WBEZ | Katie O’Brien http://www.wbez.org/tags/katie-o%E2%80%99brien Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Standing in the gap: Parents in violent communities stress about keeping kids safe http://www.wbez.org/news/standing-gap-parents-violent-communities-stress-about-keeping-kids-safe-110670 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kids.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Fifty school-aged children died so far this year in Chicago. And in at least <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/arrest-made-in-shamiya-adams-murder">one case</a>, the child was killed while playing inside a friend&rsquo;s home&mdash;a setting that most parents would think is extremely safe. But for many parents living in neighborhoods where violence is a reality, even the most benign settings can feel unsafe and out of control.</p><p>Parents worry. Most never stop worrying about their children. It&rsquo;s a parent&rsquo;s job to protect and provide for their child; to help them grow and develop as individuals. So when a parent&rsquo;s abilities are compromised by things out of their control, it can be overwhelming.</p><p>On the far South Side of Chicago, in Roseland, crime and violence add to parents&rsquo; worries. Parents bite their fingernails in the summer months, when idle time leaves young people vulnerable to dangerous community elements.</p><p><a href="http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/community/roseland">Fifty-five people</a> have been shot in Roseland so far this year; in the last month, there&rsquo;s been more than three dozen batteries and assaults in the neighborhood. The majority of the violent crimes in the neighborhood take place on the street or a sidewalk, which is why many parents say they&rsquo;re leery to send their kids outside to play.</p><p>James Brown, 44, keeps a close watch over his 12-year-old son Semaj. Brown says stories about stray bullets hitting innocent kids is a known factor in the community&mdash;and that the people pulling the triggers don&rsquo;t care who or what they&rsquo;re shooting. And so, Semaj isn&rsquo;t allowed to ride his bike unless his father&rsquo;s outside.</p><p>&ldquo;I just want to be out there...&rdquo; Brown explained, &ldquo;not saying I can protect them from it, I just want to be out there.&rdquo;</p><p>Brown wants to be everywhere when it comes to his only child. And he keeps Semaj very busy.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, we playing baseball, then after baseball we play basketball...we play football. I have to keep him occupied..hanging out on the block is not an option at all, he knows that,&rdquo; Brown reasoned.</p><p>We. We play basketball, we play football: It would be hard for Brown not to feel like a member of the team, considering he goes to every game and practice.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard, it&rsquo;s hard...but I can&rsquo;t give my son to the streets. I can&rsquo;t give him to to the streets. I can&rsquo;t give him to people that act like they care but really don&rsquo;t care,&rdquo; Brown said.</p><p>Brown cares; not just about his son but about all the young men in Roseland. He&rsquo;s worked as a high school football coach in the community for the last two decades.</p><p>&ldquo;I coach football to save lives. I don&rsquo;t coach to be popular to be liked, I could care less if you like me. But it&rsquo;s an option for kids...to change their life,&rdquo; Brown said. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>But Brown felt there weren&rsquo;t any good little league options for his son in Roseland. So he spent the summer driving him to and from Englewood to play on its baseball team. His youngest sister, Victoria Harper Peeples, chose to do the same with her two boys. Both parents recognize the irony in taking their kids from one violent neighborhood to another to play little league.</p><p>&ldquo;People are immune to gunshots nowadays&mdash;as opposed to run for cover, they just sit there and act as if nothing happens&hellip;&rdquo; Harper Peeples lamented.</p><p>&ldquo;Well kids know &#39;hit the deck,&rsquo; wait for the shooting is over with and then get up and walk away. They know that. That&rsquo;s what we teach them. &lsquo;Cause you can&rsquo;t keep &lsquo;em in the house, you can&rsquo;t shelter them&hellip;&rdquo; Brown added.</p><p>Clinical psychologist <a href="http://www.uchospitals.edu/physicians/physician.html?id=6146" target="_blank">Brad Stolbach</a>, with the University of Chicago, has focused his entire career on children affected by trauma and violence. For nearly 20 years, he ran the Chicago Child Trauma Center at La Rabida Children&rsquo;s Hospital on the city&rsquo;s South Side. Stolbach said the constant, real threat of violence in communities like Roseland can be extremely stressful and disruptive.