Whether it is Jamaica or Philadelphia, the issues are similar. Lives and communities scarred by violence. A disproportionate percentage of young men the victims and perpetrators of violent crime. Family and community dysfunctions contributing significantly to violence. There is moral panic surrounding violence, urgent demands that it be reduced, but no simple one solution.
At its March monthly meeting, the VPA was honoured to host Denise Clayton, former Director of the Philadelphia Youth Violence Reduction Partnership (YVRP). Her presentation was both enlightening and thought-provoking. In talking about the experience of the YVRP in Philly – a city with a historically high murder rate compared to other big cities in the U.S. – she identified some key pillars of the programmes success:
- One of the first questions is who are the right people to have at the table – there has to be higher level buy-in (judges, chief of police, representatives of human services) to make it sustainable.
- Very focused objective – murder reduction solely
- The programme’s probation officers act in a different way – each probation officer has only 25 cases and works with a street worker. The street workers are usually from the same neighbourhoods and experienced similar life challenges.
- Unlike Chicago Ceasefire – the support officers have leverage, they can return the youth partner to jail. This leverage is critical.
- The big strategy is intensive support and surveillance results in a reduction in murder. There was a marked reduction in the murder rate in all the districts the programme covers. Continue reading
On February 4th, I served as the Alumni Host for a University of Toronto alumni and student recruitment event held at the Terra Nova Hotel. It was such an invigorating experience.
In my short talk, I reflected on what Garvey said about education. That to be educated is ‘To be learned in all that is worthwhile knowing.’ This is far more than what you are going to learn in the classroom. It is about what you are going to learn about yourself from being challenged intellectually, from living in a new environment and from those that are there with you.
As a I looked at invited alumni, I saw a number of professionals who have made significant contributions to Jamaica in business, academia, engineering and medicine just to name a few areas. There is a common thread that connects all the generations. It is a time of personal self discovery and growth. A time when you are asking questions about where you want to go in life. And studying at a university consistently rated by the Times Higher Education Ranking as one of the best in the world (9th in 2009) played a pivotal role in their development.
(Amorell Saunders N’Daw presents a medal to UofT’s oldest alumna in Jamaica)
Mr. Jerome Poon-Ting, Assistant Registrar at the UofT Scarborough Campus was the university’s representative. His hard work was indispensable to the success of the event. For their part, other alumni talked of the rigour of their training, their lifelong friendships and how their UofT experience changed them beyond they skills they are able to deploy in their careers. We got to learn about playing in the Lady Godiva Memorial Band and I told of the great Snowpocolypse of 2008, the fact that I apparently survived and seem to be quite ok.
My view is that alumni are a bridge to the future for other students. Most of the challenges that they are going to face, we have faced. So neither students or alumni should be reticent in asking for and offering advice.
Last night, CVM TV’s Live at Seven had a very interesting segment featuring excepts from the new Caribbean Human Development Report 2012. The new report focuses on the problem of crime and violence in the Caribbean, also the basis of the CVM segment. I am glad that a more nuanced national conversation about crime is taking root. One that focuses on facts and solutions. I agreed with many of the comments of the invited discussants.
Admittedly, it was a short segment. However, what I think would have made it an exceptional one was more specifics about the impact of the problem on our country and ‘how’ do we as a society effectively tackle it. What’s the how? Recommending repairing family structures is not the how. That’s the what. The how are the strategies and mechanisms we use to accomplish this objective.
So I am going to do a three part series (this is the first part), looking at some of the agencies involved in peace-building efforts (next week), and how they are doing it (the week after that). Let’s start with a mini situational analysis. Here are some other facts that should make all Jamaicans uncomfortable:
- In 2008, Jamaica’s homicide rate of 52.1/100,000 made us a world beater. This was far higher than both South Africa (33.8/100,000) and Columbia (33.4/100, 000) (UNODC 2011).
- The standard international definition of a war or high-intensity conflict is violence characterized by fatality rates of over 1,000/year; in Jamaica, 1,574 people were murdered in 2007 (UNDP, 2008). Continue reading
2011 was a year of continued transitions, trials and triumphs. As a consequence of all this, I did not get to blog as much as I wanted to. WordPress’ handy end of year summary reminded me that I only posted 9 updates last year. Moreover, my older material on policy and evaluation seems to be the more popular!
Growing traffic to this space and the enquiries that it has generated demonstrates that there is a definite interest in research and how people and organisations can use evidence to enhance the impact of their work. Additionally, given the changes in technology, rapidly shifting public sentiments and consumer behaviour, I think the business of research is changing in ways that many of our research professionals, and those that consume research, have failed to adequately respond to. I am going to take a bigger chunk out of this trend in 2012.
Without further delay, the best of 2011:
5. We Cannot Go On Like This – Worrying human capital trends for Jamaica as the youngest and brightest feel their future lies elsewhere.
Wishing all my readers a productive year full of fun, meaningful work.
I went to Nuit Blanche at the end of September 2007 and, along with Canadian Thanksgiving, it is one of my favourite experiences of Canada. The overall atmosphere was quite relaxed and everyone so calm. It felt very different from large crowds at large events that I have been to in the UK or US. There were no large and unruly crowds of young men getting drunk and there were many families out and about. Oh yeah, its an arts festival, not a football match.
Nuit Blanche is not a banal arts showcase with pretentious people sipping free wine. It’s an all night, outdoor art festival with a great variety of art exhibitions, music, digital displays and plays. Two events I really liked were a recital by the Greek Diaspora in Toronto and what I think was a simulation of a military engagement in Iraq. There were soldiers, crashed planes and reporters. Later I discovered that it was supposed to be an alien crash landing. I said to one of the mock soldiers that if it were an alien crash landing, the public and reporters would never be allowed to get this close to the ‘vehicle.’ She smiled.