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INNER-CITY VIOLENT OFFENDERS: LINKS TO VIOLENT OFFENDERS' EXPOSURE TO AND PERPETRATION OF INNER-CITY VIOLENCE

A PRELIMINARY STUDY

 Sean P. Evelyn, BLS

Michael L. Mauney II, BLS

in affiliation with Explanations from Exile (E.F.E.) and African American Coalition Committee (A.A.C.C.)

2020

ABSTRACT

 

High concentrations of violent crime are typical in U.S. inner-city communities. Exposure to community violence strongly links to post-traumatic symptoms in young adult males who perpetrate community violence. Yet to date the nexus between exposure to and perpetration of community violence by young adult offenders from the inner city has received little attention in the nation’s efforts to facilitate justice reform and social equity. This study focuses on inner-city violent offenders’ exposure to community violence; their access to community resources and pretrial mental health assessments/ trauma screenings; their amenability to pretrial deferment programming; and their opinions regarding reform as it pertains to legal justice concerning inner-city violence.

 

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Method:

Data included a sample of 144 adult males incarcerated at a Massachusetts medium-security prison, aged 25 years and younger at the time of the crime, recruited using opportunity sampling. Participants provided informed consent before completing self-report surveys, and were not paid for their participation.

Findings:

Compared to other ethnic groups, Blacks and Latinos were incarcerated at higher rates for inner-city violence. This population of inner-city violent offenders was most likely to be incarcerated for crimes resulting in loss of life. This particular demographic was likely to have experienced early exposure (direct and indirect) to domestic and community violence. This population was also likely to have incurred various types of trauma prior to their incarceration. Nevertheless, mental health assessments/treatment were uncommon among inner-city violent offenders, both before  and following arrest. Inner-city violent offenders who participated in post-conviction Restorative Justice programming were likely to find empathy and healing through the process and to consider those elements to be strong deterring factors against future acts of violence. Inner-city violent offenders tend to opine that violent offenders should be held accountable for their crimes; however, they are likely to doubt that law enforcement/the legal justice system has their best interest, or an adequate understanding of their needs as vulnerable members of the community. This demographic was likely to have engaged in pretrial Restorative Justice processes, given opportunity and reasonable incentive.

Conclusion:

The identified relationship between undiagnosed trauma and inner-city violence indicates that mental health in inner-city violent offenders deserves more research attention. Findings also indicate that legal justice strategies need to consider the mental health of inner-city offenders more fully, as well as the practicality of pretrial restorative processes if trauma-induced violence and incarceration in inner-city communities are to be reduced. Failure to consider the common presence of mitigating mental health factors at play within inner-city violence is likely to result in overcharging of this population, and may unduly, and disproportionately, disadvantage violent offenders of color.

 

INTRODUCTION

Perpetrators of violent crime comprise more than half of the national state prison populace (Carson 2018). Violent offenders who come from low income inner-city regions of society come from communities where rates of traumatic exposure are high (Krug et al. 2002). In fact, research has shown links between economic disadvantage and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Bradley-Davino and Ruglass [n.d.]). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that may develop in response to traumatic events—or traumas—in which there is severe injury or the threat of death (Abram et al. 2013). Symptoms include re-experiencing traumatic events, avoidance of trauma-related stimuli, sleeplessness, irritability, angry outbursts, and feeling emotionally afloat. (American Psychiatric Association 2013). It may lead to perceptions that an environment is unsafe and threatening (Overstreet and Braun 2000).

           

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), individuals with complex trauma have experienced multiple traumatic events in their lives. These events are often severe, pervasive, and interpersonal in nature (NCTSN). Research examining adverse childhood experiences relative to race and ethnicity has found that Black and Latino children are significantly more likely to experience trauma, and to experience it more frequently compared to their White counterparts (Sacks and Murphy 2018; Cooley-Strickland et al. 2009; Kaufman et al. 2012). Other research examining inner-city youth ages 12 to 28 found that domestic trauma may result in more emotional numbing/avoidance symptoms, while community trauma may result in more intrusions and hyperarousal symptoms than emotional numbing in that population (Post et al. 2014). “The connection between childhood/young-adult trauma and urban violence explains why the World Health Organization has designated the latter as a serious health problem.” (Krug et al. 2002).

