By Aysia Morton.
Special to the AFRO
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recognized National Reentry Month by announcing an initiative to identify and support those at the highest risk of getting involved in gun violence. National Reentry Month reaffirms the importance of helping people who were formerly incarcerated reenter society.
“A relatively small number of people are responsible for a significant amount of the gun violence happening in our communities. What we are doing is reaching out to those people, listening to them and figuring out what they need, and working with them to get them on a better, safer path forward,” Bowser said.
The initiative, called the People of Promise, targets approximately 200 to 250 residents who have been identified as high risk for involvement in gun violence. Bowser’s office worked with the National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and other national experts to obtain data to create the list for the People of Promise initiative. Each participant has been assigned a team to include a Life Coach, Credible Contact, a Pathfinder, and a member of Mayor Bowser’s cabinet.
The Mayor held the announcement at His and Hers restaurant, owned by D.C. native Paul Winestock, a returning citizen who has contributed to the life and vitality of the District of Columbia.
In 1993, Winestock was sentenced to two life terms, without the possibility of parole. Now, Winestock provides employment and community service opportunities to residents through his nonprofit organization, Saving Our Next Generation. He also runs His and Hers restaurant and manages two youth-focused workforce development programs at Anacostia High school.
“We also know that no one person or agency can do this work alone. We need community members like Paul, who have these lived experiences and who know how to create better and safer opportunities, working with us. We also need to make sure every resource and all of our programs are being used effectively to help the people who need them most – and that’s what the People of Promise initiative will help us do,” Bowser continued.
“The primary goal of the initiative is to disrupt cycles of violence, poverty, and incarceration through relentless engagement with individuals to connect them to supports and services,” said Delano Hunter, the director of DC Parks and Recreation.
Credible Contacts are staff from the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and the Department of Corrections. The Credible Contacts create community connections, seek out individuals in the community and build trusting relationships with them to learn more about their needs.
Each team member will work together to service community members, track outreach and measure progress. Each of the Mayors contributing cabinet members will lead the teams, conduct case reviews with Pathfinders and Credible Contacts and assist in proposing solutions to difficult service needs to ensure they are quickly resolved.
“We value accountability in my administration. People who work for me know they have to report what they are doing to me and to the community,” said Bowser. “It is this structure of increased accountability that will help make a difference and bend the curb of violence that we are experiencing in our city.”
The city’s budget includes a $1.7 million investment that will strengthen the initiative by adding what the Mayor says is “the missing link in our approach,” 20 Life Coaches.
The Mayor’s budget also includes $251 million to build a new DC jail that is said to better support rehabilitation and reentry for D.C. residents.
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