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Make a P.R.O.M.I.S.E. to Reduce Gang Violence
updated: Dec 19, 2013, 11:24 AM

By Camilla A. Lee

Despite it's small beach town appearance, tranquil palm trees and unimposing population of about 108,000 the city of Ventura has a gang problem. Eight well established gangs operate throughout the city perimeters dealing drugs, selling weapons, and committing violent crimes. The largest of these gangs are the Ventura Avenue Gangsters who are comprised mainly of His-panic youth, Ventura Avenue, the territory these gangsters claim is economically depressed and struggles with a number of socio-economic challenges of which gang activity is one.

National studies show that gang activity and gang participation by youth is more preva-lent in high risk neighborhoods, high-risk being defined as those neighborhoods struggling with low incomes, broken families and comprised primarily of ethnic minorities. According to a 2013 report by Frontline, one quarter of all serious violent crimes are committed by youth, and as adult gang members move through the prison pipeline serving lengthy prison sentences in state facilities new younger members take their place on the street. According to The Sentencing Pro-ject (a prison research advocacy group) "sixty-percent of the people in prison are now a racial and ethnic minority". This data suggests that a child who belongs to a racial or ethnic minority is at risk of ending up in prison. The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) states that "Nationally one in three Black and one in Six Latino boys born in 2001 are at risk of imprisonment in their life-time" Communities suffering from poverty and comprised mainly of ethnic and racial minori-ties, like our own Ventura Avenue, have youth who are at the greatest risk of ending up in prison as adults. This racial disparity in the prison system is being dubbed by many prison advocacy groups at the "new racism",with far reaching implications.

Fortunately, there is a solution. H.R. 1318 referred to as the Youth PROMISE (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education) Act is a bi-partisan, piece of legislation that seeks to interrupt the cradle to prison pipeline(Youth Promise Action, 2013). The Youth PROMISE Act sponsored by Representative Robert "Bobby" Scott was introduced on March 21, 2013. The Youth PROMISE Act will give communities funding to support evidence based intervention practices to support youth and adolescent development serv-ices, early childhood development, child protection and safety services, health and mental health services, substance abuse counseling, housing assistance, gang exit services, incarceration alter-natives, and transition services (The Peace Alliance). In addition, The Peace Alliance published a study by the non-partisan Washington State Institute for Public Policy that concluded, multi-systemic therapy produced $13 of benefits for every dollar spent (Aos, 2002). This Act will fund multi-systemic resources inour community, already in place but under funded like Project Understanding, The Boys and Girls Club and Catholic Charities. Please visit http://youthpromiseaction.org/ become a citizen co-sponsor and petition our governor to endorse this life saving Act.


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