Often, adults are seen and heard as the authorities on and spokespeople for issues of youth violence. Adults prescribe how a community should reduce its reliance on incarceration, policing, criminalization, punishment, and judgment. But what would it look like if we insist that the young black people who are most impacted by these problems lead efforts to determine their solutions?
We have developed a 6-month youth leadership development process, targeting young people 13-24 years old, that is structured by restorative justice principles, practices, and values. The goals are:
- to equip groups of young people from Roseland with practical tools, strategies, and resources to determine and address their own needs.
- to consistently empower, support, and resource young black people to co-create and lead processes of community accountability and conflict resolution.
- to organize community-supported mechanisms to engender safety, healing, accountability, and self- reliance without the police.
- to actively de-criminalize young black people, reduce rates of arrest and police contact, and to de- populate jails, Illinois youth prisons, and the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.
- to link with community partners and assets identified by the ATI Collaborative, but also to function independently of established institutions or organizations.
Once a Community Self-Reliance Demonstration Project is operational and left in the hands of localized intergenerational leadership, our focus will shift to providing ongoing technical assistance, and to replicating this youth leadership development process with a new group of young people and adult mentors from the community.
This work lays the groundwork for real justice reinvestment. Arresting and detaining Chicago’s young people is astronomically expensive. Funds should not be dumped into a system that is punitive, flagrantly racist, and unaccountable – or monopolized by progressive institutions seeking change. Instead, resources should be reinvested in community-based infrastructures that socially and economically empower residents of neighborhoods most heavily impacted by policing and incarceration. These infrastructures should position community members (rather than outside experts, authorities, or institutions) to be the primary custodians and caretakers of community justice. Through an iterative Participatory Evaluation (PE)* process – undertaken during Phase Three – we expect that community residents will be able to show that the processes, practices, and protocols that they develop (as part of their Community Self-Reliance Demonstration Projects) are a more effective, restorative, durable, and cost-efficient way to cultivate safety and accountability.
For more information, download the detailed overview of the Roseland Youth Development Process.