A POLICY ANAYSIS OF THE PENAL CODE
SECTION 186.20-186.33: CALIFORNIA STREET
TERRORISM ENFORCEMENT AND
PREVENTION ACT
Mariya Libman
California State University, Long Beach
May 2012
Introduction
Policy’s Objectives
• Created a substantive
crime for active
participation in any
criminal street gang
• Imposed greater
punishment for crimes
committed “for the
benefit” of a criminal
gang
• Registration with the
local law enforcement
officer
The underling goal of
the policy was to
eliminate gangrelated crimes by
increasing the
punishment for
recidivism.
Social Work Resonance of the Policy
The issue of gang enhancement has multicultural implications,
it is a problem that affects the general population. The California
Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (CSTEP) of 1988, was
designed to keep the community safe and free of organized crime.
Social workers are trained to be culturally competent within their
work. Social workers will provide gang members and their families the
appropriate services to meet the unique needs of the gang affiliated
population.
According to the NASW (2011) code of ethics Social workers
work within school settings. With the collaboration of teachers,
principals, and parents social workers facilitate and assist the personal
and families to ensure that the appropriate support services are
provided to students who are at-risk for gang affiliation.
Literature
The Legislation believed that California was in a state of crisis due to
organized criminal gangs and, therefore, passed the policy, California Street
Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (CSTEP) of 1988. Before enacting
the policy, the policymakers did a study from which they concluded that
members of gangs threaten, terrorize, and commit crimes against peaceful
citizens. Another study found that there were almost 600 street gangs that
was currently active in California, as well as the number of gang-related
murders had been increasing (CSTEP, 1988, § 186.20). Further, the same
study found that in Los Angeles County there were 328 gang-related murders
in 1986 (CSTEP, 1988, § 186.20).
Methods: The Policy Frame Work
The purpose of this study was to analyze the positive and
negative results of the enactment of California Penal Code 186.20. The
analytic structure of this study was derived from David Gil’s (1992)
social policy analysis framework. This study was a qualitative analysis
of secondary sources that thoroughly explored this policy and its
intended and actual impact on the issue of gang enhancement laws.
Gil is a respected author and professor in the field of social
work who created the framework for policy analysis used in this study.
This framework is designed to explore issues related to the creation of
a policy, as well as its effects. Gil stated that a policy analysis, “ . . . is
to discern the chain of substantive effects resulting, or expected to
result, from the implantation of a given social policy, including
intended, and unintended, long and short term effects” (Gil, 1992, pp.
74-75).
Methods:
Sources used to address issues identified in the
framework
The purpose of this study was to analyze the positive and
negative results of the enactment of California Penal Code
186.20. This study was a qualitative analysis of secondary
sources such as government documents, CSULB library,
government documents, and peer reviewed journals that
thoroughly explored this policy and its intended and actual
impact on the issue of gang enhancement laws.
Grant Proposal
The overt objectives of CSTEP are clearly
stated as the suppression of criminal activity caused
by street gangs. The Legislation focused on
eliminating the pattern of criminal gang activity to
freeze out street violence. The legislature
concluded that increasing the punishment for such
acts will help suppress similar future actions
(California 186.20, 2011). The objectives were
designed based on the information that was
gathered by the legislature.
Grant Proposal
The covert objective of this bill was the vague word
choice which allowed every court room to run independently.
The pattern of organized crime has not been uncovered with this
policy. Neither did the legislation understand the nature of street
gangs, which cause terror to citizens living amongst gangs. Policy
makers did not find an effective ways to punish and prevent
future criminal terror perpetrated by street gangs.
Summary of the Strengths and
Challenges of the Policy
The strengths of CSTEP is the legislature’s acknowledgement of the problem and
desire to solve it. The policy is an important step to help communities gain back control,
which is currently in the hands of organized criminal gangs.
CSTEP is neither a perfect neither a complete solution to the problem of
organized crime. The policy needs to modify its focus on establishing preventive and after
care programs within the community as well as improving the quality and quantity of
therapeutic work which is provided to those incarcerated.
Social workers need to cater to both former and active gang members,
incarcerated individuals, gang member families, and the community by providing these
people with necessary information regarding services and resources. Practitioners should
respect the individuality of their clients and allow them to make their own decisions
(Yoshino,2008). A social worker needs to uphold the value of respecting the worth and
dignity of each individual who is affected by the gang culture.
Often individuals confuse cultural pride with gang pride. Through learning and
cultural programs in schools, community centers, local parks, and recreational centers
individuals can gain knowledge about their community, their culture, and history.
References
California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (CSTEP) of 1988, Cal. Pen. Code §§ 186.20186.33 (1988).
Gil, D. (1992). Unraveling social policy: Theory, analysis and political action towards social equality.
Rochester, VA: Shenkman Books.
National Association of Social Workers (NASW). (2011). Code of ethics. Retrieved from
http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp
Yoshino, E. (2008). California’s criminal gang enhancements: Lesions from interviews with practitioners.
Retrieved from http://lawweb.usc.edu/why/students/orgs/rlsj
/assets/docs/issue_18/Yoshino_(MACRO2).pdf
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