         

Researchers have found that a strong likelihood exists for community residents to develop PTSD following violent experiences either as a witness, or a victim. Those exposed to a combination of direct violence (as a victim) and indirect violence (as a witness) suffer high incidents of current and lifetime PTSD (Kullkari et al. 2011; Breslau et al. 2004; Post et al. 2014). It has also been found that PTSD symptoms tend to increase with diverse trauma experiences (Post et al. 2014; Cloitre et al. 2009; Kilpatrick et al. 2003).

           

Following interviews of some 4,000 people in Atlanta, Georgia, Emory University Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Kerry Ressler reported evidence of PTSD in inner-city populations that were as high as in returning war veterans (Donley et al. 2012). “We are seeing the same [high rates of PTSD] in cities like D.C. and Chicago and L.A.,” Ressler said. “It is important to have programs . . . that begin to break the cycle of poverty with education, but if we are not doing something for people’s mental health, we may not be able to change this cycle” (Christensen 2014). Ressler’s research found significant links to trauma history and PTSD symptoms amongst civilians who had been charged with a violent crime in the past. When incarceration histories were compared between the PTSD and non-PTSD participants, those with PTSD were more likely to have been arrested, jailed, imprisoned, and charged with a violent crime (Donley et al. 2012).

           

Research by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry estimated that almost one half of all American inner-city youth (ages 12-28) show signs of PTSD (Otrompke 2017). PTSD acquired in youthful years, if left untreated, has the potential to result in violent behavior in adulthood, where victims of violence become perpetrators of violence (Vitelli 106). According to Dr. Martin Teicher, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Clinical Biopsychiatry Research Program at McLean Hospital, “Early childhood stress isn’t something you get over! It is an evil that we must acknowledge and confront if we aim to do anything about the unchecked cycle of violence which often leads victims of abuse to become abusers” (Vitelli 106). Researchers have also found that gang membership and gang affiliation (even loose associations) relate strongly to individuals’ mental health problems (Wood et al. 2017). These factors are critical when considering the role that environmental trauma plays in the perpetration of violent crime in inner-city communities by offenders of all ages.

 

Contemporary efforts to reduce mass incarceration have been primarily focused on providing treatment, deferment programming, and sentence reduction opportunities to youthful offenders and pretrial defendants charged with non-violent infractions (Rollins 2019). To that end, Restorative Justice practices are currently being applied in non-violent cases where members of the community have been directly harmed by crime (MGL c 276B §§ 1&2; Rollins 2019). Massachusetts state prisons currently provide opportunities for violent offenders to participate in post-conviction Restorative Justice processes with surrogate survivors of offenses similar to their own (Kraft 2014).

           

These processes consist of cycles which facilitate intense examination of the offenders’ own experiences with trauma and victimization, after which they are encouraged to identify connections between the harm they incurred and the harmful act(s) they committed. If the process proves to be fruitful, offenders are given the opportunity to engage in dialogue with surrogate survivors.

           

While most criminal cases are resolved with defendants’ admission to the charges brought against them as part of a plea bargain, violent offenders and crime survivors are not granted the opportunity to engage in meaningful pretrial dialogue which might facilitate healing, remorse, and empathy between the parties (Sered, 2019; Alliance for Safety and Justice 2016; MGL c 276B§3[iii]). Such accommodations have been reserved exclusively for non-violent offenders. Research has revealed that many victims who live in communities where incarceration is common tend to be dissatisfied with its results—finding that it does not make them feel safer and that it does not facilitate healing in the way they had hoped (Bromson et al. 2003).