</p><p>&ldquo;If that&rsquo;s your top priority, is watching out and knowing when to hit the deck, it&#39;s very hard to attend to the normal tasks of daily life,&rdquo; Stolbach explained.</p><p>Moreover, Stolbach continued, parents really struggle when they feel like their child&rsquo;s safety is out of their control.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s just the way we&#39;re wired, especially moms, that protecting their children is a biological imperative. It&#39;s the number one priority in a lot of ways. And so feeling powerless to do that, can be not just frustrating but can really affect how you feel about yourself as a parent and as a person.&rdquo;</p><p>And when your kid turns out to be the perpetrator of violence...well, that&rsquo;s tough too.</p><p>Diane Latiker raised eight kids in Roseland. She described her parenting style as overprotective, relentless even.</p><p>&ldquo;I have four sons and when they were growing up, they were in gangs and I knew it. I mean, I tried my best to spearhead them other ways...I mean, I was relentless. But I had to get them away from here...literally, all four of them, to save their lives,&rdquo; Latiker recalled.</p><p>She sent the boys to live with their father in a nearby suburban Bellwood. She thought her worries were nearly over when her youngest daughter was about 13. She could almost see the finish line&mdash;her days of worrying about kids hanging out around the neighborhood were numbered. But it was around that time when Latiker realized, it wasn&rsquo;t just her kids who needed looking after.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;My mom worked; so when I came home from school, the block watched me when my mom was gone. Someone would see me out on the street and say, &lsquo;What are you doing Diane? Where you going Diane? Shouldn&rsquo;t you be in the house?&rsquo; So, you know, I never asked where their parents were or why they weren&rsquo;t doing...I just wanted to know what I could do to help fill in,&rdquo; she remembered.</p><p>Her foundation, <a href="http://www.kobchicago.org/">Kids Off the Block</a>, began with 10 of her daughter&#39;s friends. She invited them into her home and encouraged them to safely explore their interests and potential. Soon there were scores of kids in her living room and off the street. The kids no longer gather in her home, Latiker acquired a space next door. And while the network and foundation has grown, Latiker says the sense of community she remembers from her youth, or the &ldquo;neighbor - hood&rdquo; as she calls it, is still noticeably absent.</p><p>Latiker isn&rsquo;t the only person who thinks so.</p><p>Robert Douglas grew up in Roseland, on 114th and Prairie, in the late 80s and early 90s when the murder rate was double what it is today. Still, Douglas said he felt safer back then.</p><p>&ldquo;We had these backyards, right? That&rsquo;s where the neighbors got to know each other...now, they can&rsquo;t sit on the porch to get a breeze...because of the violence,&rdquo; Douglas said.</p><p>Douglas was a self-described &ldquo;gym rat&rdquo; growing up, which kept him out of trouble...for a while. But then his oldest brother was killed by gun violence.</p><p>&ldquo;My oldest brother was like...daddy. When he left, it was like...you know, hungry...where do we turn now?&rdquo; Douglas recalled.</p><p>Douglas never imagined what that kind of loss might feel like.</p><p>&ldquo;You don&rsquo;t know what it&rsquo;s like until you&rsquo;re burying someone to gun violence. You wouldn&rsquo;t...you could never imagine it,&rdquo; Douglas said.</p><p>He never imagined his response would be to turn to the streets. Douglas said the temptation was unavoidable.</p><p>&ldquo;Violence came to my front door,&rdquo; Douglas began. He rapped a few friendly but firm knocks onto the surface in front of him as he remembered his journey to a life of crime and violence. &ldquo;[Violence] said, &lsquo;Bob, what&rsquo;s up?&rsquo; And I opened the door and I went outside and I played.&rdquo;</p><p>Douglas doesn&rsquo;t want the same fate waiting for his children outside their door...no gangs, no drugs, no violence...none of it.</p><p>&ldquo;Ain&rsquo;t no way in the world I&rsquo;m gonna allow that to happen...and I&rsquo;m not moving out of Roseland. My wife want to go so bad...and she right...my children don&rsquo;t deserve it...they deserve better,&rdquo; Douglas said.</p><p>But Stolbach said it&rsquo;s important to understand that the idea of &ldquo;stopping the violence,&rdquo; is a fantasy until the reality of what causes it&mdash;poverty&mdash;is addressed.</p><p>&ldquo;If we continue to look at how horrible it is but that doesn&rsquo;t result in us trying to change what we&rsquo;re doing about it...that can be demoralizing,&quot; Stolbach explained.</p><p>But when parks and playgrounds are considered an unsafe place to play, when jobs and resources are limited, when neighbors have stopped looking out for one another, giving your kids better is hard.