Philadelphia, October 21, 2013 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter welcomed Karol V. Mason, Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, to the city and then toured two sites in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood: a community garden and an after-school program at Strawberry Mansion High School. The visit highlighted the City of Philadelphia’s involvement in the Justice Department’s National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention and its Strategic Plan to Prevent Youth Violence, which was developed as a result of the City’s status as a Forum city. The Mayor and Assistant AG Mason visited two programs engaged in violence prevention work: the Mural Arts Programs’ The Guild, and EducationWorks.
“We believe that every child’s first and most important right is the right to be safe: at home, at school, and on the streets. The City of Philadelphia has partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice to make our City safer for everyone, especially our children,” said Mayor Nutter. “Our Strategic Plan takes a holistic approach in addressing the causes and outcomes of youth violence. The Plan’s focus is on issues like: education, training and unemployment, physical health and well-being, detention and diversion, safe environments, and meaningful engagement with peers and adults. Today’s visit to Strawberry Mansion showcases the work being done under the guidance of this plan.”
Launched in 2010 at the direction of President Obama, the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention is a network of communities and federal agencies that share information and build local capacity to prevent and reduce youth violence. The Forum is administered by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).
The first six communities, who began participating in the Forum in 2011, were Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Salinas (CA), and San Jose (CA). In 2102, Philadelphia joined three other cities, New Orleans, Minneapolis, and Camden, N.J., as new additions to the Forum. All of the cities were selected through a competitive application process.
“Too many cities and too many neighborhoods are dealing with a troubling and complicated problem – violence committed by and against young people,” said Assistant Attorney General Mason. “It’s a serious problem but it’s one we can do something about. Through the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, we can send young people a message that we won’t give up on them – and we won’t give up on the communities and the families they’re a part of. I’m proud of the work the Office of Justice Programs is doing to help kids, here in Philadelphia and in cities across the country.”
In order to participate in the Forum, the City of Philadelphia had to demonstrate the ability to form a local coalition, the Youth Violence Prevention Collaborative (YVPC), dedicated to addressing the issue of youth violence, and commit to developing a strategic plan to prevent youth violence.
The YVPC includes, but is not limited to, the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership (YVRP), PhillyRising, Juvenile and Adult Probation, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Mayor’s Office of Education, the Police Athletic League, the First Judicial District, the Office of the District Attorney, the School District of Philadelphia, more than a dozen city agencies, and many non-profit partners. The Collaborative is co-chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose, and the Administrative Judge of the Court of Common Please Family Division, the Honorable Kevin Dougherty.
Philadelphia’s Strategic Plan to Prevent Youth Violence
Presented by the Philadelphia Youth Violence Prevention Collaborative, the City’s Strategic Plan outlines a collective effort to turn Philadelphia into one of the country’s safest cities. It aims to do this by embedding youth violence prevention and reduction in the work of every relevant city agency; ensuring that youth and high-risk communities are engaged in the development and ownership of the strategy; and taking a long-term approach to reducing violence. More information on the Strategic Plan can be found at: https://cityofphiladelphia.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/city-of-philadelphias-strategic-plan-to-prevent-youth-violence/.
Mural Arts Program’s The Guild
The Guild provides a supportive arts-based learning environment where those re-entering their communities from the Philadelphia Prison System (PPS) or identified as highly at-risk by the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership (YVRP) can build practical skills through training with professional instructors, apprenticeships with community public arts projects, and mentorship from a Jobs Opportunities Specialist. Participants learn skills and gain work experience in carpentry, construction, tiling, scaffolding, wall repair, landscaping, and lot-cleanup.
Tenure in the program lasts for four to six months, during which time participants earn a wage for up to 20 hours per week. As participants near the end of their tenure in the program, they are required to complete a Job Readiness class and work one-on-one with the Jobs Opportunities Specialist to seek and gain permanent employment. Participants are referred to an extensive and growing network of employers or help them to access educational opportunities. More information on The Guild can be found at: http://muralarts.org/programs/guild.
EducationWorks is a non-profit organization that provides comprehensive support for economically disadvantaged communities in Philadelphia, Chester, PA; and Camden and Trenton, NJ. Their goal is to provide educational programs and services that enrich the lives of children, youth and families confronting high rates of poverty and other barriers to educational achievement. By tackling core issues like literacy, graduation rates, safety and social awareness, EducationWorks is equipping individuals with the tools they need to stay safe, finish school, make better choices and become more productive members of their communities. More information on EducationWorks can be found at: http://www.educationworks.org/.