Monday, June 23, 2014

How Anti-Violence Programs Turn Into Slush Funds

Days of Our Trailers links to two devastating news accounts of how Illinois Governor Quinn's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative to deal with the violence problem in Chicago is now producing federal and state criminal investigations of how the money was spent. From May 1, 2014 NBC Chicago:
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez had called a criminal investigation of the NRI. Quinn released more than 1,000 documents in response to a subpoena from Alvarez's office requesting the names and identities of people who received grants for projects linked to the program, for months the subject of controversy over alleged financial wrongdoing.
Although Quinn pulled the plug on the NRI last year, state money continues to flow into community anti-violence organizations from a different agency he oversees called the Criminal Justice Information Authority (CJIA).
It is about what you would expect from Chicago: gang members paid to distribute anti-violence flyers (that will give it credibility); political hacks with connections getting paid very well but who now can't remember how much they received; efforts directed not at the most violent parts of the city, but the parts with the most pull.

The June 21, 2014 Chicago Sun-Times reports that even the study to see how well the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative worked was flawed and possibly corrupt:
The state spent almost half a million dollars on a flawed study of Gov. Pat Quinn’s now-defunct anti-violence program — the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative — after officials rejected a more rigorous evaluation that would have been free, auditors say.
The $498,351 study by the University of Illinois at Chicago didn’t even examine whether the program helped reduce violence, according to Auditor General William Holland’s office.
Funny, but I would think that knowing whether a program designed to reduce violence actually reduced violence would be kind of important.  So what did this half a million dollar study actually measure?
But Shaw decided to award a no-bid contract to UIC to do a less rigorous “process evaluation” at a cost of nearly $500,000, auditors said. 
It does not seem to say it directly, but it appears that this study was really trying to figure out if all the money that was being spent was going where it was supposed to go.  If the primary goal is to buy people off, then I suppose that matters more than whether an anti-violence program actually reduces violence.  And there are serious questions whether this study even produced meaningful data on what it was supposed to measure.

I am beginning to wonder if Chicago deserves what it gives itself.

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