on trying to help your cousin or showing ye for him. I know a lot of people myself that just let their loved ones continue to live a life as a gangster and figure that they'll grow out of it. Some do but the sad truth, most of the gangsters I know didn't get a chance to because they ended up dead or behind bars.

I'm sure it can be upsetting to you and hurting when you try to show your cousin how much you love him and he just stays out of your way. What it could be is he might be at that age where he thinks he knows it all and he knows what he's doing. When a person is like that, it's hard to get into their head. I was like that myself. It wasn't until I experienced many things living a life as a gang member that made me open my eyes and realize that there's no future in it.

It may be of some help to your cousin if he can get the chance to talk to an ex-gang member that's been through it. He may listen to that person because he relates to him. You can find people like that at many congregations. I hope I was of some help.

Sincerely - Desi
California

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I have a younger brother that is following your steps. My family and I try to talk to him to make him understand but he thinks that life is so easy and since he is a minor the law wonít be so harsh with him. He was been to jail, to boot camp and right now he is on probation he is just 15 years old. He has been in jail more than 10 times and always gets out but he doesn't want to understand that he is throwing his life away. I want to make him understand that what he is doing is going to cause trouble for him latter on I would like to know is you can tell me what to tell him to make him understand?

Crystal

To Crystal:

Clearly your brother is in denial as to his reality and if it doesnít wake up soon, he may find himself waking up one day in deep years in prison wondering what happened to him. The fact is, to this point he has obviously been extremely lucky, for the Law is becoming very hard on juvenile delinquents. The day your brother becomes involved in something a little more serious than what he has been doing for now, that long criminal record of his will be used to give him a life sentence in prison. I do not know enough about your brother or your relationship with him to tell you how to approach him on this subject. The fact is, if you do not want to lose him to a long prison term or worse, you must reach him. You must come at him hard and very direct. If he is any sense of family, you hit him there. Make him feel guilty for what he does to you and the family. Good luck Crystal, and it to I do hope you are able to reach him.

Best wishes - Luis D.
New Jersey


Dear Crystal:

It really touched me to see how much you love your brother. It hurts me to hear what you are going through. He is blessed to have a sister like you who cares. It reminds me of all my sisters, they were always looking out for me and always wanting the best for me, but I was young and foolish and now I'm in prison.

Crystal, yeah he is throwing his life away and you are right, it doesn't matter if he is a minor; he breaks the law, he's going to do the time, especially now that they are going hard on juveniles. With all these new laws coming out, it's going to be very hard for young kids who break the law.

Look, Crystal, all you can do is talk to him, give him advice and tell him you love him. But I think it would be better if he hears it from someone who's been there and done it. I been doing time since I was 12 years old, but I am a changed person now. I have received the Lord in my heart. I would love to see your brother change his life around.

Respectfully your friend, Joey A.
California

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I am 14 years old. I have a best friend who I luv to death. We grew up together. All her brothers are in gangs. We talk every day online or on the phone and each time she calls me she is crying because she feels that her life is so messed up because of what all is happening. Everyday she has to deal with the same sh*t her brothers do. I try to help her as quite as I can but I don't think it's helping that much. Can you please help me out here??? What should I do????

Hi Ana,

My name is Kenneth, but my family and friends call me Ken T. Your story concerning the troubles of your sister-friend strikes me as quite urgent and I couldnít not compose you this letter. A solution to life is the age old question ya know?

My answers are probably no better than your own. Yet, the fact that you care so much inspires me to care too and compels me to brainstorm with the energy your story generates.

So, what are you guys about in high school? It may be of help to your sister-friend if she was involved in some positive and constructive after school extra-curricular activity. If you guys live close by, maybe you can apply for after school jobs together. Are you two interested in sports, dance, or gymnastics? I think that if she or you and she could get involved with something that you guys can really enjoy, it could possibly stimulate a powerful enough positive to neutralize all that negative that surrounds her. I think if she was inspired to start imagining a future for herself, it would be uplifting for her. Perhaps you could ask her what her aspirations are and brainstorm with her ways to take tiny steps towards that end. If your interests are alike, you can strive on the buddy-buddy plan to reach a goal that your brainstorming creates. I truly believe that getting her as well as yourself involved with something you really appreciate and that may also have career implications may very well be the nutrient to get you both through this storm of life. Thank you for caring.

