Three issues converge in today’s show, all having much in common. The Public Schools are adopting a new discipline code that favors restorative justice and in-school suspensions. The Police are partnering with Cease Fire in an attempt to curb the spiking violence in hard-hit neighborhoods. And the City Council is approving new enforcement procedures for marijuana possession.
All of these issues are one and the same, say panelists Steve Franklin (Chicago Headline Club and Community Media Workshop), Ben Joravsky (Chicago Reader), and Randell Strickland (Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission). Joravsky and his writing partner Mick Dumke have written extensively about the disparate enforcement of marijuana laws, which results in young black males accounting for almost 90% of the people who end up jailed for possession, despite the well-documented fact that all races seem to consume marijauna about equally.
Violence has been in the news constantly this season, with emphasis on incidents downtown and in the Gold Coast. “There is a culture that supports this kind of violence. That makes having a gun attractive to a 12 or 13 or 15-year-old boy,” says Strickland. And the methods we’ve been using so far to address these issues are obviously not working, he asserts.
Franklin says the news media is partly to blame. “Yes, we do have crime, and ignoring it is lethal … but the danger, what we do sometimes in the news media is we terrify people,” he says. But Strickland has a different take. “From my vantage point, maybe the hysteria isn’t all bad, to the extent that it might jar some people who might otherwise ignore or feel insulated or isolated from this reality,” he says. “I don’t think we should assume that these kids don’t have a fairly developed and savvy sense of how things sort of stack up politically and economically. If we take this crime to where the folks who have policitcal and economic influence are, that it’ll have a different impact than if we take it down the street or around the corner.”
Franklin endorses the Cease Fire partnership. “Everywhere they’ve gone they’ve pretty much produced good resuts. They’ve been working in Chicago for a number of years and every district they’ve worked in…they’ve brought the homicide rate down.”
There’s a strong sense on this panel that money and resources should be devoted to prevention strategies to keep young people away from the culture of violence. But Ben Joravskly, who’s been writing for years about City government and budgeting , injects a “gloomy and doomy” note.
“Politically we’re just not there at all. We’re talking about cutting funds for government. We’re talking about cutting programs. While everything you two’ve said I wholeheartedly agree with and I would endorse either one of you to be Mayor of Chicago right now, we’re actually headed in the opposite direction.”