           

Despite the heightened likelihood for trauma amongst adult inner-city violent offenders, there are currently no presumptive pretrial provisions in Massachusetts for this population of offenders to receive mental health evaluations or trauma screening as part of the District Attorney’s investigation into the elements of the crime charged. There also exists no structure wherein violent offenders might be granted a pretrial incentive to accept responsibility for their crimes in the course of a pretrial Restorative Justice process with survivors/surrogates of the crime(s). The current approach to prosecuting violent crime ultimately fails to contextualize the offense in a meaningful way that might provide healing, closure, and empathy between the respective parties and the community at large.

           

The aim of this study is to quantify the rates of pre-carceral traumatic exposure amongst adult violent offenders from the inner city as well as their amenability to treatment and rehabilitation. Further, the goal is to measure the population’s willingness to participate in pretrial deferment programming and Restorative Justice practices geared toward developing empathy and healing through community engagement.

METHOD

 

Setting:

Participants were recruited from the MCI-Norfolk medium security male prison. As of January 2018, the average daily population was 1,326 prisoners. Of them, 977 (75%) were incarcerated for crimes against a person; 155 (12%) were incarcerated for sex crimes. Residents of the general prison population are assigned to one of the 20 housing units on the Norfolk campus. Each housing unit accommodates approximately 64-68 residents throughout 40-44 cells. Residents who are not housed in the general population are housed in the prison’s detention unit, the infirmary, or an off-campus hospital.

 

Recruitment:

One designee from each housing unit was selected from each respective unit. Each designee was instructed to approach every resident in their unit and make a verbal inquiry to determine whether they met the requirements for participation in the survey. Participants were required to: 1) be incarcerated for a violent offense; 2) have lived or spent a significant amount of time in the inner city; 3) have been 25 years old or younger at the time of the offense. Residents who answered in the affirmative to all three verbal inquiries were asked to complete a self-report questionnaire after the purpose of the survey was explained and informed consent was obtained. To ensure confidentiality, participants were instructed to return the questionnaire in a sealed envelope to the unit designee upon completion. All questionnaires were anonymized. The data was collected over a period of 30 days.

 

Assessment:

Initial assessment included a self-report survey consisting of questions regarding pre-carceral events, observations, and experiences that could be deemed unambiguously high-impact traumas (e.g. sexual, physical assault; assault with a weapon; serious accidents, etc.). The traumatic events included in the survey met the criteria A (1) (2) and (3) for the DSM-V diagnosis of PTSD. The survey also included questions regarding the participants’ engagement in pretrial trauma screening and mental health evaluations; their mental health history; their experiences with and dispositions toward Restorative Justice processes; and their opinions regarding society and the justice system. Participants were also asked about their associations with gang/neighborhood “crew” members and any institutional segregation that they experienced from rival gang/“crews” in the course of their incarceration. It should be noted that this questionnaire measures the types of trauma events experienced, but not the frequency of occurrence of individual types of trauma; therefore, it is more accurately a measure of the diversity of trauma experienced than a measure of the cumulative frequency (see attached survey).

 

Data Analysis:

Data from this study was analyzed by a team of two prison residents who have received formal training through the Boston University Prison Education Program in data collection and analysis. The two analysts did not take part in the survey.

           

First, participants were analyzed according to their demographics (ethnicity; household economic status; and age—current, and at the time of offense). Results indicated that participants were most likely to be Black and Latino; of working or lower class economic status; and 21 years old at the time of the crime (see Table 1).                     

           

Next, participants were examined according to the amount of time they have spent in detention for the crime(s) they are currently imprisoned for, and whether they have been segregated from rival gang/neighborhood “crew” members in detention (see Table 2). Results demonstrated that participants were likely to have spent a considerable amount of time in pretrial detention and to have associated with gang/neighborhood “crew” members in the community.

           

Participants were then analyzed according to the crime(s) they were convicted of. Results demonstrated that participants were likely to be incarcerated for a crime that resulted in loss of life (see Table 3).

           

Next, participants were examined with regard to their experience with/

exposure to community violence, and the characterization they assigned to their community (see Table 4). Results indicated that participants experienced high rates of exposure (direct and indirect) to domestic and community violence, and that a disproportionate number of participants characterized their community as “safe” despite high rates of exposure to community violence.

