At least 2,721 people people have been shot in Chicago this year. While that’s down from the same time last year, it still represents a 44 percent jump from five years ago.
In one effort to stem the bloodshed, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his administration are putting significant resources into an intervention outside of the state Legislature, police department, or court system.
Becoming a Man is a school-based group-therapy and mentoring program for teenage boys designed to teach impulse control to kids who have suffered trauma. The idea (a form of cognitive behavioral therapy) is to halt the thought processes that lead to retaliatory violence — which often takes the form of gunfire — and develop coping strategies to defuse interpersonal conflicts, as Trace contributor Kate Masters wrote last year.
Politico Magazine reports that an influx of funding is helping Becoming a Man and its sister organization, Working on Womanhood, expand. The city is pouring nearly $5 million into the programs. Along with the public funding, Emanuel has helped raise an additional $10 million from private donors.
Last year, the University of Chicago Crime Lab found that the program reduced arrests for violent crime among its early enrollees by nearly 50 percent, though those gains faded after young people left the program. The graduation rate rose by 19 percent.
“We were surprised by the impacts and how large they were,” Roseanna Ander, executive director of the Crime Lab, told Politico, “especially for a program that’s not super-super-intensive and expensive.
Becoming a Man will serve 6,000 students this academic year, up from 4,100 last year. In 2012, the program had just 534 participants. Working on Womanhood, which has been reported to lower depression in its participants, expects to sign up 1,750 girls this year, versus 1,080 last year.
“BAM saves kids’ lives,” one young man in the program told Politico. “They pull you from the hood, they take you different places to see different things. They want your mind somewhere else.”
Read Politico Magazine’s deep dive on Becoming a Man here.