To Fight Mass Incarceration, We Need to Decriminalize Trauma

To Fight Mass Incarceration, We Need to Decriminalize Trauma

To Fight Mass Incarceration, We Need to Decriminalize Trauma

At Homeboy Industries, career, education, and mental-health services are creating a way out of poverty and violence.


To create lives of possibilities, we need to decriminalize trauma.

The unique trauma of growing up a gang member in one of Los Angeles’s gangs has a cure: Homeboy Industries. Brave New Films’ latest short documentary, Healing Trauma: Beyond Gangs and Prisons dives into the transformational stories of former gang members who have found hope through Homeboy Industries’ career, education, and mental-health services.

“No kid is seeking anything when they join a gang,” says Father Gregory Boyle, founder and director of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang-intervention and -reintegration organization in the country. “Every kid is fleeing from something when they join a gang.”

For the homeboys and homegirls featured in Healing Trauma, abusive childhoods inevitably led to an anger that resulted in their criminal lifestyle that landed them in prison. Upon their release, these former gang members found their redemption with Homeboy Industries, Father Greg Boyle, and the many reintegrating programs offered through the Los Angeles–based organization.

Mass incarceration is a broken system the US government keeps funneling taxpayers’ money into—and it’s not making us any safer. Without sentencing justice, people—primarily poor people and people of color—will continue to be locked up and released in a vicious cycle that fails to address the root causes of systemic issues such as trauma, poverty, and racism.

Sentencing justice means addressing the underlying systems that have created mass incarceration. Healing Trauma: Beyond Gangs and Prisons is the third film in the Brave New Films Sentencing Reform series. The series features locally-led organizations that are working to end generational trauma through education, community-based services, employment, and therapy. The need for sentencing justice highlights every personal story in the series; it’s a vital need so that the cycle of recidivism can finally stop.

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