</p><p>And mom Harper Peeples said, it&rsquo;s already pretty tough.</p><p>&ldquo;We like superheroes for our children. Our kids look at us and be like, &lsquo;nothing goes wrong, we don&rsquo;t have any problems, we don&rsquo;t have any worries...&rsquo; But we be stressed out just trying to make sure, did I put them in the right school, did I let &lsquo;em hang with the right friends, did I put him on the right baseball team? There&rsquo;s just so many things that we have to do as parents, and we always put on the spotlight. I mean, it&rsquo;s no chance that mom or dad could make a mistake. We have to be almost like perfect individuals, at least in the sight of our children.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez">@katieobez</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 15:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/standing-gap-parents-violent-communities-stress-about-keeping-kids-safe-110670 FDA approves heroin overdose antidote http://www.wbez.org/news/fda-approves-heroin-overdose-antidote-109977 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ODawarenesst-shirt.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Food and Drug Administration has <a href="http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm391465.htm" target="_blank">approved</a> an easy-to-use device that delivers a life-saving antidote for suspected heroin overdoses.</p><p>Naloxone is usually administered by syringe in ambulances or emergency rooms. Kathie Kane-Willis, director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy and Roosevelt University, has long advocated for the antidote to be more readily available.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When your house is burning down, you don&rsquo;t think about why your house is burning down, you don&rsquo;t think about why is the house burning down, you get the people out of the house,&rdquo; Kane-Willis said.</p><p><br />Once turned on, the device, called Evzio, provides verbal instructions. It&rsquo;s similar to how non-medical personnel use defibrillators to help people who collapse from cardiac arrest. Evzio is about the size of a credit card.</p><p>The FDA&rsquo;s recent Naloxone approval means doctors could prescribe it for family members or caregivers to keep on hand, in a pocket or a medicine cabinet.</p><p>The FDA cautioned that the antidote is not a substitute for immediate medical care.</p><p>The drug manufacturer said it&rsquo;s too soon to estimate the antidote&rsquo;s cost.</p><p>Opioid-related drugs--painkillers such as oxycodone and Vicodin or heroin--are proving more popular and lethal. The FDA says 16,000 people die every year due to opioid-related overdoses, and that drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States, surpassing motor vehicle crashes.</p><p><em>WBEZ and the Chicago Reader explored the pathways through which heroin enters and impacts our community in its joint series, &quot;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/heroin-llc-chicago-is-heroin?in=wbez/sets/heroin-llc">Heroin, LLC</a>.&quot;</em><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/17095202&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez"> @katieobez</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 19:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/fda-approves-heroin-overdose-antidote-109977 Northwestern University football union hearings begin http://www.wbez.org/news/northwestern-university-football-union-hearings-begin-109693 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/nu.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>The National Labor Relations Board in Chicago held the first in a series of hearings Wednesday to consider whether college football players qualify as employees. Players from Northwestern University filed a union election petition with the board last month. If approved--and later elected to represent the interests of the team&rsquo;s scholarship players--the College Athletes Players Association would be the first labor union of its kind.</p><p>Unlike their professional counterparts, college athletes don&rsquo;t have contracts--they can&rsquo;t negotiate the terms of their tenure. And athletic scholarships are regulated by the NCAA. Studies show that athletes often spend up to 40 hours a week on their sport; they travel for their sport. Oftentimes, players are told when and where to be and what to eat. But Northwestern says it&rsquo;s all part of the overall academic experience.</p><p>University officials contend that students who participate in NCAA Division I sports, including those who receive athletic scholarships, are students, first and foremost.</p><p>Bob, Rowley, director of media relations for the university, spoke to reporters after Wednesday&rsquo;s brief preliminary hearing. He said scholarships are intended to provide for a student&rsquo;s educational experience, even if they&rsquo;re athletic. CAPA attorneys saw things differently.