Michigan Chronicle: Bring our communities together to fulfill the promise of every child

Young people in Detroit and cities across the country are facing an ongoing cycle of violence and incarceration that tears apart our communities, prevents kids from reaching their full potential and costs precious lives. Youths under the age of 24 are more likely to be victims of violent crime than any other age group. In Michigan, homicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds, and the number one cause of death for African Americans in that same group.

This continuous cycle of violence not only costs lives, it damages entire communities — causing too many children to lose hope for a brighter future. On any given day in the United States, more than 60,000 young people have been funneled out of our schools and into jail or prison. Incarcerated minors are far more likely to be reoffenders, and nearly half will end up in the adult corrections system. We must act now to prevent youth violence before it happens and end this school-to-prison pipeline to ensure that every child has the opportunity for a bright future.

I recently had the opportunity to visit Cody High School in Detroit and meet with nonprofit groups and community organizations that are making critical investments to build stronger schools and stronger neighborhoods to support their students. Organizations like the Skillman Foundation, United Way’s Greater Detroit Venture Fund, Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance, Black Family Development and Don Bosco Hall are working together to establish new programs and partnerships that provide more opportunities for young students in the Cody Rouge area to succeed.

The Cody Campus —now home to three individual academies — serves a neighborhood where nearly 40% of children live in poverty. Innovative programs that connect students to mentoring and after-school programs, have been able to dramatically improve academic performance on the Cody Campus. In fact, the schools now have an on-time graduation rate that is 7% higher than the Detroit citywide average.

Congress must ensure that students in Michigan and across the country have access to similar support programs to help put them on a path to success and break the cycle of violence they are exposed to on a daily basis.

I helped introduce the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunity, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education Act, or Youth PROMISE Act, to empower local communities to reduce youth violence by supporting young people through education and mentoring. This bipartisan legislation will help bring community groups together with law enforcement, educators and social service providers to identify their specific community’s needs and develop a plan to tackle and prevent youth violence. Communities would then be eligible for grants to implement programs using evidence-based practices for juvenile delinquency and criminal street gang prevention or intervention.

These practices, including mentoring and after-school programs, help reduce crime and at a much lower cost to taxpayers than incarceration. In Michigan, we spend between $34,000 and $116,000 to incarcerate one child for one year, but a recent study found that every $1 invested in high-quality prevention and intervention programs saves $5 in corrections costs by keeping children on the right path. Congress must pass this vital legislation and put the full force of our communities behind helping young people succeed.

The Cody Rouge neighborhood is just one example of the tremendous progress we can make by giving students the opportunity and support they need to believe in themselves and their ability to succeed. Organizations in neighborhoods across the city of Detroit are working to develop community-focused programs to keep kids on the right path, and we must help support them. The Youth PROMISE Act is a key step to ensuring that our communities can come together to reduce violence and give every young person a good shot at a better life.

By:  US Senator Gary Peters
Source: Michigan Chronicle