Paul’s Plan for Youth Violence Reduction
The severity and scale of violence in Chicago, particularly amongst young residents, has resulted in an expansion of community-based and intergovernmental violence prevention infrastructure across the city. However, the lack of clear leadership and coordination amongst groups with this shared vision has caused it to become cloudy and competitive.
In order to make our city safer for our young people we must be predictive, proactive, and expansive in our vision and objectives. Principally, schools are a critical part of the solution. Schools equally need to work hand-in-hand with the rest of the community. At the center of that approach is a strategy that actively seeks and incorporates youth input – input that has long been absent across the expanse of governance. Accomplishing this vision mandates that those making the decisions are driven by the actual needs and concerns of those most impacted, our youth.
We know that we can accomplish this vision because:
It's chronological, iterative and progressive. Reinforcing the need for wrap-around, holistic services at each level.
The infrastructure already exists. It becomes a question of coordination and scale.
I have lived this. I have seen this. I know how we have failed and how we can succeed.
Here is what we can do from the education system. We need to ditch the operational silos, re-acculturating them to the larger vision by which their program is a part of the education system. The chain is no stronger than its weakest link. Each one of them is required for the full chain to be strong. There are stages of development which present children to inherent risks that can destabilize their trajectory within the broader education system. The goal is to develop a comprehensive, coordinated plan to mediate potential risk factors using our schools in conjunction with the community-at-large. The schools need to be the foundation by which we support and sustain interventions and efforts to mitigate the pathologies of social inequity and disinvestment - manifested no more so than in the prevalence of violence amongst and against youth.
Our education system by nature is chronological, so it makes sense that our approach should adapt to it.
Data-driven identification of highest risk youth, consultation and guidance of multi-disciplinary team, development of individualized wrap-around services to child and family, support for Social and Emotional Learning resources in schools
Social service-led diversion of youth who engage in low-level criminal activity, evaluation of individual and family, wrap-around services that includes school teachers, counselors and support personnel, expand partnerships with community providers within local neighborhood
Support school-age children lost from and to the system, develop several pathways for future success, rallying alternative school networks to develop trade-type educational tracts, coordinate with adult and occupational training centers
Through High School
Career development and mentorship, restoration to scale of curricular work study programming, partnership with community advocates
How is it that all of this can be done?
Push the money down to where the program meets the community – the classroom and the teachers and principals who best know the students, the families and the community.
Moreover, we need to address a significant portion of the population that has already come in contact with the criminal justice system. If engagement in crime can no longer be diverted, we must begin to interrupt it. Violence interruption begins and ends with interdisciplinary engagement - police, community organizations, faith leaders, healthcare practitioners. Synergy amongst these groups is established by and maintained via the mayor.
Community organizations and leaders can identify and know where the risk is:
Supported and informed by collaboration with CPD
Trusted within the community and, therefore, have the capacity to interrupt violent engagement
Once the risk is identified, community organizations, faith leaders and healthcare practitioners can coordinately begin to steer those involved away from crime and violence.
Builds upon the trust establish by and within the communities itself
Informed by the needs, draws upon the strengths of the interdisciplinary team
Supported by programming and engagement with the community at large
Espouses a trauma-informed and asset-based approach to care and intervention
Reopen Office for Returning Citizens to lead collaborative effort with community
Integrate with skills and career development training
Sustain with long-term mentorship programming
In all of these pieces, the mayor plays a critical role in integrating and coordinating violence reduction as well as prevention infrastructure that has long been disconnected. Leadership in this endeavor means taking ownership and having the willingness to acknowledge that sometimes failure is a precondition for our greater success. Synergy is our greatest asset to ensure the success and sustainability of our efforts to reduce violent crime both committed by and against our youth.