           

The study then examined participants’ access to community resources relative to their exposure to community violence (see Table 5). Results demonstrated that participants’ access to community resources (namely mental health and alternative housing) was limited.           

           

Participants were then analyzed according to their post-conviction exposure to Restorative Justice programming (see Table 6).

           

Next, the study examined participants’ opinions regarding legal justice reform. Results indicated that participants were likely to demonstrate amenability to pretrial Restorative Justice processes as a potential sentencing mitigant (see Table 7).

 

 

DISCUSSION

 

The primary aim of this study was to quantify the range of inner-city violence and environmental trauma experienced by young adult violent offenders who come from, or spend a considerable amount of their time in inner-city communities. The secondary objective was to assess the extent to which the legal justice system considers the unique dynamic of inner-city trauma in the process of holding said offenders accountable for their crimes. It was expected that offenders would disclose high rates of exposure to community violence and environmental trauma. It was also expected that offenders’ access to mental health and trauma recovery resources would be limited, and that the extent to which the legal justice system examined violence exposure and mental health correlates would also be limited. Those expectations were upheld.

           

These findings regarding high rates of environmental violence and trauma exposure in inner-city communities support previous findings (Krug et al. 2002; Donley et al. 2012). The findings here that inner-city violent offenders experience high rates of environmental trauma (direct and indirect) support the argument that likely correlations exist between exposure to and perpetration of inner-city violence. These findings regarding inner-city violent offenders contribute new and novel perspectives to the examination of violent offenders and mental health, as this is the first known study to examine correlations between exposure to community violence and perpetration, specifically among incarcerated young adult violent offenders who lived or spent significant amounts of time the the inner city.

           

           

Exposure to violence can be profoundly detrimental to mental health (Fowler et al. 2009), particularly in childhood, and in adolescence as a vital, second sensitive development period, during which brain maturation and psychological and biological changes have important implications for a successful and healthy transition to adulthood (Viner et al. 2012). Researchers have estimated that nearly half of inner-city residents between the ages of 12 and 28 meet the criteria for PTSD (Post et al. 2014), and that Black and Latino youth are significantly more likely to experience trauma and exposure to violence than other ethnicities, and to experience it more frequently (Sacks and Murphy 2018; Cooley-Strickland et al. 2009; Kaufman et al. 2012; Breslau et al. 2004; Copeland et al. 2007; Yoder et al. 2008). In this study, participants’ earliest exposure to community violence tended to occur particularly early in life (mean age: 8 ½ years), and persisted with common frequency (see Table 4).

           

Gang membership and non-member associations are critical factors to consider when examining environmental trauma amongst inner-city offenders. Since gang members are frequent victims of high levels of community violence, gang members tend to be at higher risk of developing PTSD and anxiety, which is likely exacerbated, if not caused, by their exposure to violence (Wood et al. 2017). Evidence of this has been  strengthened by findings which suggest that gang members are vulnerable to PTSD as a result of their own perpetration of violence (Kerig et al. 2015). Research examining traumatic experiences and psychiatric morbidity associated with gang membership revealed that gang members, regardless of their level of involvement in a gang, have more psychiatric morbidity and trauma than violent men who are neither members of nor affiliated with a gang (Wood et al. 2017). The same research concluded that due to elevated prevalence of traumatic experiences of gang members and affiliates, together with their higher symptom levels of anxiety, individuals who associate with gangs, at all, and especially with those who call themselves gang members, are particularly vulnerable to PTSD (Wood et al. 2017).

           

Not surprisingly, given the pervasiveness of gang culture in inner-city communities, this study revealed that inner-city violent offenders are likely to associate with individuals who belong to gangs or neighborhood “crews” in the community (see Table 4), thereby increasing the likelihood for the development of PTSD amongst non-gang offenders. These findings are limited to the extent that this study did not examine the number of participants who identified as gang/neighborhood “crew” members. However, nearly half of those who associated with gang/neighborhood “crew” members indicated that they had been segregated from rival gang/“crew” members in the course of their incarceration (see Table 2). Those participants’ self-identification as “gang/‘crew’ rivals” at least suggests their own gang/ “crew” membership or affiliation.

