Civic leaders, members of law enforcement, clergy, and experts in public health and crime prevention converged in Baltimore, November 17–19, for the Youth Violence Prevention Communities of Practice Fall Convening.
The convening—organized by Development Services Group, Inc., and hosted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)—began with an all-day training led by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). On subsequent days, attendees participated in concurrent communities of practice for OJJDP’s three signature youth violence prevention initiatives—Community-Based Violence Prevention (CBVP); the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention; and the Defending Childhood Initiative—and the Faith-Based Shared Learning Collaborative.
On the first day, OJJDP Administrator Robert Listenbee began the convening with opening remarks. Then, EJI Founder and Executive Director Bryan Stevenson led a plenary conversation, with experts in children’s response to traumatic stress and surviving trauma and torture. The plenary concluded with an emotionally powerful speech on racial and socioeconomic biases in the justice system by Anthony Ray Hinton, who spent 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit and was exonerated this year with EJI’s help. Afterward, participants convened by role to meet with EJI staff for more in-depth discussions.
On the second day, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, who heads the Office of Justice Programs, provided opening remarks. She commended the attendees’ efforts to reduce youth violence and asked how the Department of Justice could further support their work. Melissa Rogers, special assistant to the President and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and Baltimore Health Commissioner Leana Wen, M.D., followed with inspirational remarks. Participants then broke out by initiative to discuss various salient topics, including sustainability, developing public health partnerships, racial justice and equality, trauma, police–community trust, and law enforcement–faith partnerships. During a working lunch, Kevin Grant, violence prevention coordinator for the city of Oakland, Calif., and a former federal prison inmate, gave an inspiring speech about the need for policymakers to understand the unique needs and circumstances of urban ex-offenders to prevent recidivism.
On the third day, CBVP participants discussed sustainability, communications, changing the narrative around violence prevention work, and how to implement in their communities what they learned at the convening. Participants of the Faith-Based Shared Learning Collaborative discussed resource development and understanding the grant application process.