Desistence, or leaving the gang, requires steadfastness of purpose. To understand why a person chooses to leave a gang, we need to look at why that person joined a gang in the first place. Some are “pushed” by external factors such as poverty, family problems, failure in school, etc. Others may be “pulled” by the lure of “protection” by the gang, comradeship, financial support etc.
Many studies report a high turnover of gang membership and that most of them stay in a gang for one year or less. However, the longer one stays, the more difficult it becomes to leave. Desistence studies also noted pull and push factors. As the gang member matures and takes on familial responsibilities, he may see the folly of his ways. Coupled with push factors such as police intervention and internal strife within the gang, a gang member may eventually leave to live a normal life.

In Whye Kee’s case, the death of his father served as the turning point. His experience is leaving the gang was relatively atraumatic and he was able to just stay away from the gang. However, for the desistance to be sustained, other factors must also come into play. For Whye Kee, he found his passion while still serving his sentence and was able to direct all his energy into something constructive.