The impact of violence, and some causes

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In the second installment of the Chicago Reporter’s Too Young to Die series, Kari Lydersen talks with Ondelee Perteet, a 17-year-old West Side resident paralyzed in a 2009 shooting.  Ondelee and his mother talk about the tremendous personal costs of violence: Ondelee struggles to maintain his positive attitude, and his mother struggles to care for him and pay the bills.  Photos are by Carlos Javier Ortiz.

(Classmates of Ondelee interviewed him for a video by the Westside Writing Project, another Local Reporting Initiative participant, in 2010.)

Last week the first report in the series showed that Chicago’s homicide rate is double that of New York City.  At Chicago Magazine, Whet Moser has a fascinating piece looking at differences between the two cities that may help account for that fact.

New York has less than a third the number of gang members that Chicago has, and various experts suggest this could have to do with public housing and incarceration policies.  The CHA’s Plan For Transformation displaced a hundred thousand people, while a massive public housing renovation program in NYC was the “exact reverse,” carried out without displacement.  Chicago’s approach ended up replicating the segregation that was originally built into the CHA high-rises.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s incarceration rate rose sharply in the early 90s and has stayed near that level, which New York has seen a marked decrease in incarceration.  (The greatest expansion of gang activity here was a result of increased incarceration of youth, according to sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh.)

That creates what one expert calls a “feedback loop.”  “Young men were shuffled back and forth between two environments that were ideal for the organization and growth of gangs.,” writes Moser. “While New York was rebuilding, Chicago was continuing the shuffle.”

Another Reporter piece looks at the mechanics of incarcerating teens as adults; Illinois is one of the few states that does so.  In gun possession cases, most teens were imprisoned without having been clearly identified as having a gun; indeed, guns were actually recoverd in less than half the cases.  Now the General Assembly is considering legislation to incarcerate 15- and 16-year-olds as adults.

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