Prevention Institute’s (PI) new report about community trauma provides insight into timely issues like high rates of gun violence in inner cities; protests in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere; and systemic poverty, unemployment and poor health in communities of color. It also offers solutions.
There is a growing need for treating trauma as a public health epidemic, and exploring population-level strategies and prevention. Until now, there has been no framework for understanding and preventing the systematic effects of community trauma — or how community trauma undermines both individual and collective resilience, especially in communities with high rates of violence.
The report, featured last week in USA Today, is based on interviews with practitioners in communities with high rates of violence. Adverse Community Experiences and Resilience, describes symptoms of trauma at the community level, as well as strategies to build resilience, heal community trauma, and prevent future trauma.
Healing strategies include: restorative justice programs that shift the norms around conflict resolution; safer public spaces via creation of parks; social relationship building, particularly across generations; improving housing quality and transportation; and healing circles that provide space for expression.
Every day, people make decisions about land use that impact whether or not communities will be safe. These decisions include where schools are sited, how streets and parks are designed, and the kinds of businesses that are allowed to operate. To the extent that safety has been taken into account in these decisions, it has mostly been through the lens of crime prevention. PI’s new paper, Community Safety by Design: Preventing Violence through Land Use, explains how a violence prevention lens and a crime prevention lens are similar, and how they are different.
One difference is that a violence prevention lens necessarily engages the end-user – community residents—in shaping land-use decisions that work for the community and support community safety. This engagement is a critical component to achieving equitable health and safety outcomes, and applies across many sectors. Our paper drew on extensive research and interviews with 23 key informants from planning, public health, the justice system, and other sectors, and outlines concrete steps to better integrate effective violence prevention strategies into land-use decisions. The report includes:
On November 4, 2015 I attended “Smart on Safety,” an invitational summit to examine how California can reform the criminal justice system and transform communities to prioritize prevention over punishment. As Adam Kruggel, Director of Organizing for PICO California, stated, “mass incarceration creates a legitimacy crisis for some of our most deeply held values – that everyone has a right to be a human being.” Harsh sentences, three strikes, mandatory minimums, racial profiling, gang injunctions, and transfer of juveniles to adult courts have demonized poor black and brown males as less deserving “others” – predators who are beyond redemption.
Anyone who works in marginalized communities knows the toll that these policies take on the health and life prospects of their teen patients. Although one would hope that the appalling scene in South Carolina is not the norm, it has been well documented that black students are three times more likely to be suspended than white students. Suspension is a gateway to dropout, economic instability, crime and incarceration. And we don’t need to look only at teens to see how “tough on crime” affects children’s health. Tamir Rice, a 12 year old who was playing with a toy gun in a park, is dead. The children of Eric Gardner and Walter Scott are fatherless. Approximately 2.7 million children have a parent in prison – a vastly disproportionate number of whom are poor and black. Millions more children experience post-traumatic stress disorder from extended exposure to violent encounters between citizens and law enforcement in their communities.
Building on 15 years of success as a program of Advancement Project, Urban Peace Institute launched as an independent organization in August 2015. Following the events in Ferguson and many more locations across the country, we’ve heard a growing call for action to transform the way police interact with communities of color and to strengthen the movement to achieve safety and peace for all. We believe that safety is a human right and are working to implement this call to action. As a new entity, Urban Peace Institute – with its expertise and impact in the fields of relationship-based policing, violence intervention, and policy advocacy to end mass incarceration – will continue to contribute to the national movement.