Opportunity Youth Playbook: Strategies for Reducing Violence and Increasing Opportunities

Reducing Violence and Providing a Second Chance for Disconnected Boys and Young Men of Color is one section of the “Opportunity Youth Playbook: A Guide to Reconnecting Boys and Young Men of Color to Education and Employment.”

Not only do disconnected boys and young men of color deserve a second chance, but many also never really had a first chance. Genes, environment, and experiences work in concert to impact behavior. Recent research has revealed that important changes in brain function, especially in regard to impulse control and forward planning, occur not only in childhood but also among those in their late teens and early 20s. Most young people are raised in supportive families living in safe neighborhoods that afford them opportunities to bounce back from the types of mistakes and “youthful indiscretions” that are a normative part of brain maturation. But many disconnected boys and young men of color have not been so lucky. Many have grown up in families and communities that compound rather than mitigate youthful missteps. Many have already faced more challenges and traumatic experiences than a typical adult faces in his or her entire lifetime. Too often they live in communities with high levels of poverty, punitive punishment, the effects of mass incarceration, and exposure to violence. Not only do such environments contribute to disconnection, but they also make reconnection considerably more difficult. More than 37 percent of black children and almost 32 percent of Hispanic children live in poverty, compared to 12 percent of white children. American-Indian/Alaskan-Natives are more likely than any other racial group to be incarcerated for
school-related and status offenses (such as truancy and alcohol consumption) by state courts. Too often, disconnected young men of color live in communities that have been devastated by the mass incarceration of men of color, housing a large number of individuals who have returned from correctional facilities unable to access student loans to purse an education, or public benefits like housing and gainful employment, because of their prior conviction.