With gratitude - Ken T.
California


Ana,

All you can do is be there for her when she needs a friend and try to keep her spirits up. Itís rough watching the ones you love self-destruct for no real meaningful reason other than they just have no hope for future but by her making something of herself she might just be in a better position to help her brothers if they decide to get it together.

Chris
California


Ana,

In order for your friend to be happy, she needs something that will satisfy her. Gangs are not enough; dope is not enough; and sex will never be enough. Desire is as insatiable as is death itself. Your friend is looking for more than a quiet satisfaction, she needs real love. The Bible says that love this patient; love is kind; it is not jealous. Love does not brag and it is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly. It does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Loss never fails. Ana now put your name in front of each phrase. Ana is patient; Ana is kind, etc. This may be what your friend needs from you and all homies around her. I think that the last one could very well be the lifeblood that keeps your friend focused - Ana never failed to help.

Jeff
California


To Ana:

Bless you Ana! You have a big heart and your friend is blessed to have you. First, you must let her know that she has her own life to live. She cannot choose the path of her brothers, but she can keep them in prayer. If she would learn to trust God and live by His will, He will always be there for her. Tell her to live a good life and to show her brothers how a strong person can live without a gang. Donít give up; she needs you, so keep her in prayer.

A Prisoner
New Jersey


Well Ana,

The only thing I could tell you is that keep talking to your friend. Donít give up on her; tell here what would happen to you if she does something wrong. You are a best friend as well. Just keep on talking to her and eventually sheíll listen. Pray for her and do what you have to to help her and thatís not to give up. I wish you luck and I hope I helped.

Edwin T
New Jersey


Ana,

You are a good friend and that is a rarity. You continue being a good friend by helping her any way you can. You are keeping her problems quiet because you do not want to break that confidence that she has given you. But at times, in dire circumstances, we have to break a confidence, even if it is telling her family, even her brothers what their lifestyle is doing to her. Instead of protecting her, they have her doing the same things they are. I ran with a gang on the streets, but I tried to shield my little brother and niece from the ruthlessness of the streets. I got locked up gangbanging. After that, I wasnít around to protect them. My brother is serving 30 years at the same prison Iím at and my niece has two children and was stripping in clubs. Tell them if they donít protect her, the streets surely wonít. Even if you have to talk to counselors, who have lived the street life, about her to help her, you have to do what is best for her even if she doesnít agree with it.

Otto S.
New Jersey


Ana,

If you really feel that by you talking to her is not helping, try and spend some physical time with her. Go out to the park, movies, each otherís home, etcÖ anywhere away from her troubles. And tell her that you decided to spend this much time with her because you care for her and only want her to be happy. Other than that, youíll need to tell your parents so that your parents can talk to her parents and see for themselves what may be the cause of her problems. If her parents donít care, just maybe your parents can come up with an idea thatíll help your friend out. Good parents know best and we should always depend on them for helping ideas.

Giovanni
New Jersey


Sweet, concerned Ana,

No life is without its struggles. Tell your friend she is too young to throw her life away. She hasn't even realized her purpose in this world, so why waste a golden opportunity to do something noble & outstanding. She should not waste her life grieving over the foolish acts of her brothers. If she would stop & reflect for a moment she would see all the opportunities that await her. If she applied herself to more noble aspirations she would soon realize that her thoughts of suicide were foolish & selfish. Tell her to look in the mirror & see all the good & beauty she'd be wasting if she didn't do something worthwhile with her life. She should want to succeed in the face of her brothers failures. This would prove that her life is worth more than all the tea in China. Just think of how good a mother she would be if she is that concerned with her brothers lives. Last but not least, let her know that the game of life is difficult but a quitter never wins & a winner never quits. She should try being happy, she might learn to enjoy happiness.

James C.
New Jersey

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I wanted to know how I can help in the community to stop gangs.

Har

Hi Har:

My name is Juan and I am answering your question from ďGangs and At-Risk KidsĒ.

How can you help in the community to stop gangs? You can start by working with the members and leaders of the community. Share your ideas with them. Ask the hard questions. What can realistically be done?

Also, get the Church involved. The Church has great and positive influence. And talk to the civil leaders, law enforcement, such as the probation department, about setting up positive activity programs. Get the school principal and teachers involved. Also teen groups, like the Boys and Girls Club. It is very important to get the parents and kids united and involved. We all have the same common goal and that is to stop the violence and gangs.

