South University Blog, a foundation in tradition. Education for modern times.

The South Way

A foundation in tradition.
Education for modern times.

Request info# Request info# Chat Live

South University Blog

Filter By:

  • Location
  • Area Of Study
  • November/2010

Combating Gang Violence Requires Extensive Approach

by Jared Newnam
November 24, 2010

Law enforcement has been working to combat gang violence for decades, but despite their efforts many cities are still facing the danger of gang violence.

Don Josi, professor and chair of Criminal Justice at South University – Savannah, says there has been an explosion of gang violence in recent years. “Every urban city has gang problems,” he says. 

Education into the root causes of gang violence is key to starting efforts in gang prevention and intervention. Josi says people join gangs because they can relate to the other members and form a common bond with them. “For many, it is the first positive reinforcement they have experienced,” he says.

According to Jim Allen, a self-identified member of the Vice Lord Nation gang in Chicago, a gang serves multiple purposes for its members.

Social and economic factors often push young people into seeking gang membership.

“To us, gangs serve as a social, educational, political, and economical group for men and women,” he says.

“The first fraternal order most at-risk children join are gangs,” Allen continues. “A youngster can be gang-affiliated at the age of 10 or 11, but initiation comes at an older age.”

Once a person is initiated into a gang, Allen says, they are typically free to leave the group if they wish to do so.

“Most gangs will allow a person to freely leave, and some require blood,” Allen says. “In other words, ‘blood in, blood out.’ ”

Regardless of whether a person leaves a gang, Allen says members have a bond.

“If you come from the streets and you were ever initiated with a gang, that experience stays with you,” he says.

Many say positive change begins with taking on common stereotypes associated with gangs.

“There is a difference between a gang member and gang-banging,” Allen says. “Gang-bangers are people who are members of a group that commit criminal acts i.e. the bankers and Wall Street CEOs who drove America into a deep recession. Nevertheless, not all gang members are gang-bangers.”

In communities where gang activity has become a way of life, Allen says awareness and dedication are necessary to help end crime and violence. He says it also requires a joint effort between law enforcement, local officials, and current and former gang members.

“In the streets, reason and logic don’t always win,” he says. “It’s very challenging. It takes a skilled person to implement programs of peace in these communities. That person has to be instilled in the game and know the situation.”

Josi agrees that it is helpful for current and former gang members to work with police, adding that current gang members can provide most current information. “If you’re out of the gang for one year, you’re completely out of the loop,” Josi says. “It would be like going to an ex-spouse and asking for keys to the house and combinations to the safe.”

Combating gang activity is a priority for many local police departments that has extended up to the federal government level.  Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration will offer its full support on initiatives focused on preventing gang violence.

Meanwhile, there are a number of programs focused on helping individuals break away from the gang lifestyle.

Gangstyle, a web resource for gang members and former gang members, provides readers with the information and support to help them disassociate with their gangs and create a new lifestyle.

Bor D, site administrator, says that the main purpose of Gangstyle is to provide a place for expression and shared experiences.

“Beyond gang divisions there is that shared experience of pain and loss that is common regardless of the gang you represent,” Bor D says.

Another organization, Houston-based Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) gives incarcerated former gang members a chance to turn their lives around. This nonprofit organization works to connect convicted felons with top business executives, Master of Business Administration (MBA) students, and politicians, who serve as mentors.

David Joekel, PEP executive relations manager, says that the mentors constructively redirect the inmates’ ambitions by equipping them with values-based training in entrepreneurship, which enables them to productively re-enter society.

The PEP provides graduates with job placement and training. They also offer participants services such as transitional housing, transportation assistance, and enrollment in PEP’s post release continuing education program.

Many PEP participants are former gang members.

“We do not recruit inmates who are still involved with their gangs,” Joekel says. “However, former gang members have been some of most successful participants of our program. They already have innate leadership qualities and experience with many aspects of entrepreneurship.”

Davis Nguyen, a former gang member and PEP graduate, is one of the program’s many success stories.

“After roaming the ‘streets’ for more than seven years, and participating in that negative life style the first five years of prison, it finally got old,” Nguyen says. “My life wasn’t turning out the way I wanted, or imagined, so I had to make a change.”

