In Springfield, Lt. Governor Murray Highlights Massachusetts Safe and Successful Youth Initiative
Plan takes comprehensive approach to ending youth violence in Massachusetts
This week, Governor Deval Patrick issued an Executive Order emphasizing the Administration's commitment to partnering with local officials to tackle this issue, and filed legislation to create tougher gun laws that hold "high impact" individuals accountable. The Administration will also seek $10 million in additional funding to support implementation efforts. The Administration also announced $6 million in funding this week to support an estimated 3,000 summer jobs for at-risk youth across the Commonwealth. As part of the funding, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Inc. will receive $530,790 for Chicopee, Holyoke and Springfield, to create a minimum of 276 jobs.
"Through this comprehensive plan, our Administration will work side by side with city officials to not only address youth violence in their communities, but help put an end to these horrific acts," said Lieutenant Governor Murray. "By strengthening our partnership with local officials, law enforcement professionals, community organizations and families, we can work together to build safer communities in our Commonwealth."
To move forward with this initiative, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Marilyn Anderson Chase will lead efforts across the Administration to work with specific communities to ensure the availability of a comprehensive, community-wide plan for addressing youth violence. As part of this effort, Assistant Secretary Chase led a meeting of community organizers and leaders, providers, businesses, clergy, advocates, and state agencies at the MLK Center in Springfield to further discuss and assess gaps in service needs and resources. Meetings like this will lead to the establishment of a statewide consensus around measures of success.
"Youth and gang violence has been a scourge to urban America. I'm very appreciative of Governor Patrick's and Lieutenant Governor Murray's ongoing commitment to tackle this issue with additional funding for not only policing but for prevention, tougher gun laws to keep dangerous criminals incarcerated after trials and encouraging public and private partnerships to attack the root causes," said Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, who also participated in today's event.
Working with the municipal and community coalitions in those identified communities, state agencies will encourage a public health approach that focuses on:
- Deterring youth impacted by violence: A coordinated intervention strategy will be focused on young men (age 14-24) identified as a high risk for becoming perpetrators or victims of gun violence. Led by Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Marilyn Anderson Chase, in coordination with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the state will administer a multi-million dollar grant program to fill in gaps in services available for this population. The program will initially focus on communities with the highest number of youth homicides and serious assaults allowing the flexibility necessary to meet different challenges in different communities. The goal is to ensure that a full continuum of services - trauma informed case management, intensive supervision, employment, education and health care - are available and coordinated in each city and are reaching the young men most likely to commit or be victims of gun violence.
- Creating more peaceful communities: While intervention activities will address violence in the short-term, long-term sustainability of a peaceful environment requires a community-wide embrace of prevention strategies known to restore peace. Building strong and engaged communities, providing structured positive out-of-school time activities for younger siblings and children of highest risk youth, acknowledging and addressing the impact of trauma on a neighborhood or community, providing opportunities for youth leadership development and opportunities to learn alternative conflict resolution are all methods demonstrated to be effective in promoting peaceful environments. In addition to the work already taking place in communities, the state will bring its resources and public health and public safety expertise to ensure a coordinated approach to reaching young people before they become involved in violence.
- Facilitating community reentry for offenders: Massachusetts adult correctional facilities will continue their reentry work, which begins 12 months prior to release. Young men who are reentering the community will connect with a case manager to begin the process of building a trusting relationship and developing a life reentry plan with a goal of having housing, employment and education plans in place at the time of discharge. DYS case managers, probation officers and parole officers will provide ongoing intensive supervision, as appropriate, for youth offenders who are perpetrators or victims of violence.
- Getting guns off the street: A comprehensive strategy to youth violence prevention must include effective law enforcement intervention to protect the community from the most violent offenders, particularly those who use guns in gang-related violence and drug distribution. The Administration will file legislation creating tougher gun laws that will allow law enforcement to hold "high impact" players accountable, and proposing a host of other measures to tighten existing gun laws. This bill provides public safety officials with new criminal sanctions and investigative tools to go after guns and gangs. It includes three new gun-related crimes - assault and battery with a firearm, assault with a firearm, and a "felon in possession law" parallel to federal law - with serious criminal consequences. These crimes will give police and prosecutors additional tools to protect the community from those who possess and use guns in a crime.
The Administration's plan reflects a shared commitment to ensuring all children in the Commonwealth have the opportunity to grow, play and learn in a safe, peaceful environment; and is based on the premise that in order to achieve the goal of eliminating youth violence, we must recognize:
- Youth are not disposable. Young people are an asset and are not disposable, even those engaged in violence.
- Violence is preventable. There are programs and practices that are known to work and proven tools for combating youth violence.
- Massachusetts has the expertise. There are resources, policies, programs and individuals across this Commonwealth on which this coordinated effort can and must build.
- There are gaps in our current approach. This strategy fills a hole in current youth violence prevention by specifically focusing on the young men most at risk of killing or being killed.