CeaseFire Illinois uses ex-convicts to ‘interrupt’ violence

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In a recent News One interview, the director of CeaseFire Illinois and founder of the Violence Interrupter Initiative, Tio Hardiman, spoke about Chicago’s gun violence in 2012 and what his plans are to combat the issue of violence.

According to RedEye, which tracks crime in Chicago, in 2012 alone there were 513 homicides — a 15 percent increase from the 448 homicides in 2011.

“Violence has become acceptable to Chicago,” Hardiman told News One. ” We have to get that segment of the population to say violence should not be acceptable. We’re not giving into that anymore. It has to stop.”

CeaseFire Illinois views violence as a disease in the community that needs curing, Hardiman said, telling News One: “violence is like an infectious disease and can be treated like one.” CeaseFire actively looks to “detect” the violence and then “interrupt” its course by “identifying individuals involved in transmission, and changing social norms of the communities where it occurs,” according to the organization.

CeaseFire purposefully uses former gang members, drug dealers, and convicts to mediate and cure the violence, Hardiman said.

A 2011 documentary, “The Interrupters,” about violence interrupters on Chicago’s south side,  features Hardiman. The Department of Public Health gave his anti-violence group, which is staffed mostly by ex-felons and former gang members, a $1 million grant in an effort to help curb violence.

Click here to watch a trailer of the “The Interrupters” (*trailer contains graphic language)

CeaseFire’s goal for 2013 is to work harder to resolve conflicts so no harm comes to anyone, Hardiman told News One, adding that in 2012, the group’s outreach workers worked with 1,123 high-risk individuals more than 20,000 hours, and the group also mediated 745 conflicts.

“We look to strategize and collaborate with anybody interested in changing this culture of violence in Chicago,” he said. “Even the police have stated you cannot arrest your way out of this problem. You have to change the way people think about violence. It’s learned and passed down from generation to generation.”

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