YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — On Wednesday, April 20, Youngstown City Council will vote on giving $17,000 to a group called United Returning Citizens which focuses on helping people released from prison.
This money will pay for someone to coordinate a program called Violence Interrupters — the goal being to reduce violence in Youngstown.
Thursday afternoon in a brick building along Youngstown’s lower Oak Hill Avenue with the city skyline in the background, Dionne Dowdy and Will Miller of United Returning Citizens talked about their program called Violence Interrupters.
“To try and de-escalate it before it gets further than what it’s already been,” said Dowdy.
“We’re going to kind of try to be that bridge, proactive,” said Miller.
The $17,000 from the city will pay Miller to coordinate the Violence Interrupters program. Miller’s a Southsider who knows the streets and did 26 years in prison for murder.
“Was in the streets at a very young age. As a result of decisions that I made in the streets trying to survive I wound up in prison,” said Miller.
But what makes Miller and Dowdy think their program is any better than Stop the Violence programs already in place?
“Cause we’re boots on the ground. We’re in there. We’re in the bars that they are. We’re in the stores or the corners that they are in. We have relationships with them. We have relationships with their parents,” said Dowdy.
Dowdy is 54 and has lived her whole life in Youngstown and knows every side of town. Miller, too, knows the people. He already busted a lip trying to break up a fight.
“The fight I got my lip busted, I know that could have turned into somebody getting killed. But I would take a busted lip and then be able to make the phone call to both of these individuals and know that they’re walking away from it and wouldn’t hurt each other no more,” said Miller.
Both of them say measuring success in preventing violence can’t be quantified and that even once a situation has been settled it requires follow-ups.
“Because somebody went back to their homeboys, and their homeboys said, ‘Hey man, we can’t let…’ you know. It still requires that type of work. It’s not just a 10-minute, one-hour thing if we’re talking about really trying to make a difference,” said Miller.
Miller has been trained in how to quell violent situations, and while $17,000 is not a lot of money for something the size of the city of Youngstown, they said it’s expected to pass.