Safe and Nurturing Communities & Families
Among all industrialized nations, the United States ranks at the top in violent crime. We have the highest homicide rates, seven times higher than the average for others. For many of the hardest hit neighborhoods and communities throughout the country, our local governments have failed to supply effective crime prevention solutions.
Research has shown that many of our citizens who live in the most violent, crime-ridden parts of our nation suffer the same kind of emotionally and physically debilitating PTSD as do veterans coming home from war. Yet for these people, the war is never over and the trauma is unending as these communities have become a breeding ground for continuing violence. Ultimately, it produces a crippling effect on their lives, especially for our children.
Yet, violence and crime don’t happen in a vacuum, and a holistic response to this issue requires a deeper focus on its causes, as well as crime prevention solutions. Many of the underlying causes have been left unattended for far too long, and merely addressing symptoms is unlikely to fundamentally reverse the tragic trajectory of violence in America.
In America, our approach to managing violence and crime has typically trended towards largely ineffective, punitive approaches, ignoring the underlying causes of our problems. In addition, the punitive — rather than rehabilitative — approach to holding violent criminals accountable, only increases the statistical probability that, once released, such criminals will again perpetrate acts of violence.
What we know from ample research about violence and crime prevention in our communities is that crime can be drastically reduced. We have the wisdom and expertise to make positive shifts in the circumstances, both internal and external, that are likely to erupt in violent behavior. What we are lacking is the willpower to invest in serious violence-prevention programs.
The federal government can support violence prevention through funding of course, but also through coordination, research, and sharing of best practices. We need to address whole systems and foster collaboration among federal, state and local agencies. Cities need strategic plans to prevent violence and coordinated efforts across multiple sectors to communicate with each other and community members. A Marianne Williamson presidency would initiate a far more serious, strategized focus on violence prevention as a response to violence and crime in America.
The following are highlights from some of the most effective types of programs and services that can help transform our communities.
- Fund and increase the number of community outreach social workers, particularly in underserved neighborhoods. We must also ensure that the social workers responding to crisis are part of the same communities they help.
- Community Wraparound Programs: are collaborations between state or local government agencies and organizations that provide behavioral healthcare and management services. Providing wraparound services requires effective coordination and highly trained staff with sufficient time and resources to address complex cases.
- Community Outreach and Interruption: Community outreach workers – from rehabilitated gang members to community elders — help prevent crime in their communities by monitoring, detecting and interrupting violence. These practices have shown to reduce violence (including shootings and homicides) by up to 70 percent in neighborhoods hardest hit by violence. Another human being to help you change your life while there is still time is a far more humane and effective approach to transformation than an entire system that exists to punish you if you don’t.
- Trauma-Informed Child- and Family-Service Systems: This is an approach in which all parties involved in a child’s life recognize and respond to the impact of the child’s traumatic stress. Integrated and systemic “wrap-around services” (multi-systemic and functional family therapy) provide a whole-systems approach through intensive family and community-based treatment programs focused on addressing all environmental systems that impact chronic and violent juvenile offenders — from their homes and families, to schools and teachers, to neighborhoods and friends.
- Police and At-Risk Youth Relationship Building: Fund workshops and intensive retreats so that the law enforcement can begin repairing and building relationships with communities that they serve, especially with the at-risk youth, in order to reduce disproportionate negative interactions that lead to arrest.
- Domestic Violence Prevention and Support Services: Increase governmental support for families coping with the trauma of domestic violence. Such support will include emergency housing, emotional support, and tools that allow individuals and families to move forward personally and professionally.
- Social and Emotional learning: These modalities teach self-awareness, empathy, impulse control, motivation and nonviolent communication & social skills — all designed to give people tools to better deal with conflict in their lives. These can happen in schools and/or at the community level.
- Mentoring: Increase funding at the national and local levels for peer-to-peer or adult-to-youth mentoring, which has been shown to be exceptionally effective at empowering students to succeed.
- Policing: Provide more prevention resources instead of simply law enforcement to ensure minimal child and youth interaction with law enforcement. End the reliance on police and law enforcement to handle homelessness, mental health crises, and other non-violent situations.
- Addiction: Treat addiction as a public health rather than a criminal issue, providing more funding for resources such as treatment centers and needle exchange programs to care for those addicted. Incarceration is not an appropriate response to drug addiction.
- Quality After-School and Out-of-School Programming: Provide resources for youth to engage in positive activities in their communities, both after school, and outside of school, so that these habits become principles and skills that students can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
- Parenting Skills and Other Family Support Services: A network of support services pertaining to crime and violence prevention are vital for the empowerment of millions of American families, youth, women, and our communities.
- Coordination and Support: As president, I will support the establishment of a U.S. Department of Peace, in order to coordinate domestic violence prevention efforts in conjunction with the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies. Throughout America there are extraordinary and extraordinarily successful peace-building efforts whose efficacy would be exponentially increased through a higher level of coordination and government support. Aligning federal initiatives, establishing joint funding streams, coordinating data systems, and sharing evaluation strategies with our states, cities and communities would give sophisticated techniques of violence prevention the primacy they deserve.
- Life Skills: Encourage and fund, in schools and at the community level, the teaching of Social and Emotional learning modalities that engender self-awareness, empathy, impulse control, motivation, and nonviolent communication & social skills.