A Politico article assessed the Community Violence Intervention Collaborative, a White House initiative that is undergoing an in-depth evaluation by a team from UCLA. With the goal of curbing gun violence, the 18-month initiative has provided funding, training and technical assistance to local officials and community groups around the country. Politico called it “a success story few have heard about,” one that could take years before its impact is fully realized. Adjunct professor Jorja Leap and Karrah Lompa, who lead the Social Justice Research Partnership based at UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, have been documenting the program’s activities in 16 jurisdictions and will report on the strategies that have proven most successful. The evaluation team included Social Welfare PhD student Livier Gutiérrez, who helped create a data snapshot of research collected to date. This month, Leap and Lompa met in Washington, D.C., with Biden administration officials, funders and community safety leaders to reflect on the initiative’s lessons.
Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about “East New York,” a new CBS show that aims to represent police officers and the communities that they serve through a restorative lens. This new style of cop show is heavily influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement and the killing of Black and brown people at the hands of police. The show’s creators are “trying to do the right thing and there are kernels of good ideas, but they keep taking shortcuts,” said Leap, who is executive director of the UCLA Social Justice Research Partnership. To better reflect the reality on the streets, “they’ve got to put some meat on the bones” by showing nuances of opinion among characters, noting that not all police officers oppose reform and not all community members are anti-police. “It’s not that everyone doesn’t want cops — they don’t want bad cops,” she said.
Our goal was to create a definitive roundup of UCLA Luskin research centers. Over several months, more than two dozen professors, staff, students and alumni were interviewed, producing 160 pages of transcripts totaling 69,774 words. Did we capture every connection, permutation or interaction? No way. For one, we simply ran out of space. What follows are excerpts from the interviews. Also note that our research centers web page now has a mention of every — we think — research entity with a UCLA Luskin connection. Here are a few facts and notes about the project:
- Funds that flow into the Luskin School are increasingly tied to a research center, and those numbers have risen as the School has grown in recent years. Research centers received 80% of all contract and grant funding at UCLA Luskin in the last fiscal year, totaling $18.5 million. With four months of 2021-22 to go, the research center tally stood at 82.9% of all awards and $17.9 million.
- Most full-time faculty, and many part-timers, are associated with at least one research center. The financial benefit is a factor, but interviewees mostly spoke about collaboration and impact.
- Research units play an integral role in advancing UCLA Luskin’s mission, particularly its community service goals. (Some of the many research-oriented advocacy success stories are told in this edition.)
- There are a lot of them. In 2009, the Luskin Center for Innovation became the fourth research center at UCLA Luskin. Today, we show 12 research centers on the homepage and list more than a dozen more on the web page mentioned earlier. A couple of non-Luskin-School-based examples are in this issue, but faculty also hold leadership positions or fill scholarly roles in many other research centers housed within another UCLA school, hosted by an off-campus partner or existing as part of a national research consortium or an ad hoc project involving scholars from other universities.
- Some research centers are — potential funder alert — still in the startup phase; others are firmly established but ready to grow. And two research centers have been bastions of the UCLA Luskin educational experience for decades. These highly respected and influential centers are profiled in chapter 1.
- The word center is often used in this project as an umbrella term even though individual entities are actually an institute, initiative, hub or lab. No disrespect is intended. Is there any official difference? We asked UCLA’s vice chancellor for research, Roger Wakamoto: “We do not discriminate a center from an institute or any other term. The names are
- The main story in this issue unfolds in oral history form. Some minor rephrasing was needed for clarity’s sake, and trims were made. But the people associated with UCLA Luskin research centers tell their stories primarily in their own words
A new book by Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap portrays the daily struggles of women returning to life after incarceration and proposes concrete solutions to the problems they face. “Entry Lessons: The Stories of Women Fighting for Their Place, Their Children, and Their Futures After Incarceration,” published by Beacon Press, draws on oral histories, interviews, embedded observation and extensive research conducted by Leap, an anthropologist who specializes in criminal justice and prison reform. At the end of 2019, women comprised the fastest-growing population within the U.S. criminal justice system, yet the impact of their journey — both on their own lives and on the lives of their children and families — is only beginning to be documented, Leap writes. “Entry Lessons” explores the traumas girls and women suffer, followed by the particular challenges they face in the criminal justice system, in incarceration and throughout their reentry into society. Leap includes several future-facing chapters that call for structural change through the development of meaningful programs and policies that end the cycles of abuse and trauma in the lives of women. In May, some of the women whose stories were shared in “Entry Lessons” appeared with Leap at a reception and book-signing at the UCLA Fowler Museum Courtyard, hosed by UCLA Luskin Social Welfare and Beacon Press.
