Do the subcultural theories propose a self-perpetuating subculture, or a reaction to immediate economic and social circumstances? Would this distinction make a difference in terms of social policy?
It is unfortunate, but the subcultural theories of juvenile criminal behavior do possess some undertones of inevitability that automatically dismiss a specific group as "not fixable" and do propose a form of self-perpetuating behavior leading to more criminal activity.
However, it must be considered that the subcultural theory movement began as a reaction to the gang activity in Chicago, which was ignited by a myriad of socio economic factors. In other words, it intended to explain and predict criminal activity in the future by establishing patterns of behavior among criminal juveniles.
This distinction does make a difference in social policy in terms of what services is the government willing to spend money on to prevent juvenile gang members to engage in adult criminal behavior. An over-staffed police force is only going to help fix the problem after it has occured. Instead, why not focus on the rationales behind these groups and create programs that would help shift the gang culture mentality into other forms of activities equally meaningful and fulfilling for them?
However, if the focus of establishing these theories continues to be to try and fix the problems that gangs cause, it will be nearly impossible to correct the situation. It is not a matter of dealing with consequences, but to go to the source of the cause, and take it from there to decide which social policies could be created to nip the problem right where it begins.