Saturday, January 4, 2014

Change A Life

I read the best article in the December issue of Essence about what New Orleans is doing to curb gun violence and save the lives of young black men and boys. It was written by Jeannine Amber and details how New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Amazing quotes from the Mayor in that piece include:

Landrieu, a staunch advocate for criminal justice reform, swept into the office in 2010, becoming the first White mayor of New Orleans since his father left the post in 1978. "This is something no one wants to talk about," Landrieu says of the 175 homicides New Orleans recorded the year he took office. "But as Mike Nutter, the mayor of Philadelphia, said, if 200 White boys were getting killed, the world would stop. Thank can only mean one thing: We don't value the lives of African-American men, and that's wrong. This is a moral issue and may be the civil rights issue of our time. I will consider myself a failure if I don't figure this out."

The program they have is "Call-In" and it includes men who are at-risk for violence and brings in everyone. The mayor, ATF, mothers of slain boys/men, and finally resources they need to get them on the right track. The first part details the exact order of the law that will come down if they don't straighten up and fly right. They show them surveillance the police already have of them. They show them dead bodies and gunshots wounds. The list goes on.

The second part links them to a case worker who will help them with everything from education to job training to job placement. But not just with a paper-pushing, clock-punching employee. With the love and care of people who really care. The article says:

"Behind the might and force of the Mayor's big guns there is this: a woman who takes a wayward young man and treats him like a son. It is these gestures of care that experts say may hold the most transformative power of all."

Then, the part of the article that struck me the most was that it works:

"In the year since New Orleans' GVRS went into effect, there has been a 25 percent decrease in murders compared with the same period the year before."

Chicago must implement this program or one like it. I don't live in Illinois, so I can't reach out to any legislators about it, but I urge voting citizens to reach out to the Mayor, Rahm Emanuel and suggest this program. It is the conglomeration of a bunch of things (science of those at risk, the different state and local agencies willing to participate, the compassion of the people who will follow up with the at-risk men and boys) that makes it work. It can't be JUST increasing the police force. Or JUST increasing the school day. Chicago needs to attack this from all angles and I think this proven solution may be the answer.

This is the first time, in a long time, that I've been hopeful about actually curbing violence in Chicago. Will you ask Mayor Emanuel about the Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS)?

Be sure to pick up the December issue of Essence and read the entire article too as my recap of it doesn't do justice to all the real life solutions put forward.

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