View more photos from the book reception on Flickr.
Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle about decisions awaiting the city’s next top prosecutor after the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin. During his time in office, Boudin changed policies relating to cash bail, charging minors as adults and California’s “three strikes” law, among other reforms. Leap, an expert on gangs, criminal justice and prison reform, pointed to research on the effectiveness of different approaches to deterring crime. For example, there is little research to back up the claim that cash bail provides an incentive for people to return to court so they don’t forfeit what they paid. In addition, the use of gang enhancements, which can add time to defendants’ sentences if they are proven to have been motivated by gang ties, are ineffective and do nothing to address the causes of crime, she said. “We have no accountability for how this is done — no research studies, no nothing,” Leap said.
Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle about Urban Alchemy, a nonprofit that hires formerly incarcerated individuals to address street-level issues rooted in addiction, mental illness and homelessness. The nonprofit employs 1,100 people in five cities across the United States, many of them people of color and individuals who have previously experienced homelessness. The organization has faced challenges, including two workers shot on the job and criticism that its employees do not have the appropriate licenses to police public spaces. However, Leap said she is confident that Urban Alchemy will overcome these obstacles. “Crime has gone up in America, the same old solutions are not working, so we’re going to see more growth in these areas … and there are going to be growing pains,” Leap said. “Whether you are an abolitionist or a police cheerleader, we all agree what’s been done in the past is not working.”
In a recent Los Angeles Times article, Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap weighed in on Los Angeles County’s proposed plan to move juvenile offenders to a probation camp in a remote area of Malibu. The proposal has prompted a larger debate about what the county’s youth justice system should look like. Five years ago, Leap co-authored a brief endorsing a therapeutic approach to juvenile rehabilitation in response to the opening of Kilpatrick, a juvenile detention facility that was envisioned as a more humane approach to juvenile justice, with smaller dorms instead of the military-style barracks found at other probation halls. Leap spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the resistance from some officials at the Probation Department who have stalled progress with their unwillingness to let go of the “get tough” approach of the past. “The real problem is that that promise of trauma-informed care … has not been completely fulfilled,” said Leap. “The culture of Probation must be changed.”
Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap was featured as a guest speaker on KCRW’s “Scheer Intelligence” podcast discussing the repercussions of the incarceration of women. “We tend to think about [people who are incarcerated] as men, [but] women are the fastest growing group of incarcerated individuals in the United States,” Leap said. Eighty percent of incarcerated women in the United States have children, so incarceration directly leads to the destruction of families, she said. Leap pointed out that “46% of incarcerated women are in jail because they can’t post bail — not because they have been found guilty, but because they are poor.” Once women are released from prison, they face a series of obstacles with virtually no support. “The need is great, but the services are limited,” Leap said. “In America, we’re in love with incarceration, and what we should be in love with are the families and the children of the people who need our help, understanding and support.”
By Mary Braswell
Two researchers from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs have received $250,000 in funding to conduct an evaluation of a White House initiative designed to bolster the capacity of grassroots organizations to combat violence in their communities.
