By Charles David Henry
Journalism Guild Writer
Not long ago, they terrorized inner cities across California on a mission of criminal destruction, intimidation, mayhem and death, targeting other gang rivals with malicious intent.
On many occasions, there was more gun play and rapid exchange of gunfire from semi- and automatic weapons than on a shooting range.
“There was a time I felt it was my responsibility to eliminate Crips,” said former Blood gang member Cedrick Walker. But, today he has come full circle. His spirituality is about “getting rid of all of that madness.”
The result of this activity was “senseless and tragic,” said Sean Ruffin. Families were decimated. Fathers and mothers lost sons and daughters to a war on crime over which America’s law enforcement agencies have no control.
“America is quick to invade the homeland of foreign sovereign nations around the world, but somehow it can’t stop the violence in our communities,” said Walker.
“The California justice system is quick to charge and put enhancements on an individual’s criminal activity,” he said. “But it’s systemically slow indicting local police officers for their wrongful behavior. We’ve lost control of the streets in our neighborhoods, and something has to be done about it in a hurry.”
In 2011, a gang member from the Bloods and one from Crips met at San Quentin after having served time at other prisons. They decided it was time to do something about the violence perpetrated in California’s depressed, misunderstood and under-served communities. “In acting upon our intentions, we must protect our communities,” said Cory Willis.
He is chairman of a group called Criminal and Gangs Anonymous. Since 2012 it has emerged into a 12-step program that helps men come to the realization that a criminal mind is a terrible thing to waste. The group’s chief sponsor, Vivian Florendo, radiated with joy when she told the audience “how proud I am to be involved with this program.”
The 12-step program focuses its curriculum on the Cycle of Addition. Here are samples:
1. We reviewed our past, admitting a lack of strength and control over our addictions to all forms of illegal activity and that our lifestyle was neither decent nor manageable.
2. We became willing to believe that change is possible by learning a different way of living through suggestions from those who have trudged the path of recovery before us out of insanity.
3. We made a decision to let go of destructive self-will in exchange for spiritual principles becoming willing to seek God’s care and protection, as we understood God.
Self Examination Step:
4. We searched our past thoroughly, making inventory lists of the good we have done and our wrongs and resentments toward others.
5. We sought forgiveness from God, ourselves and admitted to someone we trusted, the wrongs we have done.
6. We made personal commitment to abandon “our” defects of characters, to practice decent reasonable conduct through daily actions and behavior.
7. We honestly recognized our shortcomings whenever bad habits surfaced, promptly correcting our thinking and actions.
8. We made a thorough list of all those we had harmed, realizing how our negative actions impacted their lives, become willing to make amends to them all.
9. We made direct amends and restitution whenever possible to the persons we injured except when doing so would cause further injury or harm.
10. We continue daily to take a personal inventory of ourselves and, whenever wrong, had the courage to admit it.
11. We sought to improve on spiritual awareness through prayer and meditation with God, asking for guidance to being decent and responsible to ourselves and more caring toward others.
12. We, each experiencing a spiritual awakening by applying these steps, freely share our truth and experiences with others like us and continue living in good orderly direction in all our affairs.
Fifteen “men of the streets” were welcomed into the fraternity of Criminal and Gangs Anonymous in February.