Cleveland Aims to Reduce Teen Violence and Incarceration Rates
Cleveland is on a journey to decrease the teen violence and incarceration, and increase high school graduation rates by rolling out The Cleveland Plan. In collaboration with the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention (NFYVP), The Plan’s mission is to lessen violence among 15-25 year olds by adopting a public health approach to violence prevention.
In 2014, Cleveland ranked second poorest and had the third lowest high school graduation rates among all major cities in the US, according to the US Census Bureau. At the same time, Cleveland’s violent crime rate was more than three times the national average.
Before The Plan was written in 2015, the NFYVP visited several Cleveland neighborhoods and held community listening sessions, in which members of the community were encouraged to voice their concerns about issues relating to youth violence, incarceration, re-entry and education in their neighborhood. Beyond issues of violence, community members said they wanted to see more programs that encourage kids to stay in school, graduate and pursue a career.
These listening sessions, along with plenty of research, allowed The Plan to move forward and reach its three main goals.
First, The Plan will openly share data collected and the strategy to implement measures to prevent youth violence in Cleveland. The first step in this openness was releasing a public document stating the goals of The Plan, the sources that fueled their research, their findings and plans to implement these three goals.
The Plan also aims to address youth violence using a public health model which addresses the problem in a comprehensive way. This approach means they will identify violence risk factors, as well as analyze individual health and safety in the community. A public health model allows The Plan to provide expanded access to physical and mental health treatment, re-entry services and educational and vocational training. With this model, The Plan hopes to reduce youth violence by 10 percent in the first three years of action.
Third, The Plan hopes to repair and re-establish positive, productive relationships between youth and the justice system. The Plan notes that “many have indicated that a feeling of hopelessness and a sense of not being able to rely on law enforcement has contributed to the rise of violence.” In an effort to reclaim those relationships, the Cleveland Police Department will be trained on the best ways to communicate with youth and there will be at least two workshops per year aimed at improving community skill building.
By rolling out The Cleveland Plan, the city hopes to see teen violence and incarceration decline and high school graduation rates soar, benefiting the community as a whole.