As gun violence plagues U.S. cities, Minneapolis extends innovative diversion program in which eligible offenders take courses to learn why they turn to guns

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as gun violence continues to plague U.S. cities


Attorneys from the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office (CAO), came to a disturbing realization: Most of the misdemeanor gun owners convicted are young Black men who claim they have guns “for protection”. After their first encounter with the legal system, these men seem to lose faith and continue down the path of crime and time in custody.

“Further investigation of the data showed, that approximately 70% of these individuals, after being convicted of gross misdemeanor offense by the CAO, went on to commit other crimes, many were violent felines,” according to span style=”font weight: 400 ;”>.


This office wanted to discourage these young Black men and others from having a criminal history and feeling like a life of crime is their only option.


The attorney’s office was unsure how to do this. The city issued a request to proposals in 2017.


Urban Ventures, a Minneapolis-based non-profit, responded to the call and developed a program for first-time gun-possession offenders without a record. It offers a series of courses that will help them understand their options and make better choices. The offender’s record will be erased upon graduation.

The Pathway Gun Diversion Program is a unique approach that has attracted attention from other states’ prosecutors and academics. Minneapolis raised $480,000 to fund the initiative in April and extended it through 2025.


How it works


If someone is accused of misdemeanor firearm possession, and they don’t have any prior records, they are required to undergo a diagnostic assessment. You may be eligible to join the program if you plead guilty to the charge in court and agree to a two year stay of adjudication.


After the probation period expires, the individual can enroll in the Pathway diversion course, which consists of nine months of classes. The courses are taught by licensed mental health professionals and social workers.


Brown said that Phase one is about healing from the pain.


Brown stated that Pathway is home to many Black men, most of whom were traumatized.


Brown said that intergenerational trauma is the focus of his style. Brown said, “We are not talking about trauma that you just wake up to every day and hear gun violence. It’s not only knowing that it is in your community, your family. Domestic violence and abuse are also common. We also need to talk about intergenerational trauma that goes back to slavery. They don’t know anything about it because they aren’t old enough to hear the stories span>


The course also covers trauma from everyday racism and inequity as well as biological trauma such as when a child is born to a woman who has been physically abused during pregnancy.


Brown said that the font-weight of 400 Trauma is a huge piece, and they have only scratched the surface. It’s their first time thinking about it .”


Many participants are often shocked by Brown’s introduction to trauma education.


span style=”font weight: 400 They always say, “I thought that this was a gun program,” said Brown. “And I always ask, ‘What was your thought? You were going to come here, and I was going to teach you how ?'”


Phase one is about learning to manage emotions and anger, and making rational decisions.


Phase 2 focuses on substance abuse. It aims to identify the root causes and provide solutions. This is a new phase Brown began a few years ago because substance abuse was a major factor in emotional driven decisions.


This is the final phase, also known as the “enrichment stage.”


Brown said that participants are focusing on more skills such as goal-setting, living skills, and interviewing skills. They also discuss basics like credit maintenance and how to keep it.


Students who graduate from high school are exempted from the misdemeanor conviction for gun possession.


The Giffords Law Center for Prevent Gun Violence (GLC) and the University of Chicago began a study of the Pathway diversion program. Brown stated that 15 prosecutors reached out to him to find out more about Pathway.


span style=”font weight: 400 When my boss handed me the contract and asked me to develop a program, I was confused. Brown said, “What? Brown replied, “What?'”

Gun culture and masculinity


Many of the Black men who enroll in the program are shocked by the courses on trauma and emotional reasoning. This is also the reason why they began carrying illegal guns. Brown said that Black men struggle to acknowledge their emotions and even work through them.


span style=”font weight: 400 There is this thought, like “I’m a guy, I’m not doing treatment,”” Brown said.


This is not a Black man thing. It’s a general man thing. Rashmi Seneviratne is the executive director of Protect Minnesota, a gun violence prevention organization.


span style=”font weight: 400 In Minnesota, in 2020, 68 per cent of firearm deaths were suicides. The majority of those who died were rural white men,” Seneviratne stated. Seneviratne said, “It’s that idea of toxic masculinity.” “This idea that ‘What does it take to be a man?’ — this contributes a lot to rural suicide rates .”


Seneviratne said that toxicity is caused by the belief that men should be “strong, quiet types”. This type of man shouldn’t need help and should not seek it.


Brown stated that young men of all ages go out and buy a gun legally or not. This allows them to feel safe and secure, as well as allowing them to get help from others if needed. These traumatized men can have a gun with them when their emotions take over.


Seneviratne said that Urban Ventures is the reason why she loves it. “I understand their work is very specific to their community but they confront toxic masculinity span>

span styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>”By then, participants have been able to relax enough to begin thinking about it. Brown stated that it was his dream to provide funding for people who want to pursue therapy.


Brown also aims to create a program that identifies young people before they reach out for a gun. A program that treats trauma and emotional maturity before they are charged with a crime.

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