The Immaturity and Irrationality of Suppression

 

As Resilience OC we believe that the violence in our communities stems from historic and systemic processes that suppression cannot possibly address. Suppression is reflective of the failed “tough on crime” approach from the 80’s. Additionally, suppression based strategies, such as gang injunctions, have only further criminalized and marginalized youth in our communities and have only lead to negative outcomes for everyone.

Different fields of science have advanced since the 80’s producing countless studies, which show that one-dimensional suppression based approaches to youth violence are ineffective. Nonetheless, a recent statement by Santa Ana Councilman Villegas highlights a troubling social phenomenon. During a council meeting Councilman Villegas stated, “There is no solution for the gang problem… The best thing we can do is contain [suppress] the gang problem.” The troubling social phenomenon is the learned helplessness in regards to addressing violence among youth, exemplified by Councilman Villegas’ statement. He proceeded to place the blame completely on parents without acknowledging the systemic neglect of youth on behalf of the city.

Another concerning aspect of his statements is that it echoes Trump’s constant call to answer violence with more violence. The immaturity and irrationality of suppression permeates not only our local, but national discourse when we attempt to solve problems as a society. History has shown time and time again that violence only begets more violence. Although much has advanced since the Stone Age, many elected officials still adhere to utilizing brute force when attempting to solve a problem and then exhibit signs of learned helplessness when the problem is not solved.

We must have serious and informed conversations about the roots causes of violence. There is a lack of a robust youth infrastructure in the City promoting healthy youth development. The programs that do exist are not evaluated and programs coordinated by SAPD, such as the GRIP program, are not evidenced based. We need long term as well as immediate solutions. Below are recommendations for short term and long-term investments in youth:

Short Term

  • Create summer job programs and opportunities for formerly incarcerated or systems involved youth.
    • Youth could intern or work for local non-profits or for the city.
  • All internships need to be open and accessible to undocumented youth.
  • A subdivision of Healthy Youth Development should be established under the Departments of Parks and Recs.
  • A Healthy Youth Development coordinator should be hired by the end of May.
  • The City should partner with SAUSD to increase joint use agreements in order to have activities and programming available for youth and the community in the evenings.

Long Term

  • Invest in a robust youth programs and services infrastructure in the city promoting healthy youth development.
  • Evaluate all youth programs in the city.
  • Implement evidenced based, trauma informed and culturally relevant violence prevention and violence intervention programming.
  • Diversify the crisis responders of the city by contracting Community Intervention Workers that could provide an additional layer of response to incidents of community violence.
  • Create and implement a holistic and comprehensive violence prevention and reduction collective impact strategy that considers environmental factors such as affordable housing, rent control, green spaces etc.