</p><p>Revenue generated by Division I FBS and men&rsquo;s basketball is estimated to be in the billions. CAPA said it is focused on those players because they believe they can make the case that the scholarships are, in essence, compensation.</p><p>&rdquo;If they don&rsquo;t play football, they don&rsquo;t receive the aid...the idea that somehow this is a gift to them, is untrue...if you don&rsquo;t play football, you don&rsquo;t get the scholarship,&rdquo; CAPA attorney John Adam explained.</p><p>Northwestern maintained that the university does not regard, and has never regarded, its football program as a commercial enterprise.</p><p>The key question went unanswered--but it will no doubt be taken up, picked apart and rehashed over three days of testimony before the board next week.</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez"> @katieobez</a></em></p></p> Wed, 12 Feb 2014 18:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/northwestern-university-football-union-hearings-begin-109693 DuPage County tries to keep drug users out of jail http://www.wbez.org/news/dupage-county-tries-keep-drug-users-out-jail-109407 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LEAD1.jpg" title="Legislators attend a summit on heroin, this time at Elmhurst College (WBEZ/Bill Healy)" /></div><p>Prescription painkillers are often a pathway to heroin. A <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/advisories/1308215815.aspx" target="_blank">recent federal report</a> found that four out of five new heroin users had previously used illicit pain pills.</p><p>That&#39;s how Nick Gore got hooked.</p><p>Gore said his childhood in suburban Bartlett -- 35 miles west of Chicago -- was normal. But in his early 20s, Gore developed a boulder-sized kidney stone that required multiple surgeries. And prescriptions to deal with the pain.</p><p>After a couple stints in detox -- and a couple in jail -- Gore took his first trip to rehab where he met a woman, a heroin addict.&nbsp; Soon, they started to date; he&nbsp;took her to a concert downtown and before he knew it, they were on the West Side of Chicago.<br /><br />&quot;We got off at Cicero and before I knew it, we not only bought our first bag of dope but we were snorting it,&rdquo; Gore recalled. &quot;It made me so sick, just throwing up. And I was itchy and disgusted but I got that warm feeling, like I was invincible...that euphoria that they talk about. And I wasn&#39;t addicted the first time I did heroin -- but I was hooked. It just hooked me.&rdquo;</p><p>Soon, the nice hockey star from Bartlett was a twice-convicted felon. Gore stole to feed his habit, to continue chasing that first high. But he said he didn&#39;t feel much of anything -- just sick, cycling in and out of withdrawal -- until his second trip to rehab.</p><p>For the first time in his life, Gore said he started to feel things.</p><p>&quot;I was being honest and it killed me, I was being honest about all the stupid shit I did and it killed me. Brought a lot more chaos into my life than into anyone else&#39;s because I took a butcher knife and decided to cut my Achilles tendon cause I just needed to feel something,&rdquo; Gore said.</p><p>Now two years into his recovery, Gore doesn&#39;t want to see anyone else get caught up in the heroin cycle. He said he&#39;d consider it a win if he can stop one person from trying heroin. So he shares his story at heroin summits in the western suburbs.&nbsp;</p><p>DuPage County Coroner <a href="http://www.dupageco.org/coroner/">Dr. Richard Jorgensen</a> said the fight to stop the spread of heroin use has been a losing battle for much of the community. Forty-three people have died so far this year as a result of heroin, and Jorgensen said there are at least three other suspected cases, pending toxicology reports.&nbsp;</p><p>Jorgensen analyzed the last two years of heroin-related deaths -- the period when the numbers jumped well above the annual average. In 2012, there were 38 deaths, a dozen more than the previous five years. Jorgensen looked for a pattern, an explanation, perhaps a hot spot.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;There&#39;s not one town or one city that predominates the statistics, we don&#39;t have one area or one socioeconomic group that predominates. It&#39;s not the poor kids from here or the rich kids from there it&#39;s really all over DuPage County,&rdquo; Jorgensen said.</div><p>Jorgensen said if heroin users don&#39;t end up in the morgue, they will probably end up across the street with DuPage County State&#39;s Attorney <a href="http://www.dupageco.org/statesattorney/">Bob Berlin</a>. That&#39;s why the two teamed up to spread awareness. They hold forums anywhere they&#39;re welcome: at schools, at local hospitals and community centers.</p><p>But Berlin said that getting people to show up and listen has been a struggle.