Congressman Bobby Scott recently introduced a bill that offers a fundamentally different approach to stopping the problem of gangs by providing support and opportunities that will lead kids away from gangs, rather than simply locking them up.

Scott’s bill is called the Youth PROMISE (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education Act), and it’s moving through Congress now. We think it’s a great bill, and we’re running a campaign urging members of Congress to support it.

You can sign our petition in support of the bill here. Here’s the message we’re sending to ColorOfChange members today:

Dear member,

Gangs have plagued Black communities across the country for decades, but weíve seen few large-scale efforts that go to the root of the problem. Thanks to Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia, that could change. Now he needs our support.

The Youth PROMISE Act, Scott’s bill, focuses on giving young people real alternatives to gangs, instead of locking them up and throwing them into a system that often turns them into hardened criminals.

The bill has some support in Congress, but a strong show of support from everyday people like us will help make sure that it passes. Please take a moment to add your voice, and please ask your friends and family to do the same:

It’s clear that the current national strategy to combat gang participation isn’t working. Every day more young people are thrown into jail instead of being given opportunities to turn their lives around. It does very little to solve the problem of gangs, and it compounds the hopelessness that leads to participation in gangs in the first place.

The Youth PROMISE (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education) Act would change this by providing young people with critical support and opportunities to succeed so they’ll see that they have options that don’t involve joining a gang.

The Youth PROMISE Act would give communities greater access to a range of youth intervention methods with a record of success — like mentoring and after-school programs — and let those communities decide which practices are best suited to their specific needs. It would give communities funding to hire police officers specially trained to deal with youth. And it would provide crucial mental health services to young people who need them.

By signing on in support, you’ll join dozens of national civic groups, religious denominations, justice organizations, and political leaders who realize that the kind of change offered by the Youth PROMISE Act is long overdue. Even law enforcement officials are coming to the conclusion that we can’t simply arrest our way out of this problem.

Now it’s our turn. Together, we can show that thousands of everyday people are behind this kind of change. Please take a moment to sign on in support, and ask your friends and family to do the same:

Thanks and Peace,

James, Gabriel, William, Dani and the rest of the team

May 13th, 2009

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