New Program Reduces Gun Violence and Shootings

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New Program Reduces Gun Violence and Shootings  

Jim Windell

             In the past year or so, there has been an uptick in crime, especially in big cities. Many cities report an increase in violent crimes with a surge in shooting and murders. Despite the fact that both property crime and violent crime steadily decreased from 1993 until we were hit by the pandemic, still violent crime has always been too high in this country.

            I would expect that Congress and state legislators will respond to current increases in crime in the usual ways – mostly by passing new laws to increase sanctions and tack on more punishment. Of course, there is no evidence that increased penalties have ever actually prevented crime, yet this is the extent of most lawmaker’s innovative approach to crime problems.

            There is a new approach being studied in Chicago, which according to early analysis and results, suggests that shootings and homicides are being reduced by 32%.

            The program called READI Chicago connects individuals who are at highest risk of gun violence involvement with up to 18 months of paid transitional jobs and cognitive behavioral therapy, plus six months of supportive services. This innovative program is testing whether a highly-targeted, intensive program can produce a measurable decline in violence and criminal justice involvement. Essentially, READI Chicago is a large-scale initiative that connects individuals most at risk of gun violence involvement with employment in paid transitional jobs, counseling, and supportive services to help them gain skills and create a path to a better future. 

           The program is being implemented in Austin, West Garfield Park, Englewood, West Englewood and North Lawndale in collaboration with six local partner organizations. READI identifies eligible participants through three referral sources: community partners, reentry from the criminal justice system, and a data-based risk assessment. The University of Chicago’s Crime Lab and Inclusive Economy Lab are conducting a randomized control trial evaluation of the program.

           The men who are referred to READI Chicago are all at extremely high risk of involvement in gun violence. Of the 2,014 men who were participants in the early stages of the program one-third of them had been shot at least once and on average they had been arrested at least 17 times. Nonetheless, the participants have stayed engaged in the program. Fifty-five percent of all individuals eligible to start work do so within 20 months.

           Interviews with participants indicate that they are initially attracted to the paycheck, but stay engaged because of the strong “family-like” relationships in READI Chicago and access to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Both participants and staff confirm participants are learning new skills and concepts in CBT that they are using in their everyday lives to change their thinking or navigate stressful situations.

           As indicated, the men who have participated in READI are 32 % less likely to be involved in shootings and homicides.

           Indications are that READI Chicago is successful because it offers young men from disadvantaged neighborhoods the one thing they cannot otherwise find: Jobs and steady employment.

           If these results persist, READI Chicago has the potential to contribute to the safety and economic opportunity among residents who have been disconnected, underserved, and at grave risk of violence involvement. In addition, it provides a blueprint for other cities to follow.

           To read more about READI Chicago, go to: or



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