In memory of murder victims, set new priorities for action

Dorothy & ShariIt is more urgent than ever that we honor victims of violence by responding with healing, racial equality, and prevention. That was the message in an op-ed by EJUSA Executive Director Shari Silberstein and Dorothy Johnson-Speight from Mothers in Charge, published this week in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

To commemorate the National Day of Remembrance for Murder victims, Shari and Dorothy joined together to call for a new approach to addressing violence – one that recognizes that violence and homicide are a public-health crisis that needs a public-health solution, and that solution must be rooted in racial equity.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for African American males ages 15 to 34. For too long, the response to this crisis has been aggressive policing and incarceration. But mass incarceration, traumatizing police interactions, and a lack of care and support for people who experience violence have all worked to further devastate low-income black communities.

More and more policymakers, public-health officials, and law enforcement officials are coming to realize that we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. Yet the public dollars spent on violence prevention and survivor support are dwarfed many times over by the billions of dollars spent on corrections. The survivor support that does exist is far below the need, and it rarely gets to communities of color, even though they experience the highest rates of homicide and gun violence.

If we’re serious about building safe and healthy communities – and rebuilding communities most impacted by violence – our public dollars must reflect a different set of priorities.

Read the full op-ed here.

On National Day of Remembrance, communities call for an end to the violence

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Parents for Peace and Justice, a Chicago-based community violence prevent group, participates in the press conferences for National Day of Remembrance. Photo credit: Robert Torres

Community violence prevention groups from around the country gathered yesterday for National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims. EJUSA’s longtime partner, Mothers In Charge, and its affiliates and coalition partners held press conferences to honor their loved ones and to renew their call for investment in public health approaches to violence prevention.

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Crime survivors and supporters demand change

National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims is an opportunity to invest in public health approaches to violence

EJUSA supports Mothers in Charge national action on Sept 22

Statement by Shari Silberstein, Executive Director

“Every year there are more than 14,000 people murdered in America. Countless grieving parents, brothers, sisters, children, and other loved ones are left behind to pick up the pieces of their lives. And young men of color are the most likely to be victims of this public health crisis.

“It’s time to commit to a new path forward. We need trauma-informed responses to violence that save lives, rebuild communities, and prevent future violence. We need to understand the pain in communities of color built up over generations of racism, violence, and poverty, and ensure that responses to violence help instead of harm. We need to stand up as a nation to honor those killed by taking care of those left behind.

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Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Execution drop makes some think death penalty is fading awayAssociated Press
The end is near. Executions are on track to hit a 25-year low in 2016.

Colorado Rep Don Pabon on John Fugelsang’s ‘Tell Me Everything’, Sirius XM via YouTube
The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) recently passed a resolution in favor of repealing the death penalty. With the help of Equal Justice USA, they studied the issue and came to the conclusion that the system is broken beyond repair and must be ended. Colorado State Representative Dan Pabon joins John Fugelsang on Sirius XM’s “Tell Me Everything” to talk about the resolution and NHCSL’s commitment to ending the death penalty in the U.S.

Meet The Ex-Gang Members From Chicago, Baltimore Trying to Keep Blood Off The StreetsThe Real News on YouTube
A video primer on the Cure Violence model to prevent harm and treat violence like a public health epidemic.
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Newark, NJ: Trauma-Informed Responses to Violence: Police/Community Training Initiative

VIOLENCE word cloud graphicEqual Justice USA is leading an effort to increase the capacity for police and the community to respond to trauma in the wake of violence. This fall, a team of facilitators will be leading trainings on trauma-informed responses to violence with the Newark Police Department and Newark community members: “Trauma Informed Responses to Violence: Newark Police/Community Training Initiative”

The goal of this training is to understand the symptoms of community trauma and vicarious trauma as well as build necessary skills to address and problem-solve when trauma arises. These trainings will focus on community/police partnerships, and each group training will consist of the following:

  • 3 weekly sessions, 4 hours each.* Sessions will be held at Newark Police   Department Training Division (1 Lincoln Ave., 3rd Floor Newark, NJ 07104),
  • Participants will include 10-12 police officers and 10-12 community members,
  • Learn about trauma symptoms, ACES, historical trauma, and the cycle of violence,
  • Hands-on skills-building and problem solving activities that will be customized for trainees on the front lines addressing violence and trauma.
  • A focus on addressing special populations, including boys/men of color, LGBT communities, girls and women, etc.

