Exploration of male gang members' perspectives of gangs and drugs

Wijnberg, Marcelle (2012-03)

Thesis (M Social Work)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Western Cape is notorious for its high prevalence of gangs and resulting gang violence. This is confirmed in the multitude of frequent reports of homicides attributed to gangs. This area of South Africa further has elevated substance abuse statistics. Literature clearly states that gangs and drugs are inextricably linked. The nature of the interaction is however unclear, although the effects of the interaction is significantly apparent as the consequences of gang activities is often felt by innocent bystanders. It is concerning that gangsterism and drug usage is normalised and ceases to be viewed as deviant in some communities. The consequences of the interaction between gangs and drugs has ramifications for community safety and further places much strain on the health, social welfare, as well as defence sectors. Effective interventions need to be informed by insight into the interaction between gangs and drugs. The best source of reliable information in this regard would be gang members. A dearth of research with regards to the gang members‟ perspective on the connection between gangs and drugs thus motivated the study. The study was conducted with male gang members within the setting of a substance treatment centre, where drug usage is normalised. An empirical study with a combination of a qualitative and quantitative approach was used, where a semi structured questionnaire was administered with individual participants as well as a focus group. The study illustrated that gangs attract members through their ability to meet the individuals‟ needs. These needs are linked to those indentified within motivational theory. Gangs met physiological needs through access to drugs, safety needs through providing protection, and self esteem needs through the provision of money and status. Significantly, gangs were identified as meeting individuals‟ belonging needs. Commonality was established in risk factors for involvement in a gang and as well as in the usage of substances. The study showed unstable home environments with absent fathers and multiple stressors such as exposure to high levels of violence and abuse. Disconnectedness within families was further highlighted. The participants were exposed to elevated levels of substance misuse within their families as well as elevated levels of familial involvement in the sale of drugs. Familial involvement in gangs was also high within participants. The findings of the study indicate that drugs are enmeshed within gang activities. Drug usage occurs before and after going out and committing crimes. Drugs were used to heighten gang members‟ fortitude, diminishing inhibitions. Participants spoke about being incapable of undertaking violent acts, without first using drugs. Gang members used drugs to quieten the conscience and in self medicating after completing a task, in order to cope with flashbacks and intrusive thoughts and images. Gang norms with regards to the sanctioning of drugs is a complex issue. The study demonstrated that gangs make a distinction between drugs, for example heroin usage is not encouraged by all gangs due to the associated tolerance and severe withdrawal symptoms. Gangs tread a thin line between condoning and discouraging drug usage. Supporting drug usage may benefit the gang, as it encourages and motivates gang activities. Gang members who become dependent on drugs are however a risk for the gang, as they become unreliable and disloyal, as their absolute devotion to the gang is challenged by their physiological needs. Gang members however perceive the gangs‟ prohibition of certain drugs, as motivated by a concern for their wellbeing rather than self interest. The temporal order of drug usage and gang membership illustrated that drug usage preceded involvement in a gang. Drug usage however significantly increased and progressed after inclusion in a gang. Recommendations emphasised a need to acknowledge the link between drugs and gangs. Insight provided by gang members is needed in order to inform effective interventions. Within the substance dependence field, the gang member presents with unique treatment needs, which must be understood in order to gain optimum results. Ill-informed, generic treatment is ineffective, irresponsible and costly for service providers, communities affected by gangsterism, and those gang members with some willingness to change.