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Coalition Fighting 'Urban Terrorism' — Drugs and Gangs

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Coalition Says, 'Tactical Strategy of Prevention, Intervention and Enforcement Is Answer to Problem, Not More Jail Time'

WHAT/WHO:  U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings will host panel discussions on “Terrorism At Home: Breaking the Grip of Gangs and Drugs in the Communities” along with the National African American Drug Policy Coalition (NAADPC). The panels will provide insights and solutions to the gang violence and drug problems that Congressman Cummings defines as urban terrorism in America.

Drug policy experts, treatment providers, judges, law enforcement officials, community leaders and elected officials from around the country will participate on three panels: “Family Over Everything: How Youth Get Roped Into Gangs and How to Steer Them Away,”  “Stop Snitchin' and Other Lessons Learned: Building Trust in Our Communities, “and “No Witness, No Justice: The Critical Juncture Between Federal, State and Local Law Enforcement.”

Participants include panel moderators, U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings, Maryland's 7th District, and The Honorable Kurt Schmoke, former Mayor of Baltimore, Dean of Howard University School of Law and President/Chair of the Board of the NAADPC, along with panelists:

  • Dr. William B. Lawson, MD, Ph.D., DFAPA Professor and Chair, Director Mood Research Program, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Howard University College of Medicine and Hospital;
  • Dr. Philip Leaf, Director, Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence;
  • The Honorable Martha Lynn Sherrod, Drug Court Judge, Huntsville, Alabama;
  • Mr. Frank L. Clark Jr., Director, Gang Intervention and Investigation Unit, Maryland Department of Juvenile Services;
  • Ms. C. Debra Furr-Holden, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation;
  • Brother Rahim Jenkins, Senior Policy Advisor, Ex-Offender Affairs, Office of the Mayor, District of Columbia;
  • Mr. Albert Herring, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney for External Affairs, United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia;
  • Mr. Ronald E. Hampton, Executive Director, National Black Police Association, Inc;
  • Mr. Kenneth E. Barnes, Sr., MS, President, Reaching Out to Others Together, Inc. (ROOT);
  • Ms. Nkechi Taifa, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Institute;
  • Mr. Tom Carr, Director, Baltimore/Washington High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) ; and
  • Mr. Warren W. Hewitt, Jr., M.S., Senior Advisor, SAMHSA, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

WHEN/WHERE: Friday, September 28, 2007, 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Washington DC Convention Center, Room 143B

BACKGROUND: A new U.S. study conducted by drug policy experts and released this summer by the Justice Policy Institute says that traditional popular approaches to gang violence are “tragic failures” in urban areas such as Los Angels and Chicago, while social programs that promote jobs, education and healthy communities have proved to be much more effective in curbing drug and gang activities.

The report further states that anti-gang legislation and police crackdowns across the country only worsen the gang problem and suggests that more needs to be done to prevent children from joining gangs in the first place and extricating those youngsters from gangs who may have been forced to join gangs against their will. Research supports that many youth, 11-13 years of age, are forced to join gangs for protection even though they might not want to do so. 

Officials in the District of Columbia and its surrounding suburbs have stressed prevention and intervention strategies in their fight against drugs and gang violence with a great deal of success. Published reports state that in 2003, the District of Columbia launched the Gang Intervention Partnership Unit, working with schools, neighborhood groups and resident activists to reduce violence.  

Last year, an independent analysis gave a resounding endorsement to the positive effect of the strategies in reducing gang violence on the Latino populations. “The number of Latino gang-related homicides in the city dropped from 21 between 1999 and 2003 to zero between 2003 and 2006,” according to the published report.

“Gangs are a very real and serious threat, and they are successful at recruiting our youth because they offer the promise of fulfilling needs that are not being met elsewhere in our children's lives,” Congressman Elijah E. Cummings said. “We must come together as a community to minimize the risk factors contributing to youth involvement in gangs—including playing an active, positive role in our children's lives and ensuring that they are provided with productive activities in which to engage during their free time.”

In support of the findings of the Justice Policy Institute report, Dr. Jean Bailey, Executive Secretary – Treasurer of the NAADPC, which is co-hosting the panel with Congressman Cummings, stated that “The Blue Ribbon Commission on Racial Disparities in Substance Abuse Policies, convened by the NAADPC, emphasizes the need to eliminate biases in law enforcement and disproportionate incarceration for African American youth for involvement in activities such as gangs.  Instead of incarceration, the Report recommends greater emphasis on juvenile diversion and prevention programs such as mentoring.”

The panel discussion will be a major discussion during the 2007 Congressional Black Caucus Issues Forum at the 37th Annual Legislative Conference to be held in Washington DC, September 26 – 29, 2007.

Panel co-host, The NAADPC, is comprised of policy makers, social workers, dentists, judges, lawyers and other criminal justice professionals, nurses, psychologists, physicians, and others that have historically demonstrated a commitment to serving the interests of African American communities and institutions. The NAADPC convened a Blue Ribbon Commission to examine the interaction between drug policies and racial disparities.

The Commission Hearings, held in four U.S. cities and in Barbados, West Indies, provided an opportunity to ensure maximum inclusion and participation in these discussions. The chair of the Commission is the Honorable Lee P. Brown, former mayor of Houston and former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. 

For more information about the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc. please visit, www.naapdc.org

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