I want to go back to the ďheartĒ of your question, to stop gangs.

The reality, let me put it this way, since the beginning of the human race there have always been gangs in one form or another - mainly for survival. The problem(s) occur when the activities of these gangs become violent, involve drugs, etc. Thatís the reality of the criminal mind and gang behavior.

However, by planting the seed, this type of gang activity can be stopped one person at a time and that person can continue to ďplant the seed.Ē That person will realize that there is a better life, a ďfutureĒ for him/her. For them to turn their lives around you have to give them hope and let them know that somebody does care.

You set the example and others will see that your actions are positive and will follow in your footsteps.

Har let me tell you about myself. I have been imprisoned 27 years and still donít know when I am getting out. My downfall was drugs and alcohol. I was never involved with gangs growing up but I made the stupid mistake of getting involved in a prison gang - mainly for survival. I am proud to say that I am no longer in a gang. But I paid with blood and only by the grace of God I was saved. Amen.

Getting involved in criminal activities, gangs, drugs and alcohol is a dead end. The consequences of such actions will only lead to prison or death. Thatís the facts, truth and reality.

Well Har I hope I was able to help you in your (our) cause. Continue to get involved, talk to anybody who is willing to listen. Donít get discouraged and keep the faith. ďWhatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.Ē Matthew 21:22.

May God bless you and guide you in everything you do.

Life in Christ - Juan
California


Dear Har,

You want to know how you can help in the community and stop gangs. Well Har, try to take it one step at a time. It is a tall order for you to try to "stop gangs." It is however very feasible for you to try and stop just one child or youngster from getting into a gang. Get involved in youth centers around your community; call one of those State sponsor mentoring programs, where adults are paired up with at risk children, who can guide them and encourage good decision making. You can get together with other people who think like you and form your own youth crime prevention center or program. Or you can get in contact with this same website creator and ask how you can help with the work load of maintaining such a website up for young people. There are so many different ways for you to help your community. All you have to do and reach out, and I can guarantee you, some one will respond.

Good luck Har - Luis D.
New Jersey


Well Har,

Itís good to hear that you want to help your community to stop gangs. You can always talk to a gang member and tell him or her that theyíre doing the wrong thing, but it wonít be easy. To be honest with you, I think that the only way that gangs can be stopped is for those people not to join them. The more people that join, the gangs become bigger, and when that happens it spreads. So if no one is interested in becoming a gang member, then they wonít exist. Thatís just my opinion.

Edwin
New Jersey

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Hey Iím 15 yrs. old and have a 16 yr. old brother who is in juvie. He used to be in a gang till one day he jumped out. My father told him that he hated him and that he didnít even think of him as his son. He took that very hard and ran away and lived with his best friend till the day he got caught selling "candy." I love him even after all the wrong things he has done but my father says that heís not welcome in the house and his friend ainít living around here anymore. I want to see him improve cuz I know that he wants to.

Lots of love - Mariza

Dear Mariza,

I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ. I do understand your situation and I have three suggestions that I hope will help:

  1. Continue to be there for your brother because heís going to need to know that he is still loved.
  2. Try to check out some churches because some of them may have some type of program that help young people who have been in trouble.
  3. Pray and ask God to guide you and give you strength.

I want you to know that you have already been a positive force in your brotherís life by helping him the best you can; so be encouraged and never discouraged. Just continue to do your best. I will be praying for you.

Sincerely, God bless - V.B.
New Jersey

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Hi, my name is Destiny. I am 17. My ex-boyfriend was in a gang and I think still is. He is in juvenile right now till he turns 18 in about 9 months then he gets transferred to the pen. This is his 2nd time to be locked up and he has to be in there for 6 years. When he writes to me I feel so bad because there is nothing I can do to relieve his pain and stress, he always asks for forgiveness and wants to change and take care of his family. He still has about 6 years left or maybe even more we arenít for sure. I still do love him and really hope this makes him change. I was wondering if there was anything I could do to make his time go by faster or make him be happy again. I want to be with him when he is finally set free.

Destiny

Hi Destiny,

Iíd like to first greet you in the name of Jesus Christ. I think the best way to help your boyfriend continue is to let him know youíre there for him. Now, the stress and emotion he is going through, there isnít much you can do about that. He has to go through these emotions because itís normal, but he also has to seek Godís grace to help him through it. Another thing you can do is encourage him to go to school while heís there and keep his mind occupied.