 

This study further revealed that, despite high rates of early exposure to community violence and victimization by both community members and police, a considerable number of participants characterized their communities as “safe” (see Table 4). This apparent contradiction suggests: a) a disparate standard of safety that these violent offenders assigned to their communities; b) regular exposure to community violence reduces inner-city violent offenders’ standard of /expectation for safety in the community; and/or c) inner-city violent offenders engage in unconventional behavior in order to secure their safety. These are questions which require further research.

 

Consistent with prior research which examined adverse childhood experiences relative to race and ethnicity (Sacks & Murphy 2018; Cooley-Strickland et al. 2009; Kaufman et al. 2012), participants in this study were most likely to be Black or Latino, and of lower and working class economic status. They were also likely to be young adults when they committed their crime(s) (mean age: 21 years old—see Table 1). Participants’ crimes were most likely to have resulted in loss of life and lifetime prison terms (see Table 3). It is not clear whether the limited range of crimes and sentences that characterize this population of inner-city violent offenders is unique to this prison, or reflective of other prisons in the country.

           

Despite high rates of exposure to community violence and trauma, this population was unlikely to have received access to mental health resources, either prior to or following arrest for their crime(s) (see Table 4). Results also indicated that at the same time they committed their crime(s), this population was likely to have lacked a full understanding of the ways in which they were impacted by the violence exposure they encountered in the community (see Table 4). However, findings from this study indicate that inner-city violent offenders are likely to correlate the trauma and victimization that they experienced in the community with their violent decisions (see Table 4).

           

This study further revealed that access to relocation housing vouchers might have reduced the likelihood of participants committing their crime. Further indications reveal that it’s likely that participants would have accepted such a voucher (see Table 5). Considering the high rate of participants who indicated that they lived in fear of being victimized in their community, it seems further research surrounding housing vouchers for victims of inner-city violence would serve future violence prevention efforts.

           

Research has found that many crime victims who live in communities where incarceration is common tend to be dissatisfied with its results—finding that it does not make them feel safer and that it does not facilitate healing in the way they hoped (Bromson 2003). Other research has revealed that crime victims commonly believe that prison makes offenders more likely to commit future crime. There, victims indicated a strong preference for holding offenders accountable through options beyond prison (such as rehabilitation, mental health treatment, substance use treatment, community supervision, or community service) (Alliance for Safety and Justice 2016).

           

This study revealed that while inner-city violent offenders tend to recognize the importance of society holding them accountable for their crimes, they are likely to doubt that law enforcement and the legal justice system have their best interest, or understand their unique needs as vulnerable members of the community (see Table 7). This study revealed, however, that participants who took part in post-conviction Restorative Justice programming were likely to indicate that the process facilitated a sense of healing and accountability for them (see Table 6). Those who participated in Restorative Justice programming were likely to demonstrate an interest in participating in a restorative process with parties harmed by their actions, as well as those who had inflicted harm upon them (see Table 6). Participants were also likely to indicate that they found empathy and healing to be more effective deterrents from future acts of violence (see Table 6) than prison (see Table 7). This population indicated that it is likely they would have participated in a pretrial restorative process as a possible sentence mitigant (see Table 7). This study also revealed that participants were likely to have spent a considerable amount of time in pretrial detention before receiving their sentence (mean pretrial detention: 23.4 months; median: 18 months) (see Table 2), allowing the time necessary to engage in restorative processes.       

           

As it pertains to justice reform, participants tended to opine that reform efforts should require prosecutors and police officers to sit down with the incarcerated as part of their training; that inner-city violent offenders should receive presumptive pretrial trauma screenings; and that pretrial Restorative Justice processes should be available as possible deferment alternatives for violent offenders (see Table 7).