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Wes-Kaap is berug vir dié provinsie se hoë voorkoms van bendes en gepaardgaande bendegeweld. Dít word bevestig deur die menigte gereelde berigte van moord waarby bendes betrek word. Hierdie gebied van Suid-Afrika toon boonop verhoogde middelmisbruik-statistieke. Literatuur stel dit onomwonde dat bendes en dwelmmiddels op onlosmaaklike wyse verbind is. Die aard van hierdie wisselwerking is onduidelik, hoewel die uitwerking daarvan onmiskenbaar is: Veral onskuldige omstanders word dikwels deur die gevolge van bendebedrywighede geraak. Dit is kommerwekkend dat bendes en dwelmmisbruik oënskynlik genormaliseer en in sommige gemeenskappe nie meer as afwykend bestempel word nie. Die wisselwerking tussen bendes en dwelms hou ernstige gevolge in vir gemeenskapsveiligheid, en plaas daarbenewens heelwat druk op die gesondheid-, maatskaplikewelsyn- sowel as verdedigingsektor. Doeltreffende intervensies moet gerig word deur insig in die wisselwerking tussen bendes en dwelms. Die beste bron van betroubare inligting in hierdie verband is natuurlik bendelede self. Tog is daar ‟n gebrek aan navorsing oor bendelede se eie beskouings van die verband tussen bendes en dwelms, en dít het dus as beweegrede vir hierdie studie gedien. Die studie is onder manlike bendelede in ‟n behandelingsentrum vir middelmisbruik onderneem, waar dwelmgebruik genormaliseer word. ‟n Empiriese studie met ‟n kombinasie van ‟n kwalitatiewe en kwantitatiewe benadering is gebruik, en ‟n semigestruktureerde vraelys is onder individuele deelnemers sowel as ‟n fokusgroep afgeneem. Die studie toon dat bendes lede werf deur hul vermoë om in die individu se behoeftes te voorsien. Hierdie behoeftes stem ooreen met die behoeftes wat in motiveringsteorie uitgewys word. Bendes voorsien in sielkundige behoeftes deur toegang tot dwelms te bied; hulle voorsien in veiligheidsbehoeftes deur beskerming te verleen, en hulle voorsien in selfbeeldbehoeftes deur geld en status beskikbaar te stel. In die besonder is bevind dat bendes in individue se behoefte voorsien om iewers tuis te hoort. Daar is ‟n gemeenskaplikheid uitgewys in die risikofaktore vir bendebetrokkenheid en vir middelmisbruik. Die studie lewer bewys van onstabiele huislike omgewings met afwesige vaderfigure en veelvuldige stressors, soos blootstelling aan hoë vlakke van geweld en misbruik. ‟n Gebrek aan familiebande kom voorts aan die lig. Die deelnemers is in hulle families aan verhoogde vlakke van middelmisbruik sowel as verhoogde vlakke van betrokkenheid by dwelmhandel blootgestel. Familiebetrokkenheid by bendebedrywighede blyk ook algemeen te wees onder deelnemers. Die bevindinge van die studie toon dat dwelms en bendebedrywighede ineengevleg is. Dwelmgebruik vind plaas voor sowel as nadat misdaad in bendeverband gepleeg word. Dwelms word gebruik om bendelede moed te gee en hul inhibisies te laat verdwyn. Deelnemers noem dat hulle nie geweld kan pleeg sonder om eers dwelms te gebruik nie. Bendelede gebruik dwelms om hul gewete te sus en hulself ná die voltooiing van ‟n taak te behandel om terugflitse en aanhoudende gedagtes aan die gebeure te kan hanteer. Bendenorme met betrekking tot die goedkeuring van dwelms is ‟n komplekse saak. Die studie toon dat bendes tussen verskillende soorte dwelms onderskei: Alle bendes moedig byvoorbeeld nie heroïengebruik aan nie weens die verwante toleransie en ernstige onttrekkingsimptome. Vir bendes is daar ‟n baie fyn lyn tussen die kondonering en ontmoediging van dwelmmisbruik. Die ondersteuning van dwelmgebruik kan tot voordeel van die bende wees, want dit dien as aansporing en motivering vir bendebedrywighede. Tog hou dwelmafhanklike lede ook ‟n gevaar vir die bende in, aangesien hulle onbetroubaar en ontrou raak wanneer hulle absolute toewyding aan die bende teen hul fisiologiese behoeftes te staan kom. Bendelede beskou egter die bende se verbod op sekere dwelms as ‟n teken van hul besorgdheid oor hulle lede se welstand eerder as selfbelang. Die tydsorde van dwelmgebruik en bendelidmaatskap toon dat dwelmgebruik bendebetrokkenheid voorafgaan. Dwelmgebruik het egter beduidend toegeneem en verhewig ná insluiting by ‟n bende. Aanbevelings beklemtoon die behoefte om die koppeling tussen bendes en dwelms te erken. Insigte wat van bendelede bekom word, is nodig ten einde doeltreffende intervensies te rig. Op die gebied van middelafhanklikheid het die bendelid unieke behandelingsbehoeftes wat verstaan moet word ten einde optimale resultate te behaal. Generiese behandeling sonder die nodige agtergrondinligting is ondoeltreffend, onverantwoordelik en duur vir diensverskaffers, gemeenskappe wat deur bendebedrywighede geraak word, sowel as daardie bendelede wat wél bereid is om te verander.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/20000
This item appears in the following collections: