Violence, drugs, love and redemption in the LA gang life

Mar 13, 2012

Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me About Violence, Drugs, Love And Redemption by Jorja Leap

Jorja Leap is a gang expert and professor of social welfare at UCLA. She has transformed hours of orals histories and interviews with gang members, interventionists, police officers, parents and victims into an ethnography of gang culture in Los Angeles. The result is Jumped In, her new book that traces three generations of gang members and offers one of the first genealogies if LA’s most powerful gangs families. Leap examines the major black and Latino gangs breaking down their territories street by street, revealing their stories, their traumas and the cyclical reality of being born into a life of violence, drugs and guns.

Author Jorja Leap captures the desperate problems facing many of these gang members ranging from domestic violence to mental illness, drug addiction to PTSD. She especially reveals the lives of female gang members and how homegirls get initiated into gang through gang rape or other forced sexual rites. But the story is not without hope.

Throughout the book Leap tells of her encounters with Father Greg Boyle and his work to intervene in the lives of gang members through Homeboy Industries and his “Jobs, Not Jails” program. Reverend Mike Cummings, a former “original gangster” turned gang interventionist also figures into the narrative. “Big Mike” is the founder of Project Fatherhood, a street peace ministry that focuses on the role of fatherhood for neighborhood kids whose dads are absent because of gang violence and crime.


Jorja Leap, Author of Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me about Violence, Drugs, Love and Redemption (Beacon Press)

Wilfredo Lopez, Former gang member, now works in domestic violence prevention for gang members, restorative justice and he teaches a creative writing class

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