 

 

Conclusion

 

The identified relationship between undiagnosed trauma and inner-city violence indicates that mental health in inner-city violent offenders deserves more research attention. This study provides insight into the links between exposure to and perpetration of inner-city violence. As noted above, early exposure to violence has a profound impact on one’s mental health. The findings of this study suggest a strong likelihood for inner-city violent offenders to have been exposed to and/or victimized by community violence in the years preceding the crimes they committed—this with limited access to mental health or other survivor-based resources. The inordinate rates of exposure to community violence and diverse trauma amongst participants in this study suggest a strong likelihood for the existence of PTSD and complex trauma within this population. If the cycle of trauma-induced violence and incarceration in inner-city communities is to be reduced, it is critical that these links be examined and that the high potential for inner-city violent offenders to be survivors themselves not be minimized or overlooked by the legal justice system. Failure on the part of the legal justice system to consider the common presence of mitigating mental health factors at play within inner-city violence is likely to result in the omission of critical evidence concerning this population. Such omissions are likely to result in overcharging of this population, and may unduly and disproportionately disadvantage defendants of color. Given the uniquely high likelihood for pre-carceral violence and trauma exposure within this population, reform efforts may require presumptive preliminary trauma screenings that reflect the circumstances of this population. Legal justice strategies should also consider the practicality of pretrial restorative processes if inner-city violence is to be appropriately addressed and reduced. Further research concerning inner-city violent offenders should examine more directly whether exposure to police brutality (direct and/or indirect) contributes to the violent decisions of this population.

 

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TABLES

 

Table 1: Demographic Characterization of Inner-city Violent Offenders (N = 144)

 

Ethnicity

 

Black:  n = 76,   52.8%

Latino: n = 42,   29.2%

White:  n = 16,   11%

Asian:  n = 4,      2.8%

Other:   n = 6,      4.2%


 

Household Economic Status (self-approximation)

 

Upper class      n = 0

Middle class     n = 15,   10.4%

Working class  n = 51,    35.4%

Lower class      n = 78,    54.2%


 

Age

 

Current:    mean =   38.5 Range: 19-66

    median = 35

 

Time of offense:   mean =   21 Range 14-25

  median = 20

 

Table 2: Time Spent in Pretrial Detention and Post Conviction Incarceration


 

—Pretrial Detention (months):  mean =    23.39 Range: 1-66

            median = 19


 

—To Date (years): mean =    14.3 Range: 1-47

median = 12.5


 

—Gang associates segregated from rival gangs/“crews” in the course of incarceration:

n = 64,   48%  

 

Table 3: Range of Crimes Committed by Inner-city Violent Offenders 


 

Murder: n = 94,    65%

Manslaughter: n = 18,    13%

Attempted Murder: n = 4,       3%

Armed Robbery: n = 9,       7%

Mayhem: n = 1,       <1%

Assault & Battery: n = 5,    3% 

Home Invasion: n = 8,       5%

Rape: n = 3,       2%

Sexual Assault: n = 1,       <1%

Kidnapping: n = 1,       <1%


 

In instances where offenders were convicted for more than one crime, they were analyzed in according to the most serious offense.   

 

Table 4: Inner-city Violent Offenders’ Exposure to Community Violence


 

Witnessed violent crime: n = 141,    98%

Witnessed homicide: n = 112,    78%

Victimized or threatened by community violence: n = 121,    84%

Physical abuse (domestic): n =   95,    66%

Sexual abuse (domestic): n =  20,     14%

Close friends/family victimized by community violence: n = 141,    98%

Considerable threat of retribution for “snitching”: n = 116,    81%

Witnessed police brutality: n = 131,    91%

Experienced police brutality: n = 105,    73%

Lived with fear of victimization: n =   98,    68%

Associated with gang/neighborhood “crew” members: n = 132,    92%

 

Earliest memory of community violence: mean:     8.5 years old

median: 10 years old   

 

Traumatic experiences contributed significantly to violent behavior: n = 132, 92%

Fully understood the ways in which they were impacted by community violence:   n =   53, 37%


 

Characterization of community:

Agree Disagree

Community felt safe:  n = 63,   44% n = 84,   58%

Violence unusual occurrence: n = 44,   31% n = 103,   72%

 

