Conflict & Justice

Nicaragua's approach to gang violence

These men hanging out on the street corner brings rags to their nose and breath in. then two women, two psychologists join them. They look out of place but still get a warm welcome. This gang member says things are calm now but it didn't used to be that way. This man talks about defending his turf from rival gangs but now says he's friends with that gang. Many experts say this is in part from Nicaragua's focus on prevention and rehabilitation. Other countries have zero tolerance policies, referred to as iron fist. This researcher says Nicaragua's method is more effective than the iron first policy. He says these kids need help because they come from broken families and the solution is not putting them in jail. This psychologist works for a prevention organization and she visits gang members in their homes to get them help. Nicaragua's approach also involves retraining the police to help gang members rather than just arrest them. Police say in one year they found jobs for 100 ex-gang members. This former policeman says the number of gangs has dropped by more than 50 since 2003. still reliable figures on gangs in Nicaragua's are hard to come by and some suggest the police could give incorrect numbers to give better perceptions of their policies. And all the ingredients for gangs remain: drugs, corruption, and poverty. The World Bank and the U.S. government have taken notice and provide some aid for these prevention and rehabilitation programs.

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