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re dealing with the &lsquo;not my kid syndrome.&#39; Many parents unfortunately hear about heroin and they take the position &lsquo;Well geeze, it&#39;s not my kid, I don&#39;t have to worry about this.&#39; And we&#39;re trying to tell them it may not be your kid today but that doesn&#39;t mean it that it might not happen tomorrow,&rdquo; Berlin said.</p><p>Berlin said he isn&#39;t interested in sending addicts to jail.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ODawarenesst-shirt.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Hundreds of people turned out for this Overdose Awareness rally in August. (WBEZ/Bill Healy)" /></div><p>&quot;Someone who&#39;s an addict, they&#39;re stealing money to support their habit, putting them in prison for a year or two years where they&#39;ll serve half the time and get out doesn&#39;t really solve the problem because they continue to do the same things if you don&#39;t treat the drug addiction,&rdquo; Berlin said.</p><p>Non-violent defendants are still prosecuted for a felony but they&#39;re not incarcerated. They get counseling and regular drug tests. And if they complete the program, they&#39;re less likely to reappear in the criminal justice system. <a href="http://www.dupageco.org/courts/drug_court/2215/">DuPage County&#39;s drug court</a> is one of the most successful programs of its kind in the area. The typical rate of recidivism for felons is about 30 percent within three years. For drug court grads, it&#39;s eight percent.</p><p>But when it comes to drug dealers in DuPage County, the state&#39;s attorney takes a hardline approach. There is no drug court and no breaks.</p><p>&quot;We are aggressively prosecuting those people that peddle the poison in our community,&rdquo; Berlin said.</p><p>To Berlin, there is a clear, black-and-white difference between a user and a seller; but to Roosevelt University drug policy researcher <a href="http://www.roosevelt.edu/CAS/CentersAndInstitutes/IMA/Leadership.aspx">Kathie Kane-Willis</a> it&#39;s gray and problematic.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/KKW.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Kathie Kane-Willis speaks at an Overdose Awareness Rally in August at Roosevelt University's Schaumburg campus." /></div><p>Oftentimes, she said, both are heroin dependent and both will engage in acquisitive crimes that enable them to buy drugs. And to avoid withdrawal. Kane-Willis hasn&#39;t just researched this issue, she lived it as a former heroin user.</p><p>&quot;There were many times that I was delivering drugs because I was the one who had the time to cop drugs and so I would buy them and people would give me money, and I would give them the drugs; that&#39;s distribution, that&#39;s a sales offense. So was I a drug seller when I did that or was I a drug user or was I both? I was drug dependent,&quot; Kane-Willis said.</p><p>She said law enforcement is sending dependents mixed messages. On the one hand, they&#39;ll say it&#39;s not a problem that society can arrest its way out of. On the other hand, anyone caught selling drugs can expect a stiff penalty and some jail time.</p><p>The potential punishment can be especially harsh for anyone found to have supplied a fatal dose of heroin. In DuPage County, the charge is drug-induced homicide, a Class-X felony that carries up to 30 years in prison.</p><p>DuPage County has three-such cases pending. Nineteen-year-old Nolan McMahon was charged this past summer in the death of a 15-year-old Bartlett High School student. McMahon is accused of delivering the heroin that the other teen ingested before overdosing in his parents&#39; home.</p><p>Dealers bear responsibility in these deaths, according to Berlin.</p><p>&quot;The drug dealers know how dangerous these drugs are and how strong they are&hellip;and they need to be held accountable for what happens when people use these drugs and die, it&#39;s that simple. And that&#39;s the risk that they take,&quot; Berlin said.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pie%20heroin.PNG" style="height: 256px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="" /></p><p>But Kane-Willis said there&#39;s a greater and deadlier risk associated with the charge.</p><p>&quot;I think every drug-induced homicide charge that is made sends a ripple through the using community to not call 911 and might result in somebody else&#39;s death,&rdquo; Kane-Willis said.</p><p><a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=1701&amp;GAID=11&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;SessionID=84&amp;GA=97">Illinois&#39;s Good Samaritan Law</a> protects anyone from prosecution for possession if that person has fewer than three grams of heroin and, in good faith, calls 911 to save the life of someone who has overdosed.