Last Wednesday, our mornings were punctured by the news of yet another mass shooting underway, this time on the University of California-Los Angeles campus. Two members of our staff were on campus at the time. On that very same day, gun violence elsewhere in Los Angeles County claimed at least six more lives, and forever changed many more, though these deaths in neighborhoods just miles from the UCLA campus did not receive the same level of media attention.
All these events matter terribly. We’ve sadly come to expect this discrepancy in mainstream news coverage, which downplays the trauma faced by communities most impacted by violence, and the conditions that engender that violence. But this weekend, NBC Bay Area aired a remarkable segment that explored the widening gulf between the “two Oaklands,” one shaped by economic opportunity and the other by a lack of opportunity, and showed the implications of this divide when it comes to safety and resilience. Rather than viewing incidents of violence in isolation, this powerful piece of reporting examined the broader context of violence.
PI board member and partner in our violence and trauma work, Dr. Howard Pinderhughes, was interviewed for the segment, and elaborated on the community conditions that affect safety: “You have highly impacted poor communities, where businesses have left, where government has essentially pulled out, and where you’ve had large-scale public and private disinvestment …”
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.
Welcome to This Week in Equity Engagement on Twitter (TWEET) for the week of September 7, 2015. Our weekly hodgepodge of equity-related conversations covers a number of great topics this week, so let’s get to it:
The legislature passed a bill that will require translation of prescription drug labels. Our Executive Director Sarah de Guia commented on the measure on KQED.
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.
Welcome to This Week in Equity Engagement on Twitter (TWEET) for the week of August 24, 2015. We have a lot of great stuff from social media this week, so let’s get right to it:
The Health for All movement to expand coverage to California’s undocumented immigrants took another step forward as Senator Ricardo Lara’s SB 4 passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week and will now be heard on the Assembly floor.
Of the many factors that influence our health, some of the most difficult to address are the social determinants that are deeply ingrained in our society. In particular, racism and violence have a tremendous impact on health and wellbeing, and communities of color are disproportionately impacted. Fortunately, a lot of work is being done to make the connection between racism, violence, and public health. Earlier today, the American Public Health Association (APHA) hosted No Safety, No Health: A Conversation About Race, Place and Preventing Violence, the second webinar of their four-part series, The Impact of Racism on the Health and Well-Being of the Nation.
Today’s web forum included an engaging discussion featuring APHA Past President Linda Degutis, former director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Howard Pinderhughes of UC San Francisco, Marc Philpart of Policy Link, and Benita Tsao of Prevention Institute. The discussion touched on a wide range of topics including the health impacts of violence and racism, trauma-informed interventions, improving the built environment, shaping positive narratives, and how public health can play a pivotal role in engaging communities for violence prevention.
Here are some of the highlights:
Degutis focused on some of the health impacts of violence.
"More people in the US die as a result of violence than car accidents." -@Degutislc, Defense Health Horizons. #APHAwebinar
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Violence and community trauma can have a significant impact on health and wellbeing in a neighborhood. In a recent brief we released with the California School-Based Health Alliance, Making the Health Home Model Work for Boys and Men of Color, we highlighted how violence and trauma particularly impacts boys and men of color in California:
“Boys and young men of color in California experience physical and psychological trauma at rates much higher than Whites. Homicide rates for ages 10 to 24 are 79.6 per 100,000 for African American young men compared to only 2.7 per 100,000 for White young men. Exposure to such violence can have a tremendous impact on the mental health of surviving members of the community. Young people can develop post-traumatic stress disorder, which can lead to increases in impulsive and aggressive behavior, risky sexual behavior, self-harm, and abuse of drugs or alcohol.”
As the economy in the Bay Area continues to grow, few places are reaping the benefits as much as Santa Clara County. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in the county is $91,702, about $30,000 more than the statewide median. In addition, the median value of owner-occupied housing units in Santa Clara County is $645,600, nearly twice the state median of $366,400.
These numbers, coupled with the fact that the county’s population is roughly two-thirds communities of color, would make it seem like a great land of opportunity for all residents. But there are still stark disparities in the county along racial and ethnic lines.
Today’s Friday Facts table shows one of the more striking disparities in Santa Clara County: the juvenile felony arrest rate. As you can see, African American juveniles in the county are more than eight times as likely to be arrested for a felony than their White counterparts (38.0 per 1,000 compared to 4.7). The Latino juvenile felony arrest rate (15.4 per 1,000) is more than three times that of Whites.