Memorial to the Lost

Memorial to the Lost
at Chester Eastside Ministries

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men (by John A. Rich) (from NPR)

In the 1990s, Dr. John Rich worked at Boston City Hospital. It was a violent time in the city's history, and Rich started noticing a steady stream of young black men who turned up at the emergency room. He also started wondering why, exactly, all these young men were ending up in the hospital.
Most of them were believed to be thugs or drug dealers, Rich says. Even among doctors and nurses, the assumption was that these young black men weren't true victims; that they had done something to get themselves shot.
So Rich began taking the time to interview the knife and gunshot victims who came to the hospital. He learned that many of them weren't, in fact, responsible for their own injuries — some had been robbed, others had talked to the wrong girl at a party or been caught in the line of fire while walking home.
Rich eventually compiled the men's stories in his book, Wrong Place, Wrong Time. Among those he interviewed was Boston native Roy Martin. The two met through a mentoring program when Martin was in a prerelease program from prison.
Martin proved to be an invaluable resource for Rich, giving him insight into the lives of many of these young men.
"While I'm an African-American man, my life was different," Rich tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "My dad was a dentist, my mom was a teacher. My experience was just different from theirs. And that's why Roy was so important."
With Martin's help, Rich came to realize that many of the men who had been injured also suffered emotional wounds, similar to those of combat veterans. Symptoms like nightmares and flashbacks contributed to a feeling of jumpiness and unease — and often put these young men at risk for even more violence.
As Rich put it, "When you are hypervigilant or jumpy, or always on guard, you can go from 0 to 60 in a very short time. So a young person who is on the bus, somebody steps on his foot and suddenly somebody gets stabbed or shot."
Or as Martin put it, "Violence is evidence of a bigger problem."
That realization led Rich to try to treat the emotional wounds in addition to the physical ones. He and Martin are working with hospital programs that help young men who've been attacked understand the symptoms of trauma their experiences might bring. The program also connects the men to therapy, as well as employment and education opportunities.
"I think it's an opportunity for us to educate them about these wounds of trauma," Rich said. "And by addressing the wounds of trauma, we can make a difference."
to read more, click here

Why can't states keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers (Huffington Post, Melissa Jeltsen)

On the worst night of her life, Nicole Beverly was beaten almost unconscious by her husband and then forced to sit beside him as he loaded and unloaded his gun, threatening to kill her. “I was sure I was going to die,” she told The Huffington Post.

Paralyzed with fear, it took her five months to tell anyone about the abuse and seek help. One crisp Michigan morning she did, filing a restraining order and fleeing with her two children. But after Beverly was granted the order, she was horrified to find out that the gun her husband had used to terrorize her remained in his possession.

Under the 1996 Lautenberg amendment to the Federal Gun Control Act, people who are subject to permanent domestic violence restraining orders can’t own or buy guns. (The law generally doesn’t apply to dating partners or temporary restraining orders, although there are legislative efforts underway to change that.)

But Michigan -- like most states -- doesn’t have a law requiring people with domestic violence restraining orders to actually surrender their firearms to authorities. Without a mandatory state process in place to remove his guns, Beverly's husband was left armed and dangerous.

“I was told by the judge that it was the expectation that when someone is served a restraining order that they will turn in their weapons. Of course he didn't turn in his weapons because he wanted to harm me and he does not follow rules in general,” she wrote in an email to HuffPost. “I had to call the judge and probation officers repeatedly and send emails regarding my concerns before he ordered that my ex-husband finally turn his weapons over. It was absolutely ridiculous and terrifying that the court would leave something like that in the hands of the abusive individuals.”

Across the country, states are failing to keep guns out of the hands of abusers who are prohibited under federal law from having them. According to data collected by Everytown For Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention group begun by Mike Bloomberg, the majority of states don't have legislation that's equivalent to federal restrictions. That's important: While an abuser may be barred federally from owning guns, without a state law on the books, local and state prosecutors can't bring charges against him.

to read more, click here

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Don't Shoot, by David M. Kennedy

A few weeks ago, a friend from Chester started talking about the level of gun violence in Chester.  These young men--who grew up together -- who went to school together-- are killing each other -- not one will be left alive, she said.  Guns are flooding the city.  The work HGC is doing to raise awareness of the costs of gun violence and reduce straw sales, nothing seems to be having much effect.

I didn't know what to reply.  Then (ever academic) I thought; at least I could get better acquainted with the literature.

David M. Kennedy, a self-taught criminologist, was a Swarthmore grad, received an honorary degree from Swarthmore, and has taught at the Lang center (at Swarthmore).  He directs the National Network for Safe Communities.

Below are excerpts from an interview on Fresh Air:

Those neighborhoods are also more likely to be deadly for African-American men — and they're getting worse, says Kennedy, citing grim statistics: Between 2000 and 2007, the gun homicide rate for black men between the ages of 14-17 increased by 40 percent. The rate for men over the age of 25 increased by 27 percent. In some neighborhoods, 1 in 200 black men are murdered every year.

"This is where the worst open-air drug markets are all concentrated," he says. "And quite naturally, law enforcement pays an awful lot of attention to those neighborhoods. ... And the shorthand that you get from cops when you look at these communities is that they look at you and say, 'There is no community left.' "

But there are plenty of law-abiding residents in these neighborhoods that have been overtaken by drugs, says Kennedy. They outnumber the gang members and drug dealers by significant percentages.

"What matters is that these offenders are in the communities in groups," he says. "They are in gangs, they are in drug crews, they are in chaotic groups. And those groups drive the action to a shocking degree."

In Cincinnati, for example, there are about 60 defined gang groups with about 1,500 members.

"[The people] representing less than half a percentage point of the city's population are associated with 75 percent of all of Cincinnati's killings," he says. "And no matter where you go, that's the fact."

The national homicide rate is now about 4 per 100,000, but the homicide rate for members of gangs and neighborhood turf groups is dramatically higher: as many as 3,000 per 100,000 a year.

"It is incredibly dangerous," says Kennedy. "If you talk to these guys, what they say is, 'I'm terrified ... I got shot ... My brother's dead ... I've been shot at ... And they are trying to shoot me ...' That [is] their everyday world."

Kennedy's homicide-reduction program, called Operation Ceasefire, brought gang members into meetings with community members they respected, social services representatives who could help them, and law enforcement officials who told them that they didn't want to make arrests — they wanted the gang members to stay alive, and that they planned to aggressively target people who retaliated. The interventions worked to reduce the homicide rates.

"In city after city, what we see is you may have to do it once or twice, but as soon as the streets believe that that's what's going to happen, they change," says Kennedy. "In the summer of 1996, just a few months after we implemented this, the streets had quieted down dramatically, and they kept getting better."

A variation of Operation Ceasefire was also implemented to shut down open-air drug markets. Instead of arresting drug dealers, the police officers and Kennedy set up meetings with drug dealers — and their mothers.

"We said, 'Your son is at a turning point. He could be arrested right this minute, but we don't want to do that. We understand how much that damages him and his community. There's going to be a meeting in a week. Please come with your son to the meeting,'" he says.

Nearly everybody came. In the meeting, the police reiterated what they had said in previous meetings with gang members: that they wanted the drug dealers to stay alive and out of jail. They also warned that the consequences of not shutting down the drug markets would be severe. In High Point, N.C., where the program was piloted, the open-air drug market disappeared.

"You do one of these meetings ... [and] you can break the cycle in these neighborhoods literally overnight," he says. "All that craziness is gone."

to read more, click here.