</p><p>If the overdose victim cannot be revived, the law does not provide protection from a drug-induced homicide charge.</p><p>Kane-Willis said the general perception of the relationship between a user and a seller is misunderstood.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s not what people think; there&#39;s not someone lurking around the corner trying to sell you heroin...that&#39;s not what heroin use and purchasing looks like,&rdquo; she said. &quot;Generally, people are seeking it out, they&#39;re drug dependent; and to provide drugs to someone who is in withdrawal, I&#39;ll say this from my own personal point of view, is not an evil thing to do, it&#39;s an act of mercy. And so I think some of these cases, these are merciful people who are being charged with murder, and that&#39;s just wrong.&rdquo;</p><p>Kane-Willis said it&#39;s important to understand that the victim and the perpetrator are very much the same kind of people.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=z5OJBBaoBP4k.kUgUKWvKtdDs" name="dupagechart" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202013-12-19%20at%205.51.58%20AM.png" style="height: 327px; width: 620px;" title="Map of 2013 heroin deaths by community in DuPage County. Click to view larger map." /></a></div><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2012.PNG" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2013%20dupage.PNG" title="" /></div></div><p><em>Katie O&#39;Brien is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez">@katieobez</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Dec 2013 11:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/dupage-county-tries-keep-drug-users-out-jail-109407 Restoring Roseland: Confronting violence with peaceful practices http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/restoring-roseland-confronting-violence-peaceful-practices-106651 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/130412_Restorative Justice 1_ko.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than 500 homicides were reported in the city of Chicago last year: 361 of the victims were African-American males; 220 were between the ages of 15 and 24.</p><p>In the fall of 2009, Christian Fenger High School became national news after violence took one of its own. A short while later, the school implemented a program that aims to squash America&rsquo;s culture of violence. It&rsquo;s called restorative justice, and for Fenger, it came after a particularly gruesome death.</p><p>One September afternoon, a fight stemming from an earlier gang-related shooting erupted just blocks from the school. Amateur video of the mob-like brawl showed dozens of people hurling punches, kicks, bottles and bricks at one another. Sophomore Derrion Albert was killed. He was the third Chicago Public School student killed, just a few weeks into the school year.</p><p>Senior Gerald Banks was a class behind Albert. He remembered always being on edge his freshman year. Banks recalled news cameras parked outside of the school every morning and fights every day.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody had their backs turned, making sure nobody was going to swing,&rdquo; Banks remembered.</p><p>Fenger&#39;s Culture and climate specialist Robert Spicer arrived at the school just two weeks before Albert&rsquo;s death. He referred to Albert&rsquo;s death as rock bottom, noting that the school had well over 375 arrests that year.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of these young people out here shooting and do all that stuff, they don&rsquo;t want to do this,&quot; Spicer explained.&nbsp;&quot;They don&rsquo;t want to carry a gun. But they feel forced to&mdash;because they feel like nobody out here is going to protect them so they have to protect themselves. So the only way they can be heard and respected is if they carry a gun. That&rsquo;s terrible.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Fenger needed a new approach&mdash;which is exactly what Spicer was brought there to do; and so he started implementing restorative justice.</p><p>Restorative justice is a philosophy that centers around relationships and trust. It seeks to address the needs of the victim, the wrongdoer and the community. It&rsquo;s also about healing: dressing the wounds many of these children leave raw and bare. The ones that eat at them until they&rsquo;re overcome.&nbsp;</p><p>He saw an opportunity for Fenger to be the game changers to, as he put it, &ldquo;show our society that it&rsquo;s possible to go into an urban environment, introduce these practices and be able to bring civility and sanity back into that school, any school.&rdquo;</p><p>Part of this process takes place in the peace room, just down the hall from the Fenger&rsquo;s main office. There, on the floor, in the middle of the room, is a black and white mat. On it rests &rdquo;talking pieces&rdquo; objects of significance to Spicer and the seniors who serve as peer jurors and help lead peace circles. The pieces are things like stuffed animals, a rain stick, a tree stump...when a member of the circle holds the talking piece, it&rsquo;s their time to talk.