Former gang member applauds anti-gang law

By WEEK Producer

June 12, 2012 Updated Jun 12, 2012 at 10:45 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- One former gang member applauds the anti-gang law Governor Quinn signed Monday but he says curbing violence will require an individual and wider approach.

Escalating violence and crime taking place in Chicago used to be the norm for 62 year-old Ralph White who grew up in the Windy City.

"Going to the penitentiary with the drugs all that began back in Chicago so in 1979 I said I was sick and tired of the way I was strung out on drugs," said White.

White enrolled in a drug rehab program in Peoria but it would take several more trips to prison before he realized that was not where he wanted to be. He says despite the notion from some that he was irredeemable, his pastor believed differently.

"I had my pastor that was willing to deal with me in spite of the condition I was in before I was drug free, before I was crime free."

He applauds Governor Pat Quinn's new anti-gang law but says it will require a broader approach even though gangs are linked to drug activity. Peoria Police Captain Mike Scally agrees. He says with Peoria's close proximity to Chicago and St. Louis there could be local gang ties.

"Where we fit into the organization, do we have anybody here that's at the top of one of these organizations maybe so, maybe not. That's what this is gonna help to do identify an individual that is included in that," said Captain Scally.

White says education and vocational programs must be restored back into prison budgets but adds, for him, the turnaround was a faith encounter.

"If it hadn't been for Jesus where would I be."

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