Into The Abyss:
A Personal Journey into the World of Street Gangs

by Mike Carlie, Ph.D.        
Michael K. Carlie
Continually updated.

~ Table of Contents ~
Home | Foreword | Preface | Orientation

What I Learned | Conclusions
End Note |
| Appendix
Site Map / Contents
| New Research

Up-To-Date Gang-Related News

About the Title

Abyss: "The bottomless pit; hell."*

Three decades of conducting research on and teaching about the causes of crime and delinquency hadn't prepared me for what I saw on the streets of America over the past ten years. And it's not only happening here, it's happening in other countries I visited.

While it may be true that gangs provide some of their members with a sense of belonging, money, power, respect (more often a by-product of fear), sex, drugs, and other things, it is also true that gangs are a losing proposition.

Over the past ten years I've heard police, social workers, and gang researchers say that the average life expectancy of a gang member in Los Angeles is only 20 years. That is, by the time a gang member reaches the age of 20, he or she is either permanently injured, hospitalized, imprisoned, or dead.   

While that statistic is difficult to verify, it is not difficult to verify the fact that gang youth are often hurt by their association with a gang. They are hurt by rival gang members and by their own gang members (i.e., in initiation ceremonies, when one gang member disrespects another, upon failure to complete a deal inside the gang, fights over leadership). 

They are victimized by police, by jail and prison inmates, and by society-at-large should they try to get their lives back together again in hopes of making an honest living. The likelihood of an ex-gang member being gainfully employed is small given their prior and often extensive record of arrests and convictions, lack of preparedness for employment, and general lack of knowledge and work skills.

As a result of the contacts I made during ten years of observation in the field, I became convinced that most of the young men and women who join a gang are falling into a bottomless pit ... a hell on earth where one must always be on guard about what's going on behind one's back.

It is a world in which a gun or knife must be worn, if not to protect oneself, then as a symbol of one's wo/manliness or toughness and willingness to take a life. It is a world in which babies are abandoned or raised in an environment of violence and drugs - developing a cycle of abuse and self-destruction that is becoming ever more difficult to break.

Most closely correlated with the gang scene, in my mind, are desperation and a loss of hope, neighborhood deterioration, racial and ethnic hatred, discrimination, poverty, violence in and outside the home, substance abuse, and school failure. If that isn't a bottomless pit, I don't know what is.

*Source: Funk and Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary: Funk and Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary, by Funk and Wagnalls, page 7, 1963), Harcourt, Brace and World, NY.


2002 Michael K. Carlie
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the author and copyright holder - Michael K. Carlie.