Nguyen learned of PEP after founder, Catherine Rohr, visited the prison where he was incarcerated to recruit future participants. Rohr accepted him into the program and made him one of her Peer Educators.

Since joining the program, Nguyen has been released from prison and is currently a full-time undergraduate finance student at the University of Houston. He also works part-time as a development associate for PEP.

Nguyen credits PEP for helping him to achieve his dream of attending. He says PEP provides him with the resources he needs to achieve his goals, teaches him accountability, and provides support when he starts to waiver.

Nguyen encourages troubled gang members who wish to leave their negative lifestyle in the past to stand strong.

“There are times when your old lifestyle will creep in and tempt you, but you must have courage to withstand it,” Nguyen says. “Also, sometimes you know where you want to go, but don’t know how to get there. Find yourself a mentor or a positive role model to help guide you along the correct path.”

Joekel says that PEP has 620 graduates to date, with a recidivism rate of less than 10%. PEP graduates have obtained a wide range of jobs, from waiting tables, to hedge fund managers.

by Jared Newnam
November 24, 2010
  • Tags:

College and Students with Disabilities

by Jared Newnam
November 16, 2010

Adjusting to college life can be challenging for students with disabilities, but student services departments are designed to make this transition easier.

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, colleges and universities are required to provide qualified students with disabilities with the appropriate accommodations and services.

College staff and faculty are not required to identify students as having a disability or assess their needs. Instead, it is the student’s responsibility to submit documentation of physical or learning disabilities from licensed medical or testing personnel. 

Barbara Beam, associate dean of Student Affairs at South University — Savannah, says every college has their own way of implementing disability services, but they are required to provide special education and assistive technology and services to documented students with disabilities who need them.

“We have to listen to the students and make sure they get the help they need,” she says. “We have verification and documentation forms that students have completed by a doctor or psychologist. Part of that documentation is the doctor's suggested classroom accommodations.” 

Richard Allegra, director of Professional Development at the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), says institutions of higher education need to understand disability civil rights, social justice concepts, and legal compliance as they apply to all aspects of campus life.

“Disabled persons are represented within the diversity of the general student body,” he says. “Thus, colleges need to ensure that their programs, services and facilities are accessible to all students” as well as employees, family members, and visitors. 

Disabled students entering college right after high school need to understand the differences between K-12 education and college. Most have come from primary and secondary school situations where parents, counselors, and teachers have managed their school accommodations for them, so they may automatically think college faculty and staff will know what they need. 

However, when students enter college, they are considered adults whose privacy must be respected and are responsible for making their own decisions.

“I think it is important for students with disabilities to understand there are differences between high school and college and how those services are delivered,” says Alisa Krouse, assistant chancellor for Student Affairs at South University. “They also need to know what their rights are and their responsibilities as a student with a disability. In a higher education setting, it is about them being proactive and taking an equal role in self advocacy.”

Institutions are obligated to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to address accessibility barriers in the environment. There are a wide range of these. Some examples of auxiliary aids and services (not appropriate for all students with disabilities) include: wheelchair access, interpreters, electronic readers, adaptable classroom furniture, reduced course loads, or extra time on exams.

Accommodations are determined and arranged in an interactive process that analyzes each situation, identifies barriers and determines appropriate methods to address the barriers, Allegra says.

College staff and faculty are advised to stay up to date on disability rights and laws.

“Currently, institutions need to be aware of the changes to the ADA, and prepare new policies concerning things like service animals, access for mobility devices, and effective communication,” Allegra says. “New guidelines for accessible facilities are out; institutional planners and managers need to be aware of them and have a plan for implementing them by next year.” 

Krouse says South University staff members receive regular training to stay current and compliant. “We actually have a disability services chairperson who will coordinate quarterly web-based training, and all disability services coordinators have access to a manual that outlines processes and procedures, laws, and has different template forms — intake process, quarterly letters, and more.”

Students with physical or learning disabilities have greater access to higher education today. The support they receive from fellow students, faculty, admissions staff, and coordinators of academic and disability support programs can help them meet their educational goals. 

“We want to help all students be as successful as possible,” Beam says. “Our primary job is to help students meet their education goals and move on to the next stages of life.”

by Jared Newnam
November 16, 2010
  • Tags:

Legal E-Discovery Creates Opportunities, Challenges

by Jared Newnam
November 10, 2010

It has been four years since electronically stored information was added to the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) as a category of discoverable material, and experts say electronic discovery, or e-discovery, has become more and more common in legal proceedings.

