Indianapolis - City-County Councilman Ron Gibson calls on local government, churches, businesses and philanthropy to invest $2.5 million or more in people in an effort to do more to prevent crime in Indianapolis and Marion County.
"We are in this together," said Councilman Gibson. "We just can't build more jails and add more beds, and think that crime will go away. In conjunction with crime fighting efforts, we must invest in programs that will proactively instill moral and character values in people so they will have an opportunity to succeed. This is not just an African-American problem. This is our problem as a city and community. We need each other in order to make a difference, which requires all of us to pitch in and help others," said Councilman Gibson.
First and foremost, we need to invest more in programs to prevent crime such as O.K. (Our Kids) Program, Area Youth Ministries (AYM), and Goodwill Industries' Youth Learning Center. According to the Manhattan Institute, the graduation rate for African-American students is 55 percent and 53 percent for Hispanic students, nationally.
"Those who are at risk need others to help intervene and mentor to stimulate positive growth," said Councilman Gibson.
Secondly, we need more resources and agencies that will encourage employers to give ex-felons a second chance in the workplace, such as the Fathers and Families Resource Center and Keys To Work.
"If we don't create more opportunities for ex-felons to get into the workforce, we can expect crime to rise. Marion County has a record number of ex-felons being released, and we must do more immediately to assist them with training and finding a job," said Councilman Gibson.
Councilman Gibson is calling for $2.5 million in funding for prevention and intervention resources. He recommends that local government fund 50% ($1.25 million) of this amount with the remaining coming from churches, businesses and philanthropy. He recommends funding the following agencies:
O.K. (Our Kids) Program: $350,000
The O.K. Program currently has three dedicated Indianapolis Police Officers assigned to 180 at-risk African-American male students who attend Forest Manor and John Marshall Middle Schools and Arlington High School (all IPS). These officers provide daily mentoring and intervene at all levels (home, school & community) of the students lives. In addition, they provide Saturday mentoring and tutoring sessions to these students. The O.K. Program is replicated from California which has been successful in preventing crime.
Area Youth Ministries (AYM): $418,000
AYM served around 1,689 students last year in building moral character in at-risk high school students. Their Young Champions program is a 25 week program that provides ethics, moral, and job preparedness sessions. They currently work mostly with students at Arsenal Technical and Arlington High Schools. They are beginning to work with Manual High School students as well.
Goodwill Industries' Youth Learning Center: $750,000
The Youth Learning Center provides educational and employment services to youth ages 14-21 years old. They provide services to around 750-800 youth a year. Seventy percent of these students are dropouts who are provided GED and job skill development classes. They work with the other thirty- percent to keep at-risk students in school.
Fathers & Families Resource Center: $700,000
This agency provides around 350-400 young fathers, most of whom have felony records, a second chance by providing a series of classes on fatherhood, job preparedness, GED, and wrap around services. Having more men who are active fathers equates to less crime and more successful communities.
Keys To Work: $242,000
Keys To Work provides approximately 500 ex-felons with job leads and wrap around services (such as anger management) to reduce the recidivism rate in Indianapolis. To date, this program is over loaded. There are hundreds who are turned away due to a lack of resources. On June 15, 2006, the Department of Correction wanted to know if Keys To Work could help an additional 400 inmates who were being released in Marion County.
"To date, most of these programs have received some federal funding under the Community Development Block Grants. However, it is now time for local government and the community to do more", said Gibson.
Councilman Gibson was elected as an at-large member of the Indianapolis City-County Council in 1999. He serves as the chairman of the Council's Municipal Corporations Committee, which has legislative oversight for IndyGo, Health & Hospital Corporation, Marion County Public Libraries, Indianapolis Airport Authority, and the Capital Improvement Board. Gibson serves on the board of directors for Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., President Benjamin Harrison Home, Fathers and Families Resource Center, Area Youth Ministries, and Clean Manufacturing Technology Board.
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