</p><p>The peace room is where stakeholders in a conflict can come together to have a summit of sorts. Last week, a group of freshman girls gathered there after gossip got a little too close to a fight. With a potential 10-day suspension on the horizon, Spicer rerouted the girls to a peace circle.</p><p>Spicer told them that the circle was their time to be real. Their time to say what was on their minds. Because, as he put it, no one else was going to give them the time&mdash;not the dean and certainly not the real world.</p><p>&ldquo;You know this is not a game,&quot; Spicer warned.&nbsp;&quot;You know what&rsquo;s waiting for you if you decide to take your attitude and go out here and do stupid, silly stuff&mdash;they ready to send you right up out of here. And that world out there, as cold as it is...it&rsquo;s even colder without an education.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>That&rsquo;s the meat and potatoes right there: The object of the game is to get kids back in class. Because a kid with an education is much more likely to survive.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;People who drop out from high school are much more likely to become gang-involved than those (who) do not. And we know that a very, very important predictor of graduating high school is being able to ready by third grade,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.law.yale.edu/faculty/TMeares.htm" target="_blank">Tracey Meares</a>, the Walton Hale Hamilton Professor of Law at Yale Law School, explained.</p><p>Meares&rsquo; research focuses on crime prevention strategies. She spent a great deal of time looking at the city of Chicago, particularly areas of high crime and poverty.</p><p>Meares subscribes to the idea that violence should be treated like a public health issue, more specifically, like a blood-born pathogen. Therefore the best violence-reduction strategy, as Meares described it, is to identify the people who are central to the network of crime, who occupy important places in densely connected networks, and to intervene to try to get them to stop engaging in violence.</p><p>Almost four years into Fenger&rsquo;s philosophical switch, the rate of freshman on track to graduate rose to between 75 and 85 percent, from around 40. Arrests at school were down. So why not put a peace room in every school?</p><p><a href="http://umojacorporation.org/leadership/staff/ilana-zafran/" target="_blank">Ilana Zafran</a> helps implement restorative justice programs in partner schools around Chicago. She said the biggest problem is patience. People want immediate results but changing a culture and restorative justice takestime.</p><p>The other criticism, Zafran explained, is that people want those who have wronged them to be held accountable. Or more intimately, when confronted, to admit their error and apologize. But, she said, sometimes people aren&rsquo;t ready to admit wrongdoing. And that can be hard.</p><p>Back at Fenger, after the talking piece had been round the circle a few times, one of the freshman girls echoed Meares&rsquo; earlier point.</p><p>She explained that while she might be &ldquo;the coolest, funniest short person you know,&rdquo; if someone had a problem with her, she&rsquo;d just avoid them. Because, she shared, her friend&rsquo;s cousin was shot and killed over some &lsquo;he-said-she-said stuff&rsquo;&mdash;and if her friend had been there, she&rsquo;d be gone too. And she wasn&rsquo;t about to lose her life over something as small as all that. She wanted to be sure the group knew, for her, the situation was over. And asked them to let it go.</p><p>The hope is that young people can learn to let go. That they can squash things before they escalate, before someone raises a hand or a gun. Or that they share senior Ana Muniz&rsquo;s philosophy on fighting.</p><p>&ldquo;You need two people to fight&mdash;I&rsquo;m not available. I&rsquo;m never available. If you want to talk,&rdquo; Muniz clarified, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m available to talk.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Muniz, who was raised in Mexico, said she already took the lessons she&rsquo;s learned to her family back home. She convened peace circles at her younger sister&rsquo;s school. The hope is that peace circles continue to expand and that what&rsquo;s happening at Fenger will continue to create ripples of peace.</p><p dir="ltr" id="internal-source-marker_0.5029294477684348"><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez" target="_blank">@katieobez</a></em></p></p> Mon, 15 Apr 2013 11:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/restoring-roseland-confronting-violence-peaceful-practices-106651