CeaseFire – Effectiveness, and the role race plays in determining the definition?

If you have been keeping up with my series you know that little in the way of true evidence has been brought forward to validate the assumptions made by CeaseFire administrators and other program backers. This has not stopped the Chicago media and academia from eagerly joining the chorus of individuals and institutions calling for the reinstatement of State funding for CeaseFire. You can read other installments from the series here: 1,2,3. This has made me wonder what role race has played in the decisions made by backers of the program.

Specifically, would legislators, academia, and the media be so quick to back a program carrying the burdens CeaseFire is carrying if the program was headed by a Black/Latino(a) academic rather than a White? If the program served mostly white communities and black administrators shaved a percentage off the top without ever disclosing that procedure in any of its financial paperwork would the reactions be different? My answer is yes! The media has given a tremendous amount of credibility to Slutkin without ever really sinking their teeth in deeper to the issues surrounding CeaseFire’s activities. One has to question if politicians believe that it is better to give anti-violence money targeting communities of color to White academics rather than directly to community members? The answer to this question is important because it helps us explain why Ceasefire blossomed as it has.

Anyone interested in reducing red tape and making sure that the money given was put to the most use would not seek out a middleman based at a university without good cause. Why exactly, does money directed to North Lawndale have to pass through the University of Illinois? Is it because the non-profit community partners based in the troubled communities cannot be trusted to handle the money or fulfilled their obligations under the grant agreements? Well, in contradiction to this belief the Auditor General of Illinois stated in his audit of CeaseFire that community partners that received their money straight from the State were more likely to fulfill the terms of the agreement than if the money went through CeaseFire.

Focusing on the existence of CeaseFire through a race lens reveals that prejudice plays a major role is why CeaseFire exists. Prejudice helps determine why a white academic institution is needed as a filter to determine who does and who does not get anti-violence funding from the state. Prejudice helps policy makers feel better about giving the money out because it is going to a White academic and not directly to some hoodlums in a community of color. Prejudice helps explain why a White academic with no background in criminology or criminal justice issues receives huge amounts of funding from the State for work in communities of color. It also explains why the media can explain away financial impropriates revealed in the audit by saying they are minor accounting errors.

Can anyone out there really tell me this would be the position of the major media in Chicago if the program were run out of neighborhood organization in Woodlawn or Auburn Gresham? The great sham! Does CeaseFire work? Well, I think I have put a few kinks in the armor of those that would claim they have social science research to verify the successfulness of this program. Why then is this program so widely acclaimed and what does that have to do with race? CeaseFire is a liberal’s dream program because it pays ex-gang members to now work on the streets towards a noble goal, the reduction of violence. The problem is that there has yet to be created a way for us to determine with any validity that the program is successful in any of their efforts.

Now this being Chicago and Illinois this did not stop the program from growing handsomely. Why you ask? Because politicians who had it operating in their communities could use the program as propaganda. Politicians who received funding to have CeaseFire operating in their communities could claim success in reductions that CeaseFire would claim they made in the specific areas. See, both the politician and CeaseFire gained by these claims and the validity of the claims was not as important as the ability to claim it worked. See, it is a conspiracy, but one of like-mindedness and not of overt agreements to be dishonest. The politicians know that there is no way CeaseFire can be validated so all they need is to obtain the funding for the program in their area and they can claim victory because CeaseFire will always claim they have made reductions. CeaseFire, like any institution, could be counted on to propagandize their achievements or claimed achievements every year; thus, both the politicians and the CeaseFire would benefit from the claims of success without every having to prove if the program worked. Once a politician received funding for the program in their particular area the crime reductions were automatic; it is almost like they were purchased with the funding check.

Race enters this process in three specific ways:

  • First, only a White academic could obtain such funding merely on propaganda rather than results without ever having to prove his/her claims. An academic of color would have been discovered long before the financial problems were exposed at CeaseFire. Also the media would never have given an academic of color the instant credibility that Slutkin has received.
  • Secondly, the funding that was going to CeaseFire could have gone directly into communities of color; thus, instead of building up a bureaucracy at UIC there would have been dozens of more jobs in communities of color. Since Slutkin’s main theory is about violence reductions before addressing economic inequalities this may not bother him; but I am pretty sure these communities could use these jobs.
  • Third, all the communities that are in desperate need of violence reductions are communities of color; thus, by continuing to fund a program that is not working we are continuing to make poor attempts at addressing the needs of these communities.

These communities have seen decades of white liberal approaches to help that instead resulted in their own profit. One has to question if CeaseFire is a repeat of the same lame liberal attempts at helping poor communities deal with problems of violence.

Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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