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U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon speaks before luncheon attendees at the City Club of Chicago.  Moderating the function was Paul M. Green (left), professor of public policy at Roosevelt University

U.S. Attorney Fardon touts new anti-gun violence initiative by his office

by Matthew L. Schehl
May 21, 2014

Juvenile gun offenders may lead the way in curbing gang violence in Chicago.

A new federal youth outreach initiative, announced Wednesday by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Zachary Fardon, will seek to educate and mentor young parolees through social service agencies upon their release from prison in order to re-assimilate them into schools and communities.

“We’re basically trying to give these kids alternatives to the gang route,” Fardon said during an address at the City Club of Chicago.

Speaking to an estimated crowd of 150 Chicago business and civic leaders, Fardon who was appointed to his post in October, argued that youths who commit violent acts are most likely to repeat those acts and end up in jail.

By working with them through probation or upon release from prison, Fardon said long-term change may be achieved.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Fardon said. “We are talking about a generational change.”

Modeled on the success of the federal-state-local partnership “Project Safe Neighborhoods,” which for the last decade has helped adult parolees to reintegrate into communities, the new program, “Youth Outreach Forums,” will provide long-term intensive mentoring and social services to help youth meet their needs and prevent recidivism, Fardon said.

The program includes “Parolee Forums” in which those just released from prison are counseled by law enforcement professionals and social service workers who will provide help and expertise in everything from getting a haircut to building a resume.

“When people think of us, they think we carry a stick,” Fardon said. “But we also offer a carrot: we try to help and incentivize people not to commit violent crimes.”

The new initiative comes on the heels of Fardon’s restructuring of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s criminal division last March, in which he launched a violent crimes section to specifically address gang violence in the city through coordination with local, state and federal agencies.

Patrick W. Hayes, legal director of the City of Rockford, who attended the event said, “We’re standing up a similar reentry program focusing on violent crimes, with a multi-jurisdiction task force. We’ve got a perplexing set of issues [in Rockford] as well. It’s good to see we’re on the same page.”