For the first time, here's a no-holds-barred inside account of life for criminal gang members in cities and towns across Canada.
Mark Totten has slowly gained the confidence of gang members in many Canadian cities and small towns, and he knows enough to get the real goods from these men and women. In this book he tells the life stories -- so far -- of ten gang members drawn from across the country. Murderers, rapists, addicts, drug traffickers, victims of child abuse, abusers themselves -- these are people who many consider the worst of the worst.
But from their life stories, a more nuanced and complex picture emerges. The circumstances and events which lead children and teens into criminal life become clearer.
Jake, a 28-year-old former neo-Nazi skinhead gang member who beat people up "just for the fun of it," then became a drug dealer and a freelance enforcer for organized crime groups
Kim, a Cree woman with two addicted parents who joined her gang at 14, kept off drugs, and ran a group of prostitutes until going to jail -- at just 16
Dillon, a Latino-Canadian, sexually and physically abused as a young boy, a drug dealer and gang leader in high school and later head of a local chapter of a major international gang until he was "honoured" out
No one will think the same way about criminal gang members and the circumstances that lead to a life in crime after reading this compelling and revealing book.
"Anyone who thinks Canada does not have a serious gang-violence problem should take off their rose-coloured glasses and read Mark Totten's chilling book."
— Robert Rotenberg, author of Stranglehold
"Messy, sometimes tender, always brutal, Mark Totten’s stories of ten different gang-bangers all inhabit the feral streets of our inner cities. In clear and unsentimental prose he draws a line from early poverty and abuse towards addiction and violence, a line as straight and undeniable as destiny."
— Stephen Reid, author of A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden
"Hidden under the cloak of anonymity these ten criminals are able to tell their tales of their lost worlds with brutal honesty. A triumph in exploring the depths of the drug addicted and how their unrelenting struggle keeps them in a life of crime. While at times it felt as though I was reading a biographical news article, I applaud Mark Totten for being able to bring these people’s stories to life in their own words."
— Ranj Dhaliwal, author of Daaku: The Gangster's Life
"Mark Totten has done a masterful job humanizing the lives of gangsters."
— Bob Mills, Superintendant, RCMP, Strategic Operations branch, Regina, SK
"Dr. Totten's brave new book, Gang Life, provides an extremely rare and remarkably insightful examination of the violent, troubled, and often shortened lives of individual gang members."
— Peggy Rudin, Executive Director, Prince Albert Youth Outreach Program
"Although there is no shortage of books written by ‘experts’ on gangs, this book offers a visceral accounting about the lives of ten (former) high profile Canadian gang members. Capitalizing on his twenty-five years of related work with gangs and gang members, Totten offers a refreshing yet provocative insight not only about the 'how' of gang life but more importantly the 'why' of gang involvement."
— John Winterdyk, Professor of Justice Studies, Mount Royal University
"An excellent resource for foster parents, social workers, teachers and many other professionals who work with youth at risk."
— Stella Bone, Executive Director, Winnipeg's West Region Child & Family Services
"This is a powerful inside look at lives about which we hear a great deal but seldom take the time to really understand. Totten does a wonderful job of giving them voice, making these individuals seem much more human, and more vulnerable, than we might want to believe."
— Michael Ungar, Network Director, Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts (CCYC) Network
About the Author:
MARK TOTTEN's research focuses on organized crime, corrections, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, mental health, violence, and gender identity. He has worked on eight major studies in this area during the past fifteen years, in research funded by public agencies like the National Crime Prevention Centre and other social agencies. Many of his projects involve partnerships with Aboriginal and ethno-racial communities.
Over the past decade he has collaborated with groups in Ontario and Western Canada in the development and evaluation of multi-year gang prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies. He is past Director of Research at the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa (1987-2007). He is currently Professor of Criminal Justice at Humber College in Toronto.