‘Becoming A Man’ course: Helping young African-American men avoid prison

2 Jul

 

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: Moi read Tim Jones’ Bloomberg article, Chicago’s 29% Homicide Drop Comes With 400 Cops Working Overtime, which was posted at the Business Week site:

 

Chicago cut its homicide rate by 29 percent during the first half of this year, thanks in part to a crime prevention strategy that paid 400 officers overtime to quell violence in the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

 

Following a year in which homicides topped 500 for only the second time in a decade, Chicago reported its lowest first six-month total since 1965 — 180 through June 30, according to police data. That’s 76 fewer than the same period in 2012.

 

A question hanging over the latest homicide figures is the city’s financial ability to maintain the beefed-up street force as temperatures rise and costs mount. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-07-02/chicago-s-29-percent-homicide-drop-comes-with-400-cops-working-overtime

 

The murder rate and the associated violence has profound implications for society as well as the victims and perpetrators.

 

 

Sophia Kerby writes in the Center for American Progress report, The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States: A Look at the Racial Disparities Inherent in Our Nation’s Criminal-Justice System:

 

1. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. The incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.

 

2. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.

 

3. Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African Americans make up two-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of confined youth today.

 

4. According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates. The data showed that 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those students, black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests, have led to high numbers of youth of color coming into contact with the juvenile-justice system and at an earlier age.

 

5. African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. According to the Sentencing Project, even though African American juvenile youth are about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.

 

6. As the number of women incarcerated has increased by 800 percent over the last three decades, women of color have been disproportionately represented. While the number of women incarcerated is relatively low, the racial and ethnic disparities are startling. African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated.

 

7. The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses. According to the Human Rights Watch, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but they have higher rate of arrests. African Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African American.

 

8. Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants and are 20 percent more like to be sentenced to prison.

 

9. Voter laws that prohibit people with felony convictions to vote disproportionately impact men of color. An estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote based on a past felony conviction. Felony disenfranchisement is exaggerated by racial disparities in the criminal-justice system, ultimately denying 13 percent of African American men the right to vote. Felony-disenfranchisement policies have led to 11 states denying the right to vote to more than 10 percent of their African American population.

 

10. Studies have shown that people of color face disparities in wage trajectory following release from prison. Evidence shows that spending time in prison affects wage trajectories with a disproportionate impact on black men and women. The results show no evidence of racial divergence in wages prior to incarceration; however, following release from prison, wages grow at a 21 percent slower rate for black former inmates compared to white ex-convicts. A number of states have bans on people with certain convictions working in domestic health-service industries such as nursing, child care, and home health care—areas in which many poor women and women of color are disproportionately concentrated. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2012/03/13/11351/the-top-10-most-startling-facts-about-people-of-color-and-criminal-justice-in-the-united-states/

 

The question becomes is there anything that can be done to stop individual involvement in criminal activity and/or violent crime.

 

Jennifer Aniston got into a flap about her opinion regarding single motherhood. As reported by the Celebitchy blog in the post, Bill O’Reilly Takes On Jennifer Aniston’s Pro-Single Mother Comments Aniston said:

 

Women are realizing it more and more knowing that they don’t have to settle with a man just to have that child. Times have changed and that is also what is amazing… that we do have so many options these days, as opposed to our parents’ days when you can’t have children because you have waited too long. The point of the movie is what is it that defines family? It isn’t necessarily the traditional mother, father, two children and a dog named Spot. Love is love and family is what is around you and who is in your immediate sphere. That is what I love about this movie. It is saying it is not the traditional sort of stereotype of what we have been taught as a society of what family is.

 

See, Andrea Peyser’s Gals Being Lost in ‘No Man’ Land

 

The Washington Post article, Number of Black Male Teachers Belies Their Influence made moi think about the importance of healthy male role models in a child’s life. This article is about a good male role model, a hero, Will Thomas.

 

The reason that teachers like Will Thomas are needed, not just for African American kids, is because the number of households headed by single parents, particularly single women is growing. Not all single parent households are unsuccessful in raising children, but enough of them are in crisis that society should be concerned. The principle issues with single parenting are a division of labor and poverty. Two parents can share parenting responsibilities and often provide two incomes, which lift many families out of poverty. Families that have above poverty level incomes face fewer challenges than families living in poverty. Still, all families face the issue of providing good role models for their children. As a society, we are like the Marines, looking for a few good men.

 

Why does the culture think that the opinion of any celebrity should be valued above common sense? Celebrities will often repeat the mantra that they are not role models and really want to work on their art or their craft. But, many young people look up to these babbling heads as if they are an example of the best way to live. So, the question becomes how to give children the values that they might receive if they were in a healthy family. Youth Guidance attempts to meet that need with the “Becoming A Man” program.

 

Youth Guidance describes “Becoming a Man” (BAM):

 

 

Youth Guidance’s B.A.M. (Becoming A Man™) – Sports Edition is a school-based counseling, mentoring, violence prevention and educational enrichment program that promotes social, emotional and behavioral competencies in at-risk male youth. B.A.M – Sports Edition’s curriculum addresses six core values: integrity, accountability, self-determination, positive anger expression, visionary goal-setting and respect for women, as each value relates to personal and academic success.

