When shots ring out in Chicago, Sam Castro and his team at the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago race to the scene and to the hospital where emergency responders are treating the victim.
Knowing most of the city’s gun violence is caused by a small cluster of people who are usually gang-affiliated, the group wants to prevent retaliation shootings by intervening in victims’ lives to stop the cycle of violence and the revolving hospital doors.
Castro, the organization’s director of community violence intervention, and his colleagues meet gunshot victims at their hospital beds and talk with those in neighborhoods who are at a high risk of committing or being the victim of gun violence.
They offer individualized “wraparound” support services, whether being a caseworker, delivering food or helping residents find and keep jobs, Stateline reports. Castro himself has been shot three times, the first when he was 3.
He became part of the gun violence cycle as a gang leader, spending 12 years in state and federal prison. He wanted something better for his children and community through “relentless engagement.”
The Institute for Nonviolence Chicago and similar organizations have a new opportunity to expand their work. A massive injection of federal grant money, beyond the private philanthropy that has sustained their mission, will help more programs offer an alternative to law enforcement that gets at the root drivers of violence.
“We’re investing in the people in communities that have been disinvested for generations,” said William Simpson of Equal Justice USA, a nonprofit that advocates for public funding for these programs in states like California, Louisiana, New Jersey and North Carolina.
Some 700 experts from 200 organizations in 45 cities gathered last week at a community violence intervention conference in Los Angeles, hosted by the Giffords Center for Violence Intervention. \ the conference gave people from economically depressed cities a chance to share their strategies for curbing urban gun violence, tapping new funding streams and getting more state and city money.
Through its Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative, the Biden administration freed up $50 million in grants for community violence intervention programs. This comes on top of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which allocates250 million over the next five years for these programs.
"This is the largest federal investment in community violence intervention programs in U.S. history," said Amy Solomon, the assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs.
The feds have given out $100 million in grants and will allocate an additional $100 million by September.
New money is also flowing in from cities and states. In 2017, five states invested $60 million in community violence intervention programs. By 2021, 15 states invested $700 million. Those programs and the funding continue to expand.
Simpson of Equal Justice USA said community violence intervention programs need multiyear funding from both private philanthropy and governments to create a sustainable infrastructure that lasts. The current federal investment is a “drop in the bucket,” he said, and needs to increase over time to reduce gun violence.
“We’re not just going to arrest our way out of this,” he said.