Shooting violence has been an increasingly common occurrence in the news cycle and unfortunately, youth have been involved in a majority of these incidents as both perpetrators and victims. This has led concerned individuals in cities such as Philadelphia to explore ways to reach and stem these rates of violence in youth.In a recent New York Times article, a program called Cradle to Grave at Temple University Hospital is highlighted as a way to educate youth ages 13-15 on how guns and violence have chilling effects to the victims and their families. The program seeks to deter youth from reaching for a gun to settle any personal issues and really understand the repercussions that gun violence can have both physically and mentally.
While the programs officials say their goal is not to “scare straight” the students and instead educate them, one has to wonder if the program is the best preventative measure?
As I read through the article, all I could think was that although I understood the intentions of the program and the juvenile justice officials that referred the students to the program, what about the psychological damage and trauma these youth were experiencing from the visuals in the hospital? Even though officials say their goal isn’t to scare the kids straight, that’s exactly what the program seems to be doing. For example, the participants are shown a dead man whose face has been destroyed by a shotgun and even having a student play the role of a young man that had been brought in with 24 gunshot wounds who died 15 minutes after arriving to the hospital. Despite the experience, the article ended by noting that a majority of the students still said that they felt people should be able to have guns for self-defense and that maybe assault weapons like AK-47’s should be banned.
However, I find myself conflicted after reflecting on the article because on the other hand, the officials at Temple have stepped in to try and make changes in a community that could benefit from some sort of intervention. A paper published in 2010 indicates that participation in the program seems to decrease inclination towards violence after having completed the program, according to the NYT article. If this data holds true, then maybe it is worth considering an expansion of the program to other cities such as Chicago, which is also experiencing extremely high rates of deaths through gun violence.
What are your perspectives on this program?