 

B.A.M. – Sports Edition addresses key challenges African-American and Latino youth confront daily in some of  Chicago’s toughest communities. B.A.M. – Sports Edition focuses exclusively on males because they are vastly more likely than females to be either victims or perpetrators of violent crime. Youth Guidance’s Anthony DiVittorio, L.C.P.C. created B.A.M. in response to an observation that his male students often lacked physical and emotional access to their fathers or other positive male role models. DiVittorio designed the B.A.M. curriculum around an innovative application of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques, resiliency theory and rites of passage “men’s work” that have been demonstrated to successfully help youth improve self-regulation, social skills, and interpersonal skills. B.A.M. is invested in helping youth improve life-long protective factors and reduce behavioral risk factors.

 

Over the course of 30 weekly sessions, B.A.M. – Sports Edition participants engage in developmentally-based lessons and challenges that promote their emotional literacy, impulse-control, social competence, positive peer relations and interpersonal problems-solving skills. B.A.M. – Sports Edition is designed to help students pass classes, reduce both in-school and out of school suspensions, reduce detentions, increase school attendance, reduce disciplinary problems, and support grade promotion.

 

Results of the study released in 2012 show that B.A.M. works and is cost-effective. Program participants saw a 10 percent increase in graduation rates, a reduction in failing grades by 37 percent, and a decrease in violent crime arrests by 44 percent. At a cost of $1,100 per participant, the Crime Lab estimates the social benefit/cost ratio to be at least 3:1 per participating youth.

 

The University of Chicago Crime Lab study shows that Youth Guidance’s B.A.M. program reduces youth violence, increases school achievement and helps Chicago’s young men reach their full potential.  ‘Becoming a Man’ helps young men find evidence of their worth, strengthen their connection to and success in school, and help build safer communities,” stated Youth Guidance’s CEO Michelle Morrison.

 

B.A.M.’s curriculum is built on six B.A.M. Core Values

 

Here are the BAM Core Values:

 

1.INTEGRITY – is the core principle of the program. Students learn to identify and respect societal values and to conduct themselves in accordance with those values. Students learn that a man’s word should have meaning, and that a man’s integrity is dependent on keeping his word. Students learn that a man is someone who is reliable, honest and in touch with his integrity or lack thereof. He makes amends when he is out of integrity, and does what he says he is going to do.

 

 

2. ACCOUNTABILITY – Students learn that they should be responsible for the choices that they make and take ownership for their feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Students learn that a man does not project, or put blame onto others for the consequences of his own bad choices. A man can feel anger, sadness or fear, but he must own his reactions to those emotions.

 

 

3. SELF-DETERMINATION – is a learned skill, and practice begins in B.A.M. group. Students learn the importance of focus and perseverance in reaching one’s goals. Students learn to deal with self-defeating feelings, thoughts and behaviors that can become obstacles or barriers to goal-attainment. Students learn that self-doubt, uncertainty, and moments of weakness are natural when attempting to reach a goal.

 

 

4.POSITIVE ANGER EXPRESSION – is the most effective and remembered lesson taught in the program. Students learn that anger is a normal emotion that can be expressed in a constructive manner. This skill allows for the alleviation of angry feelings and becomes a bridge to goal attainment. Students learn anger management coping skills such as deep breathing exercises to elicit a relaxation response. Students learn effective techniques to express anger that avoid typical negative consequences (i.e. suspensions, arrests, damaged relationships, etc.).

 

 

5.VISIONARY GOAL SETTING – Students learn the difference between short-term and long-term goals and how to create realistic steps toward goal attainment. Students learn to envision their manhood in the future and to make clear connections between their current behaviors, attitudes and values and their vision. During this intense phase, students aim to get in touch with traumas, pains and faulty thinking that cause them to act in negative, destructive manners. They learn how to heal these parts of themselves and to use the energy toward attaining their vision. Not all students are ready for this phase of the program. However, it can be a life altering phase for those who are.

 

 

6. RESPECT FOR WOMANHOOD – Students go through three stages of learning. First, there are lectures and discussions around the history and contemporary roles that women have held in society. Students are challenged to take a critical look at which norms represent positive value and appreciation as opposed to depreciation, devaluing and oppression. Second, students learn concrete positive communication skills and begin using them during their interactions. As a result, students enter the final stage of training, wherein they increase their value and appreciation of womanhood.

 

 

B.A.M. – Sports Edition places special emphasis on issues surrounding respect and integrity. This value reinforces those important messages at a deeper level.

 

 

See, Therapy Helps Troubled Teens Rethink Crime http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/07/02/188646607/therapy-helps-troubled-teens-rethink-crime?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=share&utm_campaign=

 

It is going to take coordination between not only education institutions, but a strong social support system to get many of these children through school. This does not mean a large program directed from Washington. But, more resources at the local school level which allow discretion with accountability. For example, if I child is not coming to school because they have no shoes or winter coat, then the child gets new shoes and/or a coat. School breakfast and lunch programs must be supported and if necessary, expanded. Unfortunately, schools are now the early warning system for many families in crisis.

 

 

Where information leads to Hope. ©   Dr. Wilda.com

 

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