I want you to know that whatever you do, God is there to comfort you, so be encouraged and trust in God as well as pray.

Be blessed - V.B.
New Jersey


Destiny,

Thereís really nothing you can do to make your exís time go by faster. That is what it is.

As he gets closer to coming home, heíll start feeling better about his situation. Thatís just going to take time.

In the mean time, just continue being his friend and write to him as often as you can. In situations such as these, receiving mail from friends and family is priceless. Thatís the best you can do for him.

Richard M.
California

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I know someone that is only 16 and he just got charged with attempted murder and is probably going to be tried as an adult. And truthfully I donít know how to handle this situation. I love this boy more than life itself and for him to be going through something like this is very hard on me. Well the reason why Iím writing you is to ask you can you please give me some advice on how to get through with this and try to not let this get to me so much?

Denyse

Denyse,

How are you holdiní up? Hopefully things arenít that bad elsewhere and this problem is the only heavy thing you have to deal with right now.

Let me tell you that I was locked up when I was 16 years old myself, tried as an adult for a double murder, and sentenced to a double life sentence with a 60 year stipulation, meaniní that if I live to be 76 I would be able to see parole and with a high probability that I will be denied. I mean liviní my whole life behind bars, why let me out at that age? Everyone I knew would be dead or strangers - including family.

The person of your concern doesnít have such a dire outlook as far as consequences go; nonetheless, it is serious. Pessimism infects us all, causes the ďcriminalĒ (on most cases circumstantial) to act on survival instinct and not to look past their own pain or the ďnowĒ (so a crime is committed); and causes the ďlaw abidingĒ to act on emotion (punishes kids as adults to the benefit of no one). Neither thinks - they just react. They react without hope or thought.

So what I would advise you to do is something that might seem extremely hard right now and that is to calm your emotions. You love this child with all your heart but what he needs is your mind. Many legal mistakes have been committed by both my family and myself because emotions got in the way and, as hard as it may seem, you both need a clear head. Overwhelm him with love once youíve struggled to get the best legal option available to you.

Once youíve done that, then you should try to find out why he even got around to the point of having been accused of attempted murder; get him talkiní. Continuously reassure him that you will always be there even if he chose to ignore or didnít recognize your support in the past. This has been done for me and has helped to change my outlook on life overall.

With love and respect - Luis B.
New Jersey


Denyse,

Iím sorry to hear about your loved one being charged with something very serious. As far as your question, to be honest, at the moment you are both young and Iím not one to speak on your love for each other, but at the moment youíre going through difficult times and just sharing letters to each other will help ease these times and will show support. Other than that, you canít let your life come to a halt. Itís only going to get better so donít isolate yourself and enjoy time with your friends and family and school so you can keep your mind off this. I hope I was of help and I wish you both good luck. Stay strong.

Someone who cares
California


Whatís up Denyse,

I can really understand your particular plight, but when you are dealing with a situation which may ultimately change the course of your life for a long time, I can only suggest to you at this juncture that all you can really do for him is to be there and support him through this ordeal. And hopefully if he is innocent, he will prevail, because prison is truly no place for anyone, especially someone who is young and in the prime of their life.

It appears from your letter that you care very deeply for the person in question, and this showing of love and support from you may ultimately show him that someone truly cares about his well being and will be there for him through thick and thin. He may begin to realize that there is something better in life than getting into trouble, especially with a crime of that magnitude.

I truly can understand your plight because Iím presently living that ordeal myself, so I can assure you that the only thing you can possibly do at this juncture is to aid him inn getting the best legal help possible, because if he gets waived up to an adult status, he will go to prison if he is found guilty, and that will be bad for his future because the experience alone will undoubtedly change his life forever.

So, in closing, I can only state that what he will be needing is all the legal and moral support he can get. The rest will be up to the legal system.

Peace! Pablo M.
New Jersey


Dear Denyse,

In truth, there is nothing about your friendís situation for you to handle. The best thing you can do for yourself and your friend is to be there even if only in letters. Plan a better life for the two of you. Be patient and always be honest. Remind your friend constantly what his absence has meant to you. Promise each other youíll try never again to give anyone else absolute power over yourselves. Together you can work to that end. Be well and good luck.