“E-discovery is one of the fastest growing segments of the legal industry today,” asserts Sally Kane, an attorney, editor, and writer for Guide to Legal Careers.

Discovery is a process governed by the FRCP requiring the parties involved in a lawsuit to exchange certain information about the case before the trial begins. This allows both sides and the court to know in advance who will be testifying and what their testimony will describe.

“Discovery eliminates surprises at trial,” says John Shupper, chair and director of the Legal Studies department at South University — Columbia.

In 2006, amendments to the FRCP made electronically stored information such as emails, instant messages, voicemails, e-calendars, graphics, and data on handheld devices discoverable in litigation. Shupper says that when discovery requests are submitted today, parties expect to receive all relevant information, even if it was never printed on paper.

“Email and voicemail messages plus all printed note slips or logs containing a record of telephone calls or messages would be sought,” Shupper says. “Additionally, discovery requests can include access to a party’s computer server or hard drive to obtain relevant electronically stored data that is discoverable under the rules of court.”  

Electronically stored information can be delivered to the requesting party in a variety of ways.

“The manner in which a party provides discoverable data can vary according to the amount of data that must be provided,” Shupper says. “Fairly small amounts may be sent as a PDF attachment to an email response or it may be downloaded to CDs or other portable storage devices, and by agreement, delivered by hand or by mail.”

In addition to becoming a common way to extract evidence in the past few years, Kane says e-discovery is also creating many new jobs in the legal industry. A wide range of people can be involved in e-discovery, including lawyers, forensic investigators, information technology (IT) managers, litigation support professionals and those who work in legal support functions.

“Because litigants are now compelled to produce electronic data in addition to traditional paper documents, evidence in litigation may consist of millions of documents,” Kane says. “The cost of organizing this data so it was readily available from computerized data sources exceeded the legal fees in many cases. Seeking less expensive and more efficient ways to process large volumes of data, legal teams developed a multitude of litigation support functions to collect, organize, analyze, produce, and present evidence.”

The e-discovery process can be expensive, time-consuming, and complicated.

“It places additional burdens on the litigants to locate, collect, analyze and produce electronic information,” Kane says. “However, since litigants are casting a wider net for information, it is possible the law enforcement and other parties may ‘find the truth’ in the sense that they may obtain a clearer, more comprehensive picture of the facts and evidence.”One newer form of electronic evidence that is becoming more and more useful to law enforcement is information posted on social media sites.

Eric Meyer, an attorney at Dilworth Paxson LLP, says online searches can yield a lot of incriminating information about litigants.

“One of the first things I do when I’m defending an employer and I get a copy of a complaint is to look at the caption,” Meyer says. “Then, I go online and I dig up whatever I can about the plaintiff-employee. It may be good ammunition later on.”

If an employee has Facebook privacy settings in place, can they still get in trouble for posting things? Even if a person has privacy settings in place for their social media accounts, Meyer says the information can still be used against them.

“Once the case gets going and we get into discovery, I’ll serve discovery requests on the other side asking for information that the plaintiff-employee may have published on Facebook or online,” Meyer says. 

Meyer says the scope of what can be requested concerning what a litigant has published online is very broad.

Confessing something to a friend online is essentially the same thing as confessing to them in person, Meyer says.

Kane uses a worker’s compensation case as an example of how information posted on a social media site can be used against a person.

“Suppose an injured worker files a worker’s compensation claim alleging that he is unable to work due to a back injury,” Kane says. “If he posts on his Facebook site that he painted his house or lifted heavy equipment, that information could be used as evidence against him in his worker’s compensation case.”

Meyers advises people to use common sense when it comes to social media.“Don’t be stupid online,” Meyer says. “Teachers shouldn’t friend students or parents on Facebook.  Be smart. Think about what you’re saying before you hit send.” 

Shupper also advises people to keep social media posts clean, because the inappropriate comments or photos could come back to haunt them years later.

“People, particularly students who plan to enter the work force, need to realize that what they post on social media sites is public and permanent. Employers can be expected to check out these sites, particularly for people being considered for sensitive positions in government and industry.” 

by Jared Newnam
November 10, 2010
  • Tags: