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NMSU criminal justice professor shares perspective of Southwest gangs in new book

A former gang member who is now a criminal justice professor at New Mexico State University has published his first book about Latino youth and survival in the Southwest. "Gang Life in Two Cities: An Insider's Journey," tackles the policies that impact marginalized youth and racial and ethnic minorities in the Southwest. It will be available in January 2013.

Image of book cover
Robert Duran's first book, "Gang Life in Two Cities: An Insider's Journey," will be available in January 2013. (Submitted image)
Headshot of Duran
New Mexico State University criminal justice professor Robert Duran's first book, "Gang Life in Two Cities: An Insider's Journey," will be available in January 2013. (Submitted photo)

"My book emphasizes the voices and experiences of people who are deemed unworthy and criminalized in society," said Robert Duran, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. "When the law or no one will provide physical protection, families and friends learn to protect themselves."

The book covers the perspectives of members joining and creating gangs in response to the oppression they experienced from the 1940s to the present. It also illustrates how young people can become agents for creating change, contributing toward empowering the community and improving lives.

"My own life is intertwined with those who provided their experiences," Duran said. "When I was younger, I was involved in a gang and thought my future was prison. College, family and work provided me a better alternative. I then started working in the criminal justice system to help young people pursue better alternatives."

Duran, who spent more than 20 years in direct contact with gangs, said that it was a need to share this perspective that inspired him to write the book.

"This research project became my defining contribution, because it has allowed me to share the stories of individuals and communities that have otherwise been ignored," Duran said. "As their lives carry forward, so does this book, and the small contribution I can offer society."

Duran is a criminal justice professor whose research concerns modern-day racism and community resistance, from gang evolution and border surveillance to disproportionate minority contact and law enforcement shootings. As a sociologist, he studies race and ethnic relations, crime and social control.

He is the recipient of the NMSU 2010 Hispanic Faculty and Staff Caucus Junior Faculty of the Year Award, and the 2011 New Scholar Award from the Division on People of Color and Crime of the American Society of Criminology.

Using his latest research involving gangs along the southern New Mexico and Texas border, Duran plans to write a second book about criminalized social groups and community efforts to provide solutions.

"Gang Life in Two Cities: An Insider's Journey" can be purchased from Columbia University Press at http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-15866-4/gang-life-in-two-cities or at Amazon.com.