Sunday, November 13, 2011

Our Continuing Efforts to Prevent Youth Violence

Our Continuing Efforts to Prevent Youth Violence
November 8th, 2011 Posted by Tracy Russo
The following post appears courtesy of  Attorney General Eric Holder.
Throughout my career, I have seen the devastating effects of youth violence far too often.  As a prosecutor and a judge; as a U.S. Attorney, as Deputy Attorney General – and, above all, as the father of three teenage children – I’ve been determined to make the progress that our nation’s young people deserve.

In September of 2009, this country was shocked by a video depicting the brutal beating and murder of a 16-year-old Chicago honor student.  That savage attack was seared into our collective memory, and it left an indelible mark on the community where it took place.  But, tragically, it is just one horrifying example of the violence that many young people face every day, in cities and towns across this country.

In response to this crisis, last year, President Obama directed the Departments of Justice and Education to partner with other federal agencies – and with representatives from six cities – to launch the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, a network of committed stakeholders dedicated to stopping the brutality and bloodshed that devastates too many of the youngest members of our society.  The six cities participating in the Forum — Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Salinas, Calif. and San Jose, Calif. — have made great strides toward developing and implementing comprehensive crime prevention strategies tailored to eradicating the violence that has ravaged their communities and stolen so many promising futures.

Last week, teams from these cities — comprised of law enforcement officers, policy and public-health experts, educators, researchers, city officials, social services providers, community and faith leaders, and concerned parents — gathered in Washington, D.C., to share their progress in using cost-effective and evidence-based strategies to prevent youth violence and help formerly incarcerated youth become productive citizens.

Also last week, at a hearing before the House of Representatives’ Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security,  Congressmen Bobby Scott, John Conyers, and Steve Cohen congratulated Laurie O. Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, and this Administration for our efforts on the Forum and urged us to keep up the important work.

It’s clear that these efforts are already beginning to take hold.  For example, the City of Memphis launched a Crime Prevention Unit this year that includes 90 officers focused on reaching youth before they come in contact with the criminal justice system.   Meanwhile, officials in Chicago have established a Youth Shooting Review panel — a pilot project that reviews fatal and non-fatal shootings, drawing on both public health and criminal justice perspectives, to gain a more substantive understanding of their causes and context.  The panel will identify patterns, gaps in key services, and effective strategies to prevent shootings among school-age youth. 

Forum participants have also taken steps to better understand, and more thoroughly address, the joblessness, illiteracy, violence, and other challenges that formerly incarcerated young people often face when they return to their communities.  To improve the outcomes for these youth and help them become contributing community members, San Jose, Calif. has become part of a county-wide Reentry Network.  The Network provides assessment and programming to youth who are both in custody and in the community, along with resources to help them transition to a more stable, self-sufficient and successful lifestyle.

In each of these six cities, the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention has brought local experts together with federal officials and other key stakeholders, in order to share best practices; to develop strategies for reducing brutality among, and directed toward, young people; and to address and overcome common challenges.
I’m proud to say that the work we are leading is sending an unmistakable message that, in this country, we will not give up on our children.  And it’s ensuring that the priorities we set now will allow America’s next generation of leaders to break destructive cycles and seize tomorrow’s opportunities.

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