Stories about gangs and gang violence are often fodder for movie and TV scripts. O’Neill Associate Professor Dena Carson says she watched those shows growing up in a small town in southeast Kansas. True crime television is what sparked her interest in criminal justice.
Now, she’s using her research skills to look beyond the portrayals that plague movie plots and news headlines. She wants to learn more about the young people involved in gang life.
“A large portion of my work really focuses on understanding the impact of these individuals on their communities and in schools,” she explains. “Some of my work with interviewing young people who’ve been in school with students involved in gangs generally finds the kids who are in gangs just don’t have that much impact on the day-to-day life of other students.”
She adds that while gang members do behave differently than other students, they also have many similarities.