Profile No. 41

Handgun Intervention Program -- Detroit, MI

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Court-related programs.

Program Goal:
To prevent young offenders from carrying and using guns.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
Juveniles charged with first or second gun offenses in Michigan's 36th District Court.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Detroit, MI.

Evaluated by:
The Urban Institute, Washington, DC.

Contact Information:
Terrence Evelyn, Program Coordinator
Handgun Intervention Program
36th District Court, Madison Center
421 Madison Avenue, Suite 3017
Detroit, MI 48226
Phone: 313­965­3724

Jeffrey Roth
The Urban Institute
2100 M Street NW.
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 202­833­7200

Years of Operation:

After a teenager whom he knew personally died from a gunshot injury, Judge Willie Lipscomb, Jr., launched a program to stop the tide of gun-toting youth who pass through his court. The Handgun Intervention Program (HIP) was developed as a court-based education program for defendants, whose attendance at one 4-hour session is ordered as a condition of their bond. At sentencing, the judge also can order defendants to attend additional sessions if he feels that it would be beneficial to them. The program targets young African-American men ages 12 to 28 who are first- or second-time offenders charged with carrying a concealed weapon and who currently have no other serious charges pending. The goal of the program is to prevent these defendants from committing gun violence or from becoming homicide victims. The program stresses the importance of consequences, choices, responsibility, and nonviolence.

HIP is coordinated by the probation office and staffed by volunteers from the court and community. Community volunteers include the clergy, police officers, probation officers, ex-offenders, doctors, lawyers, and victims. Judge Lipscomb and the other volunteers implement the 4-hour gun education class, which is held on Saturday mornings. The program has five components: (1) images of gun-murder victims are presented to remind the offenders that they share much in common with victims and to appeal to their sense of humanity; (2) information about guns and gun-related violence is distributed, leading to a discussion of these topics; (3) presentations are given by other youth about avoiding and neutralizing violent street conflicts; (4) participants discuss their responsibilities and heritage as African-American men (this segment includes a presentation about historic figures and civil rights leaders); and (5) an optional vow of nonviolence is offered.

Changing participants' attitudes toward carrying guns has proved difficult. At one session, even though all the defendants had themselves chosen to carry guns, 39 out of 40 participants knew someone who had been shot, and 8 had survived previous gunshot wounds themselves.

The program recently has been expanded and is now being offered to middle and high school students in the Detroit metropolitan area to reach high-risk youth before they become defendants. More than 5,000 young men have participated in the program since its inception in 1993, and the program continues to grow.

According to preliminary findings of a National Institute of Justice evaluation, HIP favorably influenced offender attitudes about the risks associated with guns. For this evaluation, defendants were assigned to either a control or an intervention group, and attitude measures were taken at initial lockup and after participation in the program. Attitudes about situational avoidance, status motivation, the inevitability of gun violence, ethical considerations about gun violence, personal responsibility, and knowledge about gun risks were measured. After participating in the program, participants' attitudes shifted favorably for 19 of 21 variables in the instrument. The researchers also held focus groups to gather feedback. Participants emphasized that the government failed to understand the problems of inner-city neighborhoods and that the program should be offered to a much younger audience through the schools. Researchers indicated that the long-term effects of the program are unknown at this time. They intend to examine the defendants' rearrest and revocation data and to analyze characteristics of program participants and their neighborhoods.

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Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence OJJDP Report