Hand in Hand Productions

Gang Research Project History

The intial phase of the gang oral history project, we evaluated the gang culture by collecting 103 oral histories of past and present gang members and some family members from urban, suburban and out-state areas. Qualitative analysis of the oral histories was conducted, and a report written. The second phase was sharing the data and analysis through conferences, seminars, a university course, consultations, published materials, and media presentations, to educate various audiences.

HAND in HAND Productions was incorporated as a Minnesota nonprofit in May 1996, by Kate Cavett and John Harrington to address the epidemic problem of girls’ and boys’ lives being lost in the street gang culture. Their collaboration is unique in that they bring law enforcement and human service professionals together to address the street gang issues in the Midwest. The primary collaborators brought distinctly different characteristics to enhance the project. John Harrington is a Chief with the Saint Paul Police, previously a commander of the Juvenile unit. He has been involved in gang observation and training since the 1980's. Kate Cavett is a family and adolescent addiction counselor who worked with young gangsters and is an Oral Historian.

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Kate Cavett       John Harrington

In 1995 Cavett began to work within an adolescent male correctional facility. She found herself continually frustrated by the lack of comprehensive knowledge available to effectively work with young gang members.

She was unable to find proven methods to challenge gang involvement. If a youth expressed any interest in leaving a gang,there wasn't any effective programming to help them change that lifestyle. Leaving the excitement and bonding of a gang is not like finishing your formal academic education and moving into the job world. Leaving a gang often means leaving an income of $150 an hour as a drug dealer; only to be qualified for a job at McDonalds that pays $4.25 an hour. Cavett saw other professionals suggesting young men resign from the gang as one would resign from a corporate position, not appearing to understand the commanding hold the gang culture had on all aspects of the youth’s life, nor did they appear to understand that a letter of resignation might get the youth killed when he returns to the streets. Cavett could not find any long-term support for these youth. While in the process of looking for answers to understand the gang subculture she began recording young gangstes' stories and transcribe them.

When Cavett showed these transcribed life stories to Harrington, he became excited about the depth of the information included in each interview. He found the personal responses Cavett evoked were very different from what many professionals in law enforcement ever expect to get. As Harrington had searched for published material on the new forms of gangs, which are in the Midwest, he was consistently disappointed. Most of the information was highly academic, based on outmoded model of gangs as only hierarchical, male-dominated, criminal enterprises, and the information did not provide any insights as to the nature of the new Midwest gangs, hybrid gangs. The information did not give much assistance to the criminal justice or human service professionals, nor would it be useful for parents and community members. At this point, Cavett and Harrington began a two-part project that would include evaluation, analysis and education.

In May 1996, HAND in HAND entered into collaboration with the Ramsey County Youth Gang Task Force and Metropolitan State University for a Kellogg Community Partnership Grant. In 1997 HAND in HAND was given a $50,000 grant from the Minnesota Legislature to do a research portion of this project as part of the Omnibus Crime Bill. Honeywell, General Mills, Otto Bremer and Minneapolis Foundations supported the research and education projects by each contributing $10,000. The complete project cost was $150,000.

The final research report was submitted to the Minnesota Legislature in 1999. HAND in HAND has presented educational seminars to 150 conferences, university classes, and community meetings around Minnesota and the United States. In 2000-2001 HAND in HAND provided a female intervention after school program where it intensely served a small group of young women supporting them in leaving the gang-affiliated lifestyle. In 2001, Professors Barb Carson and Kim Greer of Minnesota State University - Mankato completed the program evaluation report of this programming model.

From this research project Chief Harrington developed and continues to teach a class on gangs for Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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