Table 5: Inner-city Violent Offenders’ Access to Community Resources


 

Received mental health evaluation prior to arrest: n = 23,   16%

Received mental health treatment prior to arrest: n = 22,   15%

Received mental health evaluation after arrest: n = 26,   18%

Relocation housing voucher would have reduced likelihood

of committing violence in the community: n = 101,   70%

Would have accepted housing voucher: n = 112,   78%

 

Table 6: Inner-city Violent Offenders’ Participation in Post-conviction 

Restorative Justice Programming


 

—Participated in post-conviction Restorative Justice programming: n = 74,   51%


 

Of those:

 

—Restorative Justice played an instrumental role in facilitating healing

and accountability: n = 72,   97%

 

—Interested in participating in Restorative Justice process with individual(s)

harmed by their actions: n = 68,   92%

 

—Restorative Justice with individual(s) who harmed offender would be 

healing: n = 68,   92%

 

—Found empathy and healing to be powerful deterrents from future acts

of violence: n = 71,   96%

 

Table 7: Inner-city Violent Offenders’ Positions Regarding

Legal Justice and Reform 


 

—Prison is an effective deterrent from violent crime: Agree:  n = 37,   26%

 

—Important for society to hold violent offenders accountable: Agree:  n = 131,  91%

 

—Law enforcement and the legal justice system have had my 

best interest as a member of my community: Agree:  n = 5,     3%

 

—The legal justice system understands the needs of violent

offenders who come from my community: Agree:  n = 5,      3%

 

—Violent offenders from the inner city should have auto15matic

access to mental health evaluations: Agree:  n = 140,  97%

 

—Prosecutors should be required to sit down with the incarcerated

as part of their training: Agree:  n = 143,  99%

 

—Police officers should be required to sit down with the incarcerated

as part of their training: Agree:  n = 142,  99%

 

—Restorative Justice should be made available as a deferment

alternative in the process of holding violent offenders 

accountable: Agree:  n = 140,  97%

 

—Would have been interested in participating in pretrial Restorative 

Justice process as a possible sentencing mitigant: Agree:  n = 142,  99%

 

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 APPENDIX:

 

INNER-CITY VIOLENT OFFENDER SURVEY


 

Purpose

 

The purpose of the attached anonymous survey is to compile an account of:

 

  • The rates of pre-incarcerated trauma experienced by inner-city violent offenders

  • Inner-city offenders’ disposition regarding the need for mandatory psychological evaluations at the pre-trial stage of prosecution

  • Inner-city violent offenders’ disposition regarding the need for pre-trial Restorative Justice processes as possible sentence reductions

 

What is Restorative Justice?

 

Restorative Justice is a centuries old Native American approach to resolving conflict and building peace within community. There is currently a growing interest throughout the legal justice system in applying restorative justice practices in cases involving violent offenses. The application of these practices is being applied in other states as sentence reductions and incarceration deferment options.

After going through an intensive process of examining the offenders’ own experience with trauma and victimization, offenders are encouraged to make a connection between the harms they incurred and the harmful acts that they committed. If both the offender and the harmed party are willing, offenders are then given an opportunity to provide an explanation to those affected by their violent acts, as well as an opportunity to make amends.

The data produced by this survey will be used to encourage state officials to implement policies which provide inner-city violent offenders automatic access to pretrial mental health evaluations/trauma screenings. Officials will further be encouraged to provide pre-trial restorative justice recommendations for violent offenders. Successful showing of the need for such accommodations at the pre-trial phase will serve as a precursor to further efforts to effect retroactive relief.



 

 

VIOLENT OFFENDER SURVEY


 

Instructions: 

Please answer the following questions only if you were 25 years old or younger at the time of the offense of your crime. Once you have completed the survey, please submit it in a sealed envelope to the survey liaison. This is an anonymous survey, so your name will not be required!


