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by Jack Calhoun
Every state has a primary responsibility to ensure the safety of its residents. Living a life free from violence is a right, not a privilege, and policies that look to support city and community violence prevention efforts can serve as a framework for local plans, programs, and initiatives.

Across OJJDP's youth violence prevention initiatives, there are three cities in particular that have built upon state and local policies to maximize their youth violence prevention work: Chicago, Ill.; Oakland, Calif.; and Santa Rosa, Calif. Kathleen Hill, senior policy advisor in Chicago's Office of the Mayor, talked about the city's implementation of Ban the Box and record expungement laws—both of which have been strengthened by policy work. Ernesto Olivares, director of the California Cities Violence Prevention Network (CCVPN), described changes in state law that establish principles for regional partnerships and leveraging of state funding streams to address delinquency prevention. Through Peter Kim, division manager for Oakland's Human Services Department and director of Oakland Unite, we heard about the most local policy change—a tax measure that supports prevention and interventions for the city's volatile neighborhoods and youth most prone to victimizing or victimization.

Emerging Policy That Supports Local Comprehensive Work in Chicago
The word expunge, in the legal sense, means to erase a record. But the term has little heft unless applied to a person. A clean slate offers the hope of education or employment, while a record dims the future, often consigning youth to society's edges, despair, or a continued life of crime, jail, or worse.

The recently passed Clean Slate Act in Illinois rightly posits that the deeper youth become involved in the justice system, the more likely they are to stay involved, and that the consequences of an arrest record can stay with a youth far beyond the moment of arrest. The act aims to make free and permanent the process of expungement, with any arrest that doesn't result in a court case automatically removed from the Illinois State Police database after a person turns 18.

"We know arrest records cause problems," said Chicago's Kathleen Hill. "Thousands of youth are diverted by the police following an arrest. They go home. If they don't get into trouble again, they forget about it. Then something jumps up to trip them. Someone will fill out a job application in good faith, checking 'no record.' The employer follows up, finds an arrest record, and now views the job applicant as a liar."

The numbers are significant: Chicago logs about 22,000 juvenile arrests per year. Of those, close to 7,000 are station house adjusted and not referred to prosecution. An additional 2,000 cases are diverted by prosecution, and another 7,000 are "no files."

"That's up to 16,000 arrests per year that could be eligible for expungement," said Hill, "but prior to this bill, only about 400 kids a year were filing formal petitions to expunge their records."

Two large tasks remain to get automatic juvenile expungement right: Make clear in the statute what expungement means—that records get sealed in all law enforcement databases—and "[work] to make sure that we're clear with kids about what they should say," said Hill. "Right now, if they say 'no record,' that's not quite right, but if they say 'arrested but expunged' that could hurt their chances of employment. We want to be certain a youth can say 'no record' and not get tripped up."

At its core, the city's effort is a moral one. "We've got to get it right," Hill said. "This could make a meaningful difference in the future prospects for thousands of kids."

To help those who have been involved in the criminal justice system, Illinois passed a "Ban the Box" law, which prevents an employer from asking about criminal history on an initial job application. Chicago has strengthened the state law in two ways: by requiring all businesses (not just those with 15 or more employees) to adhere to Ban the Box, and by requiring an employer to tell an applicant if he or she is eventually rejected because of prior criminal history.

Finally, Hill noted the policy importance of an advisory body for citywide violence prevention efforts. The Mayor's Commission for a Safer Chicago, which consists of more than 130 community leaders, "helped us work with legislators regarding what is reasonable to request. We have had a lot more credibility and strength in the policy and legislative space because we have this advisory board."

The Evolution of Violence Prevention Funding in California
According to Ernesto Olivares, policies recently implemented in California have significantly shaped how the work of comprehensive violence prevention and action plays out on the local level. "And CCVPN has helped to trigger some of these changes," Olivares said.

Olivares has served his city, Santa Rosa, as senior law enforcement executive, city councilor, and mayor. He helped create and ran the Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force. In 2012 the governor appointed him to the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), for which he serves on the Standing Committee on Gang Issues. In this role, Olivares addresses the board's legislative mandate by providing recommendations on various gang-related policy issues.

