RECIDIVIST FEEDBACK LOOP: AN EXAMINATION OF HOW BROKEN PRISON POLICIES IN EL SALVADOR AND HONDURAS INVIGORATE YOUTH GANGS Open Access
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Academic research is abundant on topics of criminality and security in Central America, as these are key issues of concern in the fields of public policy and international affairs. Studies on rising crime, transnational criminal organizations, drug trafficking, and gangs are prevalent. Studies on the prison systems in the region, however, are quite limited. This paper will offer an analysis on the effects of prison management and prison policy in the countries of El Salvador and Honduras on the growing problems associated with gangs or maras. The first section offers an analysis on the overall security situation in each country, with a detailed look at violence and crime rates. The next section discusses the background on gangs in the region, including the roots of the problem, the demographics of the major gangs, government responses and their effects, and current policy implications. The third section looks at the history of the prison system in the two countries, including past policies and current trends in prison management. The fourth section offers a global perspective on model prisons, elements required for successful prison management, and research into successful reentry of former gang members coming out of prisons. The fifth section brings together the two previous sections, by analyzing the prison policies of the two countries and where they are succeeding and failing in their prison management as it relates to gangs. The final section offers policy recommendations for the governments of El Salvador and Honduras in the areas of prison management, foreign assistance, and social needs.