Michael D.
New Jersey

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You see I have this friend in prison. I really love him but itís not his first time in there itís like the 8th time and I want him to quit going back in there. Can you give any advice?

Iím sorry to hear your friend keeps finding himself back in prison. But youíve got to reach a point when you realize he just isnít going to change. Yes, itís sad and hard to face but itís the truth. A person has to be willing to better themselves and work towards that goal prior to those around them helping. Iím not saying to cut him loose or to stop loving him. Iím just suggesting you ask him to get his priorities correct or youíll have to move on cause in the end itís your life, future and feelings that count and you canít place no one above yourself. So be sure never to forget that and hopefully youíll be able to help your friend realize how much you care for him and want him to do good.

I wish you much luck and I hope I was of some assistance and you keep your head up always. Itís never as bad as it seems. Itíll get better.

Respectfully - Robert
California

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I have a friend and he just went to prison for 2 years. He is involved with all the gangs and he does think he's bad but I'm scared one of these times he decides to go do something he's gonna mess up his life! I want to know how can I help him change his life around? How can I show him that we care? He means a lot to me, he's like my big brother to me and I really don't want to see this happen to him!

Thanks much - Danelle

Danelle,

Itís great youíre wanting to help this person who you care about that just went to jail. Maybe try to help him figure out what the truly wants and then help him search for answers outside of the box.

Brian H.
California


Danelle,

You have a good heart and I hope one day your friend could see how much you care for him. Sometimes when a person is too busy with himself, he forgets the people around him. Donít stop showing him how much heís cared for.

Mike D.
California


Dear Danelle,

Let me first tell you, ďI do care.Ē I donít know if I can be of any help to you. I donít know how deep into the gang your friend is. I know that youíre caring for him matters.

You may not be able to turn his life around. Fact is, only he can do that. As to how to show him that you care for him, I am old-school. I think straight out talking is the best approach. I would suggest that you just tell him how you feel about him. I donít know how much good it will do, however I do know that it canít do any harm.

Danelle, if he is like a big brother to you then youíre the only one that can tell him that and make him understand that the only reason you disagree with his involvement in gangs is because you do care about him in that you worry about him.

I hate to hear how much gang members hurt the ones they love, but I know itís true. We do hurt them. I used to forget that I wasnít alone, and that my actions did affect others. I hope that your homeboy will listen to what you have to say to him. Maybe knowing you care that much about him will help him somehow. I wish to the best, Danelle. I can see from your concern that you have a good heart and that you are a wise person. I hope you stay true to your wisdom...

Rick M. - A gang-member doing life.
California

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Hi my name is Sonia. Right know Iím going through some pain. Iím a single mother. My man is doing some time. I try my best. I tell him that I love him and he has such a negative attitude. I would like to hear from some of you. God bless you and keep smiling.

Hi, Sonia.

I'm brokenhearted to hear of your painful situation, but I'm so blessed to hear of your courage and positive attitude. I can't imagine the difficult time you must be facing as a single mother, without your man and his help out there for you and your baby. I can only hope to be of some encouragement to you with these words. I just want to remind you of God's love for you and how He doesn't want you to be alone without Him through this life. He wants to take your trials and make them your triumphs for His glory, God wants to help you put down your burdens, which are wearisome to your soul. His living Word will give you strength, His loving arms will bring you comfort. He's not far away from us. He's ever present and a sure help for those who put their trust in Him.

I myself was just as your man (probably worse), but God made a new Man inside of me. My circumstances did not change. However, the way I approach them did change. Having Jesus in my life has taken away the hopelessness, bitterness, and unforgiveness that I once held on to. Now, He has given me a hope for the future, a peace and joy which no man can take away. Continue to pray and read your Bible daily. God will answer you through His word. I'll be praying that you keep smiling daily. Your baby needs to see it. May God bless you and your family. Thank you for your time. John 16: 33 and 1 John 5:4-5

Alex P.
California

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I have so many homeboys who are locked up, and my cousin, who I consider a sister to me, got raped. I used to be a good girl. Then I started hanging out with them. I started to drink and smoke, sneak out, go out past curfew. Thatís how I met this boy. I love him soo much.

