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A New Approach to Breaking the Cycles that Lead to Urban Gun Violence

The Challenge: Gun violence is about to surpass vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death for young people ages 14–24. As a society, we spend more on gun violence than on obesity and almost as much as Medicaid. 2,900 Americans die from gun violence every month, the majority are victims of street violence.In cities like Boston, just a few hundred youth generate more than half of all gun violence. That is a problem we can solve. 1% of youth are driving 50% of gun violence. While the problem seems insurmountable, by reaching a relatively small number of high impact young people, we can dramatically influence the system.


High Cost, Low Reward: For decades, the response has been largely a containment strategy, where disenfranchised young people of color are locked up only to later be released in a more vulnerable position, with fewer resources, and less hope.

Despite the massive increase in the size and cost of America’s correctional system, the national recidivism rate and associated costs remain high and are increasing each year.

Nationwide, the USA spends over 80 billion dollars a year locking people up. When we factor in the social costs, the annual expense grows to over 1 trillion dollars.

It directly costs Massachusetts $55,000 per year to house one inmate and 67% of former inmates are re-arrested for a new crime within 3 years of being released.



A new approach: Society tends to punish our target students as “bad decision makers,” or write them off as “lacking care.” What if they are making decisions based on the logic of their circumstances? What if it is not lack of care, but rather a lack of hope for an alternative path?

At ICW, we have figured out how to reduce youth violence and incarceration rates by fostering social inclusion and promoting economic mobility.

​Our students learn a valuable skill set, meet clients from opposite socioeconomic backgrounds, and build an invaluable network, all while making a stable living.



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