Why we need a Global Commission on Violence Prevention
“Violence is not inevitable. Prevention measures work.” These were my takeaways from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s two and a half day Fifth National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence in Baltimore Maryland. The sessions sponsored by the White House were full of Cabinet-level officials, Mayors of major US cities, police chiefs, academics, youth representatives, victims of violence and a sprinkling of international representatives.
The themes for each of the three-days respectively were ‘It takes everyone, Innovations, and Communicating the Message.”
What was heartening to me was not so much the new information I learned, but the very powerful conviction that was used to share it; and that the changing narrative, at least in the United States, has bipartisan approval and is starting to stick. The message from mayors and police chiefs to community workers, scientists and frankly those in charge of the criminal justice system, is one of healing and prevention, not just prohibition and repression. Obviously, the narrative is but the first step, albeit an important one. The tough discussion of how you create a holistic approach to “include everyone” was at the center of many of the formal and informal consultations. As I outlined in my book, “If the War on Drugs is Over, Now What” (http://www.adamblackwell.net/), the building blocks that a particular jurisdiction needs to use in order to construct a public security eco system is not easy but not impossible. As one of the speakers said very convincingly we need a “stove pipe implosion “and we need to question the existing systems themselves, because doing the same thing better is not an option. I don’t think that there is anyone who doubts the fact that collaboration and multi-stakeholder approaches are better, they are just hard to do and require a new form of leadership that is less driven by the what than the how. What I would like to see as a next step is a systematic documentation about how some of these cities and jurisdictions build these collaborative frameworks.
The theme emerging from the conference I believed to be most vital was “Innovations.” As one big city police chief said, “we don’t have quotas any more, it is ‘a better job saving kids than arresting them – you don’t want to lock ‘em up, but unlock their potential,’” Beyond the clichés, it is clear that there is a move to introduce more science and evidence into our criminal justice systems and policies at all levels. The organization that I currently work for, Development Services Group, Inc. (DSG), has some particularly powerful tools that have been scientifically tested. For example, the Model Programs Guide (MPG) contains information about evidence-based juvenile justice and youth [violence] prevention, intervention, and reentry programs. It is a resource for practitioners and communities about what works, what is promising, and what does not work in juvenile justice, delinquency prevention, and child protection and safety (http://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg-iguides/). MPG uses expert study reviewers and CrimeSolutions.gov’s program review process, scoring instrument, and evidence ratings. We have also built Implementation Guides providing practitioners with problem-specific steps that should be taken in the pre-implementation stage (before identifying or implementing an evidence-based program or practice).
These are an examples of what I meant by “smart security.”
So if these approaches work in some of the most difficult jurisdictions in the United States, we need to look at how they can be adapted and adjusted to international needs. This is where my call for a “global commission” comes in. The Global Commission on Drug Policy (www.globalcommissionondrugs.org) advocates bringing to the international level an informed, science-based discussion about humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs to individuals and societies.
So what are we waiting for to do the same for violence prevention?