Now they're all locked up. I refuse to give up!! I want to know they will be OK and come back. I mean I read everything ya'll say and you say ya'll start at juvenile center. Obviously if you keep going there and then to prison, that means the juvenile center doesnít change you at all. Does that mean it wont change my homeboys?? It wonít change the one person I love??

Much love from Ashley

Ashley,

First of all, I commend you for not giving up on your homies. Your loyalty touches me. Yet remaining stagnant and idle with no sense of direction doesn't help them any. Neither Juvenile Hall nor prison can change anyone. On the contrary, we come out worse. The change has to come from your own volition--you have to want it yourself. Instead of doing drugs, hit the books. Make a positive change and encourage your homies to do the same. And vote for other alternatives to incarceration. If you want to help them, then get with it.

Respectfully - Oscar
California


Ashley,

Words of advice, ďStop putting your friends before your own needs.Ē Caring for your friends the way you do is OK but you wonít be able to live your own life because your friends will consume most of it. If your friends donít have any goals for themselves, how are you supposed to help them? In order for anyone to be successful they must learn to love themselves first. That comes first (loving yourself). When you learn to love yourself then nothing, I mean nothing, can stop you from being who, what, where, or how you want to live your life.

Actually, you have a big heart and caring the way you do is beautiful. The world would be a better place if everyone loved the way you do, but unfortunately everyone doesnít. Waiting for your friend who is locked up is cool. I donít see any harm in that; nowÖ if you two are thinking about being together I think there should be some questions asked (For yourself and him!). The questions that might be asked are along these guidelines: Does he love himself? Does he love you? Does he love you enough to help you with your goals? (And you the same with him?) How does he feel about family? How does he treat his family because a true measure of a man is how he treats his family? Last but not least, ďAre the two of you willing to make sacrifices which life is full ofĒ? Those types of questions should be asked before making any kind of commitment especially with the opposite sex or love partner.

Will prison and juvenile centers change your homeboys? Hmmm. I look at it like this, ďIf that person wants, or needs to change then that person will do it, regardless of where he or she is at. Indeed, some people may need to experience prison or juvenile centers but it is up to that person if change is what he or she wants. So, no! Itís up to the person if change is wanted. Prison and juvenile centers wonít help your homeboys. Your homeboys must want to change themselves first.

A prisoner
New Jersey


Hello Ms. Ashley,

Ask yourself why didnít you join a gang - because you know itís wrong. Donít you wonder why your friends donít see this? We can all make mistakes but we must learn from them. If a person continues to make the same mistakes, theyíre no longer mistakes; thatís their life choice. You keep saying you love them, but does he love you? The reason I ask you this is because, if he wants to be with you, he should realize that he has to change. Stay strong in what you want out of life, and if he really loves you, your life should rub off on him, not his on you. Jail is not fun or cool. Heís the one who chooses to come to jail or stay out with you.

I wish you the best and my prayers will always be with you.

Much love - A Prisoner
New Jersey


Well Ashley,

First of all, Iím sorry to hear about your cousin and itís not your fault. My heart goes out to you and your cousin. No woman should go through that. Again, Iím sorry. Listen. Itís OK to have fun but you have to make sure that itís not negative. You said you were a good girl. I believe that you still are. You know whatís wrong and right; you just have to choose. When people get locked up, some change and some donít. I just hope that your homeboys and that the boy you love will be the ones that change. Just tell them that doing things negative or going to jail is not cool. It doesnít make them tough. Just try to open their eyes. Tell them that going to jail is for chumps. I tell you that because I am one. I never was until I got locked up. Tell that boy that you love, if he really loves you, to change. If he truly loves you, I believe he will. Be the smart one out of the crew. I hope the best for you.

Sincerely - Edwin T.
New Jersey


Ashley,

You basically know what is right and wrong for you, due to what Iíve read. And thatís a good thing. It is also very nice of you to worry about your cousin and homeboys. Some learn the hard way and some choose not to learn at all. What is most important is your well-being. Do what you need to do to stay out of trouble; stay safe and make your parents proud. And in the same time, if you keep in touch with your homeboys through letters, tell them how much you care for their well-being and express to them that they need to start changing their lives for the better. Your feeling empty and lost can be changed into love, peace and happiness by doing whatís best for yourself first, and with your good ways and loving heart inspire those you care for. It may work; it may not, but what will count is that youíre safe and are able to build a future for yourself that will eventually be everything youíd ever desired and deserve.

Giovanni
New Jersey

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