Civil gang injunctions (CGIs) are court orders that restrict the activities and movement of people who police designate as ‘gang members’. Their intended purpose is to break up gangs and reduce crime. But who is a “gang member”? And what do these orders really do?
As it turns out, these injunctions have become largely tools by which law enforcement surveil and stigmatize targeted people of color. They create separate systems of government observation and control that almost exclusively impact Black and Brown people, making it impossible for people to live normal lives, get help from friends and family and access the things that prevent crime and make communities safer, like school, jobs, and housing.
By giving police and courts immense power to label people as ‘gang members’ without proof, control their every move, and impose harsh punishments for noncriminal behaviors, these laws make it significantly more likely that a person will become entrapped in the criminal legal system unnecessarily. Reducing the harm caused by gang documentation and CGIs must be part of the movement to end mass incarceration and promote practices that actually create safety.
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