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Communities with high levels of violence face complex challenges that extend beyond immediate concerns to encompass deep-rooted social issues. These include poverty, mental illness, addiction, and generational trauma. Violence interrupters (VI’s) play a crucial role in addressing these challenges, offering a unique, community-led approach to reducing violence and conflict. 

Approaching their mission with hope and understanding, violence interrupters work tirelessly to heal their communities.

Concerningly, funding for these programs is now under threat. The House of Representatives has proposed cuts to many federal programs. Notably, it has entirely removed funding for Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative (CVI) programs within the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations subcommittee bill. 

In November, Congress passed a two-part Continuing Resolution (CR) bill to extend government funding at last year’s levels for a short-term period. The CR introduces two deadlines to watch for Congress to avoid a total or partial shutdown: Jan. 19 and Feb. 2.

With the clock ticking to pass funding legislation, FCNL is calling on the House to align with the Senate appropriations committee’s approved proposal for $55 million for CVI funding, emphasizing its indispensable role in supporting vital violence prevention programs. 

Stopping Gun Violence Through Violence Interruption

Violence interrupters channel community pain and their personal experiences into a wellspring of community strength. Approaching their mission with hope and understanding, they tirelessly work to heal their communities, offering support to those affected by violence.

One organization that’s demonstrated the success of VI programs is One Lexington in Kentucky, whose inspiring work is making a significant impact in their community. One Lexington’s mission is to combat gun violence among Lexington’s youth and young adults aged 13-29 by coordinating and mobilizing community resources. This work has contributed to a remarkable 75% decrease in youth gun homicides from 2021 to 2023. They’ve received recognition and funding priority in Mayor Linda Gorton’s latest budget proposal, demonstrating the city’s commitment to breaking cycles of violence and reducing homicides and shootings.

These programs save lives, foster transformation, and mend the wounds inflicted by violence.

To understand the success of One Lexington, it’s important to recognize that its mission transcends mere violence prevention. They actively engage in in-school mentoring with at-risk students, fostering relationships that can alter the trajectory of young lives. An illustration of their impact involves their intervention in a conflict with two people, both armed and teetering on the brink of tragedy. Through their mediation efforts, One Lexington defused what could have been a fatal situation, highlighting their critical role in ensuring community safety.

One Lexington highlighted the challenge in pursuing this type of change. When the FCNL’s justice reform team asked them about successes, they responded, “Thank you for asking. Everyone focuses so much on the bad, and the positive, and it’s quiet.” Small victories may appear minor. But when it comes to diffusing a violent situation, they are undeniably lifesaving. These moments serve as a poignant reminder to appreciate the often-overlooked work of people within our communities who are actively countering the negative stereotypes that can unfairly stigmatize Black and brown individuals.

Bringing Positive Community Change to Congress

The call for increased funding for VI programs is a call to invest in a safer, stronger tomorrow. As exemplified by organizations like One Lexington, these programs can manifest the potential to save lives, foster transformation, and mend the wounds inflicted by violence. Resources and support for groups like One Lexington are imperative for the longevity and efficacy of violence interruption. Recognizing that “we keep us safe,” we affirm the collective responsibility and commitment needed to fortify and restore communities affected by violence. And we will continue to take those words into every congressional office as we lobby to protect funding for these inspiring, impactful programs. 

Bri Tollie

Brishonne (Bri) Tollie

Program Assistant for Justice Reform & Election Integrity (2023-2024)

Brishonne (Bri) Tollie is FCNL’s program assistant for justice reform and election integrity for 2023-2024.