Series| Catalysts

Stopping gang violence with love

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“Society gave up on us” – but this community didn’t. Meet UTEC, the organization breaking the cycle of recidivism by helping hardened previously imprisoned gang members walk a better path in Lowell, Massachusetts. UTEC – or United Teen Equality Center – is a non-profit dedicated to stopping gang violence. Obviously, it’s not easy – in Lowell, MA there are over 25 gangs operating, and many gang members have been in prison multiple times. Thankfully, the streetworkers of UTEC are up to the task.

They’re not waiting for young gang members to walk into their offices – they’re going out in the streets, to hospitals, prisons and even morgues to try and intervene and stop the cycle of gang violence before it claims more lives. Once the at-risk youth they’re hoping to reach are ready, they’re able to help them get an education, a GED or vocational training — the tools they need for a brighter future. In fact, they run a number of businesses – a cafe, a mattress recycling operation, even a cutting board business – to provide jobs and employment. Most importantly, they use the power of community to cultivate a network where people can support each other and provide relationships outside of gangs or crime.

The results speak for themselves. While on average 52% of people released from prison in Massachusetts are re-arraigned within a year, people who are part of the UTEC community have just a 15% recidivism rate – and 80% are employed six months after they enter.

UTEC takes a community-driven approach to breaking recidivism, and it’s working. For more about the social entrepreneurs who are exploring bold new solutions to big social problems, join us on Facebook on our page, Catalysts.

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