One of BSCC's many functions is to provide localities with funding to run evidence-based prevention and intervention programs via CalGRIP, the California Gang Reduction Intervention and Prevention Program. CalGRIP requires applicants to address three elements of evidence-based practices: some evidence the proposed intervention is likely to work, evidence the work was carried out as intended, and some indication of whether the intervention worked.

Since its inception in 2007, CalGRIP has changed. A legislative amendment now requires the consolidation of grant funds and programs, thus "moving toward a unified single delinquency intervention and prevention grant application process" (amends Section 6027 of the Penal Code, Chapter 36 of the 2011 statutes).

"Although CalGRIP allocates only $9.2 million annually," said Olivares, "our modest funding has the potential to influence the way in which hundreds of millions of related state dollars are spent."

He also pointed out another change spurred by CCVPN's comprehensive work—that applicants must set up regional "comprehensive partnerships to help pool funds [and] broaden the target population, thus maximizing the impact of state funds at the local level." The most recent state budget allocates $6 million to BSCC in grant funding for cities with programs and initiatives that intend to strengthen relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

"Two other recent changes in state law are having a profound impact on local government," said Olivares. AB 109, the California Public Safety Realignment Act, shifts a considerable portion of criminal justice responsibility from state to local government. Proposition 47 changes many nonviolent offenses (e.g., drug possession, property crimes, and shoplifting) from felonies to misdemeanors. This is also a national trend. Ever the optimist, Olivares observed that, "While this places more burden on local government, it provides more opportunity for collaboration, and it forces us to come up with better reentry programs—often a weak spot in our comprehensive planning."

Olivares underscores the critical political importance of a network. "It's a little difficult for legislators [to] not at least meet with you when you've got 13 cities behind you."

What Measures Y and Z Mean for Oakland, California
Several cities have passed tax measures to support violence prevention work, and Oakland was a pioneer. Its 10-year Public Safety and Services Initiative (Measure Y) passed in 2004. The city levied a "parcel tax" of about $97 per homeowner, which generated roughly $20 million annually. According to Peter Kim, neither the law nor Measure Z (a new and improved initiative that extends funding for another 10 years) would have passed without a partnership among the police, the service community, and local citizens.

"Enforcement alone wouldn't have gotten the bill passed," said Kim. "Prevention or intervention wouldn't have gotten the bill passed. It had to be framed as a public safety bill that included police, fire, and violence prevention programs." Under Measure Z, the fire department will receive $2 million of the projected $22 million generated, the police department will receive about $12 million, and violence prevention and reduction services will see roughly $8 million.

"People want more cops," said Kim, "but they also want more services—more jobs and job training, more programs that keep kids in school and out of jail, and wraparound services for returning offenders." It takes a two-thirds vote to pass tax measures in Oakland. Measure Z passed by a whopping 77 percent.

With its prevention allocation, the city has just released a new request for proposals that asks for service provision in three core strategic areas: intensive case management, employment and education support, and crisis response. "While the services are not all new, the approach we're taking is," asserted Kim. "As a continuum of services, we need [to] be more coordinated than ever. And we're focusing intentionally on the youth and young adults most in danger of victimizing and of being victims. The data shows us it's not everyone, but that there is a core group, and we've got to wrap our arms around them." He promises "small caseloads and time—time to build trusting relationships with folks who don't trust. Caseloads should be no more than 12–15, and we'll stay with our youth for 18 months—longer than any service period before."

Relationships and advocacy are central. "Case managers, or what we call Life Coaches, will build life skills, broker services, [and] advocate for their clients, and the work will be relation centered," Kim said. He sees the services as robust, customized, and consistent. "As mentors, they will meet them where they're at and be available to them 24/7. That's the vision." Kim became especially animated when describing his proposed Youth Leadership Council. "These are the guys who've been in the life, who've made the mistakes, but who want to make change—not just for themselves but for their peers and communities. We're looking to engage the most active and influential in their networks, and by providing the space and tools, help them influence the work we do. We're going to seek their perspectives, have them inform our process, and tell us which services work or don't work."

His advice to cities that want to pass tax measures? "Bring in diverse elements—police, schools, community-based and faith-based organizations, and the community members who see violence daily." Kim also cautioned it takes work: "knocking on doors, passing out flyers, attending community meetings, talking it up all over the city."

"People want police," said Kim, "but they know it's not enough, that young people and families need services and resources too. So they're willing to be taxed for it, and that speaks volumes."