Illinois is getting tough on gangs. (Insert laugh tracks here). It is now a felony, for which you could owe the state up to 15 years of your life, to use the internet or a cell phone to recruit minors into street gangs. And we know it’ll work — the gangs will follow that law as well as they follow laws against murder and drug dealing.
One big flaw in the plan is that “street gang” is a big tar babi when it comes to substantive due process. Just about every state that passed similar anti-gang laws had to roll them back or modify them because the concept of a “gang” in communities that have them is fluid. It’s not as if the Gangsta Disciples or MS-13 have a national headquarters and print membership cards. It’s more vauge than that. It’s like defining pornography and defining religious right — You know that S&M Magazine and James Dobson are porn and r/r, respectively, and you know that Journal of Accountancy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are not porn and r/r, respectively. But there is a huge gray are where a lot of people and things could be considered so, or not so, or partly so and partly not so. That’s the way it is with street gangs. There are the real hard core bangers, then there are just innocent people that live in the neighborhood. But there are a lot of folks in the middle, loosely associated with the gang, but not close enough to where they commit drive-bys and sling crack.
If there is any reason why this law was passed, it’s because gangs have been outsourcing their dirty works to minors (i.e. under 18), ever since the wonderful Supreme Court said no death penalty for those under 18, because, as you know, 17-year olds can’t possibly have the mental maturity to premeditate murder, even though they can be trusted to have sex, murder their unborn babies and join the military.