 

Current age: ___________ Age at time of crime: ________

Crime convicted of: _________________________ Sentence __________________

# Years incarcerated for this/these crime(s): _________________

Country/state/city/town where you were raised: _________________________

State/city/town where crime was committed: ____________________________

Ethnicity: Black _____ White ______  Latino ______ Asian ______ Other ______

 

1) I have lived or spent a significant amount of time in the inner city.

      Yes _____ No _____

2) Inner-city violence is a unique problem that society needs to address.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

3) Violence was an unusual occurrence in my community.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

4) My community felt safe to me.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

5) I have witnessed a robbery, stabbing, or shooting in my community.

      Yes _____   No _____

6) I was ______ years old when I first got involved in the street.

7) I have witnessed a homicide in my community.

      Yes _____   No _____

8) My earliest memory of these types of acts in my community was (age): _____

9) I was victimized or threatened by such acts.

      Yes _____   No _____

10) I have close friends and/or family members who have been victims of violent crime(s).

      Yes _____   No _____

11) I experienced physical abuse in my home growing up.

      Yes _____   No _____

 

12) I experienced sexual abuse growing up.

      Yes _____   No _____

13) There was a considerable threat of retribution in my community associated with “snitching.”

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

14) I witnessed police brutality in my community.

     Yes _____   No _____

15) I have experienced police brutality in my community.

     Yes _____   No _____

16) I associated with individuals who belonged to gangs/neighborhood “crews” in my

       community.

     Yes _____   No _____

     (If yes): I have been segregated from rival gangs/“crews” in the course of my incarceration.

     Yes _____   No _____

17) I lived with fear of being victimized by violence in my community.

      Yes _____   No _____

18) When I committed my crime, I had an understanding of the trauma that I experienced in my

      community and the ways that it impacted me.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

19) My community provided resources to address the trauma that I experienced.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

20) Incarceration was common in my community.

      Yes _____   No _____

21) Prison is an effective deterrent to violent crime.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

22) It is important for society to hold violent offenders accountable for their crime(s).

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

23) It is important for the legal justice system to understand defendants’ background and the 

      circumstances that led to the crime(s) when seeking to hold violent offenders accountable.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

24) The trauma I experienced in my community contributed in a significant way to my violent

      behavior.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

25) I have received a mental health evaluation prior to my arrest.

      Yes _____   No _____

26) I have received mental-health evaluation/trauma screening prior to my arrest.

      Yes _____   No _____

27) A mental-health evaluation/trauma screening was made available to me following my arrest.

      Yes _____   No _____

28) The amount of time I spent in pre-trial detention was ___________

29) Law enforcement and the legal justice system have had my best interest as a member of my 

      community.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

30) The legal justice system understands the needs of violent offenders who come from my

      community.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

31) A housing voucher to relocate would have reduced the likelihood of me committing violence

      in my community.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

32) I would have accepted such a voucher if it were available.

      Yes _____   No _____

33) Growing up, I would best describe my household economic status as:

      Upper class _____   middle class _____   working class _____   lower class _____

34) I have participated in post-conviction Restorative Justice programming.

      Yes _____   No ____

      (If No): Please do not answer questions 35-38!)

35) Restorative Justice played an instrumental role in facilitating a meaningful process of healing 

      and accountability for me.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

36) I would be interested in participating in a Restorative Justice process with those harmed by 

      my violent acts. 

      Yes _____   No ____

37) I would be healing to participate in  a Restorative Justice process with those who have 

      harmed me. 

      Yes _____   No ____

38) I have found empathy and healing to be powerful deterrents from future acts of violence.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

39) Violent offenders from the inner city should receive automatic access to mental health evaluations/trauma screenings.

      evaluations.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

40) Prosecutors should be required to sit down with the incarcerated as part of their training.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

41) Police officers should be required to sit down with the incarcerated as part of their training.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

42) Restorative Justice should be made available as a deferment alternative in the process of

      holding violent offenders accountable.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

43) I would have been interested in a Restorative Justice process, during the pre-trial portion of   

      my case, as a possible mitigating component of my sentencing.

      Strongly agree _____   somewhat agree _____   Disagree _____   strongly disagree _____

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