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Healing Justice 2016

Ben Jealous at Healing Justice 2016EJUSA attended the 6th Annual Healing Justice Alliance Conference, a convening that brought together crime survivors, innovative community-based violence prevention programs, hospital-based violence reduction programs, and other criminal justice and public health partners.

EJUSA is pleased to have been a part of a number of convenings in recent months that break down silos between public health, criminal justice, violence prevention, and victimization – including our recent meeting at the White House and a presentation at the DOJ National Conference on Youth Violence Prevention. The powerful Healing Justice Alliance conference was no exception.

More and more Americans are embracing the idea that mass incarceration has failed communities most impacted by violence, particularly devastating communities of color, and that we need a new approach.

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Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Are Evangelicals Ditching the Death Penalty?The Marshall Project
Another sign of how the U.S. is changing on the death penalty: Evangelical Christians are turning against it. Heather Beaudoin, our Director of Evangelical Outreach quoted in this article that looks at the demographic’s growing concerns over the ultimate punishment.

There’s trauma on both sides of the police-community relationshipThe Washington Post
“African American and Latino children manifesting symptoms of stress and trauma akin to those who have lived in war zones. And many who patrol those communities show the same signs of stress and trauma… [T]hey’re supposed to serve share the same space, necessarily interact and can be deeply, sometimes tragically affected by each other.”

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Trauma-Informed Responses to Violence and Criminal Justice: An Interview with New Jersey Asst. Attorney General Wanda Moore

Fatimah Loren Muhammad & Wanda MooreRecently I spoke to Wanda Moore, an Assistant Attorney General in New Jersey and the Director of the Office of Community Justice, about her work to reduce trauma and violence through positive youth development programs, community-based crime prevention strategies, and system wide change. Ms. Moore leads cutting-edge, place-based solutions work in several cities in New Jersey including Trenton, Jersey City, and Newark. She attended EJUSA’s 2-day trauma train-the-trainer for criminal justice professionals in April, made possible by the generous support of the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.

(Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
 

Fatimah Loren Muhammad: Thank you so much for speaking with me. What does a trauma-responsive justice system mean to you?

Wanda Moore: The overwhelming majority of people in the system are in the system because of some trauma they have experienced and their inability to cope with it. As a result, they may be using drugs, not taking care of themselves, or their mental health status may be impacted.

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Building the movement to disrupt the cycle of violence

Fatimah giving workshopShortly after last month’s tragic mass shooting in Orlando, the American Medical Association declared gun violence a public health issue.

EJUSA believes that this powerful frame applies to all violence. Public health models prioritize prevention, harm reduction, as well as trauma treatment. By completely changing the narrative on violence, its causes, and its solutions, we believe we will truly transform the justice system.

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The last 72 hours: a message from EJUSA Executive Director Shari Silberstein

The events of the last 72 hours have left us reeling. So much carnage, so much fear.

Justice, broken down into bite sized pieces, can sometimes feel so close within reach. The death penalty stopped here, more healing services there. And then we are confronted with these big moments that remind us how inadequate bite-sized justice can be. When transformation is needed, how do you break that down into “winnable bits” that sustain hope through the darkness? Is this even our task?

I don’t have the answers. I know that in the last two days I watched two children – a teenage boy cry for his father Alton Sterling and a four year girl try to comfort her mother after police killed Philando Castile. No child should ever have to go through that. Black children go through it all too often. The trauma of living in fear of the very systems and institutions that are supposed to protect runs deep through communities of color and has for centuries. As a white director, I don’t know that fear or that trauma. I can only see it, account for it, and commit my life to the struggle for change.

And police are often afraid in their jobs. And it is in that fear that I imagine the seeds for change – because this system isn’t working for anyone. There is a different way, a way where we all can see each other’s pain and trauma, where we embrace a model of community safety rooted in healing, in restoration, in mercy, in relationships, in love.

On a day when there are no words, I say to the families of Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarippa, Brent Thompson, Lorne Ahrens, and everyone who has lost a loved one to violence: I see you, I love you, and I will fight for you. To the black members of the EJUSA family: I see you, I love you, I will fight for you. And to the law enforcement members of the EJUSA family fighting for change: I see you, I love you, I will fight for you.