Washtenaw County, MI – Tomorrow night, the Board of Commissioners is set to deliberate and vote on recommendations to invest $1.6 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to fund three community violence prevention programs as part of the Board-created Community Priority Fund (CPF). Community violence is a pervasive, circular issue in Washtenaw County with a substantial proportion of violence being committed by individuals who have previously committed or been a victim of a violent crime. By intervening with these individuals directly, each of these organizations aim to have an impact to reduce repeat offenders and retaliatory violence. The organizations and programs that will be considered for funding tomorrow night are being recommended by a board-appointed Community Review Body and the County Administrator. They include:
A Brighter Way ($250,000): A Brighter Way helps formerly incarcerated individuals living in Washtenaw County to build a stable, successful and fulfilling life. This investment would allow A Brighter Way to expand their work by allowing them to hire a full-time mentoring coordinator, and two part-time peer mentors to provide mentoring and wrap-around services that prevent recidivism. They will also look to update their website to better provide information and communication, outfit a facility for use as a computer lab and meeting place and develop an informational video series on topics relevant to those they serve.
Supreme Felons ($1,200,000): Supreme Felons is an organization working on the ground to reduce recidivism and support juveniles, elders, and returning citizens to transform communities. This investment would allow Supreme Felons to hire 8 staff (3 full-time and 5 part-time) to grow and expand their services. The proposal includes launching of a new mentoring program in local schools to directly engage with young people at-risk of perpetuating or being a victim of violent crime, providing food and resources to at-risk community members, developing a peer-to-peer network, developing family support programs, and more.
The Dispute Resolution Center ($200,000): The Dispute Resolution Center is a local agency that offers an affordable, constructive, restorative, and healing approach to conflict resolution. In 2021, the Dispute Resolution Center partnered with the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office to offer a healing approach outside of the criminal legal system called the Restorative Justice Program. This funding would allow for additional full-time staff on their Restorative Justice Team to offer survivors of crime the option to explore alternatives to the criminal legal system. This approach allows community members to make amends, rebuild trust, and create accountability plans that reduce recidivism.
The CPF was created by the Board of Commissioners earlier this year using ARPA resources and is designed to fund proposals, particularly those from grassroot community agencies, to implement programs in historically under resourced parts of Washtenaw County. The Community Violence Intervention category is the first round of CPF recommendations. In the coming months, additional recommendations will be brought to the Board in four other categories: Addressing Educational Disparities, Expanding Early Childhood Education, providing Direct Assistance to Households, and Addressing Housing and Homelessness.
This set of CPF funding recommendations is also aligned with a policy framework approved by the Board in May to interrupt violence and save lives. That framework was developed by a separate Community Violence Intervention Team comprised of community members with lived experience, representatives from community organizations, and county, township, and city officials.
Community members can watch the Board of Commissioners meeting where these recommendations will be considered on Wednesday, July 6th @ 7pm by attending in person at 220 N Main in Ann Arbor or streaming online at Washtenaw.org/Webcast. Options for public participation are available in-person and remotely.
More information about the proposals can be found here.