A docu-series highlighting the harsh reality of living in DC
In 2017, the PATIENTS Program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy funded study led by University of Maryland Professor, Dr. Joseph Richardson, to qualitatively understand how young Black male survivors of violent firearm-related injuries treated at the University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Trauma Center coped with their recovery, specifically the traumatic stress associated with gun violence and violent injury. The study was intended to explore patient-centered outcomes and the ways violently injured young Black men empower themselves in their recovery process because so often their voices are marginalized and muted in determining what they envision as healthy outcomes for themselves, their families and community. Two focus groups were conducted over a year with young Black male survivors of gunshot wounds. From these focus group discussions, it became increasingly evident that young Black men who experienced violent injury were also at some point in their lives under some form of criminal justice supervision (i.e., incarceration, probation, parole, ankle monitoring). Over 70 percent of the study participants revealed that they were under supervision. This issue raised serious questions regarding the ways mass incarceration and disproportionate minority contact with the criminal justice system literally bled into the lives of young Black male survivors of gun violence. This key finding resulted in Dr. Richardson being awarded another grant in 2018 from the Center for Victim Research Researcher 2 Practitioner Fellowship (R2p) to study how criminal justice system involvement among violently injured young Black men affects their lives and increases the likelihood of being violently reinjured. To our knowledge, there is no data which explicitly examines this relationship, despite the fact that gun violence is the leading cause of death and disability among young Black men, and 1 out of 3 Black men can expect to be incarcerated at some point in their lives. Black men have an increased likelihood of being the victim behind a bullet and behind bars.
As the Researcher for the R2P study, Dr. Richardson partnered with Community Health Practitioner, Che Bullock, a Violence Intervention Specialist. The primary goal of the hospital-based intervention is to reduce trauma and criminal recidivism. As a Violence Intervention Specialist, Che worked directly with violently injured young Black men, first approaching them at bedside which then transforms into developing strong bonds and mentoring relationships with patients as they navigate their physical, psychological and social recovery from a gunshot wound. The R2P Fellowship provided the opportunity for Dr. Richardson and Che to collaborate to conduct ten in-depth interviews and a focus group with young male survivors of gunshot wounds to understand their lived experience prior to and after the gunshot and how being the stigma of criminal justice involvement increases the likelihood of re-injury. We asked questions, such as “How did having a felony record and being “on papers” raise the risk of being reinjured again?” How did these young men remain resilient despite the traumatic stress associated with their injuries and the negative impact of felony disenfranchisement?
Using a digital storytelling approach, the researcher and practitioner partnered with filmmaker Uzo Ihekwoaba to visually document these ten incredible narratives on gun violence and the effects of mass incarceration on young Black men, the two leading causes of physical and social death among this group. What emerged from these interviews are searing, emotionally compelling and unapologetically raw stories on the ways structural violence fuels gun violence and violent victimization in America. These narratives open the door for empowering survivors to tell their stories of resilience and why we cannot look at gun violence in a vacuum. Policies and programs are needed to address gun violence and mass incarceration because the two are intricately tied together. Ultimately, we hope the film addresses the need for gun violence research funding at the federal and state level. With a research budget of less than 25K, the film ultimately captures why gun violence research is so important because so many lives are impacted after the gunshot.
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