Jorja Leap ’78, MSW ’80, PhD anthropology ’88 and Karrah Lompa MSW ’13, who lead the Social Justice Research Partnership based at UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, will conduct an in-depth evaluation to document implementation of the Community Violence Intervention Collaborative (CVIC), launched by the Biden-Harris administration in July 2021.
The 18-month effort aims to equip community leaders and nonprofit organizations in 16 jurisdictions, including Los Angeles, with increased funding, training and technical assistance to reduce gun crime and increase public safety.
The collaborative brings together White House officials, mayors, law enforcement, experts in community violence intervention and philanthropic institutions to share ideas, spur innovation, and scale and strengthen the infrastructure that supports community-led efforts to increase public safety.
Hyphen, the anchor organization managing the public-philanthropic collaboration, selected Leap and Lompa to document CVIC’s activities, including the identification of partner organizations in each jurisdiction, the provision of training and technical support, and the development of a nationwide community violence intervention network. Their research will establish the strategies that have proven most successful over time and recommend approaches for sharing them nationwide.
Over the next year, Leap, an adjunct professor of social welfare, and Lompa will engage in community-based participatory research, including several visits to all 16 jurisdictions. Driven by on-the-ground, ethnographic research, this rigorous effort will produce a documentary narrative as well as recommendations that will guide the initiative’s ongoing efforts. UCLA Luskin graduate and undergraduate students will be actively involved in the evaluation effort.
“Our engagement in this initiative reflects how deeply CVIC understands the need for rigorous evaluation from Day One of their efforts,” Leap said. “Consistent with the values of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, we are committed to delivering participatory research that actively involves community members in the research process. They are partners, not just participants.”
A White House statement in February described the Community Violence Intervention Collaborative as one element in a broad strategy to address the nationwide spike in gun crime since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The collaborative was launched to “help communities assess their existing public safety ecosystem, identify gaps and build the capacity to expand programming that saves lives,” the statement said.
Racial justice, equity and community leadership are central to the initiative, according to the Hyphen team anchoring the program.
“The Community Violence Intervention Collaborative presents an unprecedented opportunity to establish a learning network that dramatically improves our country’s response to violence and reimagines and enhances public safety, ” according to Aqeela Sherrills, the initiative’s collaborative advisor.
The 16 jurisdictions in the Community Violence Intervention Collaborative were selected for their high rates of crime but also their strong support from civic and philanthropic leaders. In addition to Los Angeles, they include Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Baton Rouge, Louisiana.; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Memphis, Tennessee; Miami-Dade, Florida.; Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Rapid City, South Dakota; King County, Washington; St. Louis, Missouri; and Washington, D.C.
Leap, a recognized expert in gangs, violence and systems change, develops and coordinates community-based efforts that involve research, evaluation and policy recommendations at the local, state and national level. Lompa has extensive knowledge of nonprofit organizations and capacity building developed over her career in the nonprofit sector, including having served as executive director of a nonprofit organization.
Leap and Lompa are also co-founders of the Watts Leadership Institute, a 10-year initiative to provide grassroots leaders and nonprofits with the training, technical assistance and resources needed to build their infrastructure and knowledge to help advance positive community change. In a meaningful coincidence, the Watts Leadership Institute represents a local version of what CVIC strives to achieve nationally.
Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap was featured in a Wrap article about the rise of violent crime in Los Angeles. Many homeowners in wealthy areas are investing in private security to protect their homes and families, especially after well-publicized home invasion robberies and the recent homicide of philanthropist Jacqueline Avant in Beverly Hills. However, Leap noted that violent crime strikes poorer neighborhoods more than affluent ones. “For every one Jacqueline Avant, there are probably 50 to 100 [homicides] in poor areas,” Leap said. Homicides in Los Angeles were the highest last year since 2006, but Leap noted that they are still much lower than in the mid-1980s and ’90s. She explained that the ongoing pandemic and resulting uncertainty, the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and subsequent civil unrest, plus the easy availability of guns have all contributed to people feeling more anxious, which leads to higher crime rates.