Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can provide assistance to unemployed workers and can help prevent violence. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Reducing violent crime: READI is a community-based violence prevention program that works with young men at the highest risk of engaging in or falling victim to gun violence. READI’s approach combines three evidence-based practices for reducing criminal behavior and violence: cognitive behavioral therapy, paid transitional employment, and a variety of personalized wrap-around support services.

  • Building skills to keep participants safe: While in the READI program, participants take part in group sessions that aim to help them learn how to slow down their thinking and respond less automatically. These sessions are based on principles from cognitive behavioral theory and are designed to help participants react safely in stressful situations.

  • Offering transitional employment: Participants are eligible for 12 months of paid transitional employment, with the opportunity to earn increased responsibilities and wages over that period. This allows participants to build career-relevant skills and earn an income through the formal labor market.

  • Recruiting widely and intensively: Prospective participants are identified through recommendations from individuals or community groups, referrals from the justice system, and by a predictive analytics tool. READI conducts “relentless” outreach to these individuals, as many agree to participate only after multiple contact attempts.

  • Leveraging partners’ strengths: READI is administered by Heartland Alliance, an anti-poverty nonprofit, in partnership with five community-based organizations, which deliver the model in their respective neighborhoods. The University of Chicago’s Crime Lab supports these organizations as a dedicated evaluation partner.

Cost per Participant
$23,000 per participant annually

A single study with a rigorous design provides some evidence for READI as an effective violence prevention strategy.

  • A 2022 randomized controlled trial found that participants in READI experienced 63 percent fewer arrests and 19 percent fewer victimizations for shootings and homicides over a twenty month period than did members of the control group.

Note: This content is under review.

  • Invest in multiple recruitment pathways: The men that READI targets are difficult to reach, as they may be housing insecure or disconnected from education or traditional employment. Investing in three concurrent referral pathways - individual and community-based referrals, referrals from the justice system, and the predictive analytics tool - ensures that the program can more effectively reach these disconnected men.

  • Identify strong service delivery partners: The READI model relies on consistent delivery of services across multiple sites. Designing a highly detailed request for proposal process ensured that prospective community-based partners clearly understood the commitment and expectations of delivering the READI model with fidelity.

  • Value relevant lived experience in hiring: As a new program, READI needed to build trust both with prospective participants and with the communities in which it worked. A commitment to hiring individuals with relevant lived experience has been instrumental in building that trust in both the program model and its day-to-day service delivery.

  • Promote participant and staff safety: READI identified the safety of both staff and participants as a top priority. In addition to investments in physical security measures, like professional security staff at program sites, READI continuously evaluates and revises its security protocols, which inform aspects of programming and operations.

  • Commit to evaluation and continuous improvement: A collaboration between the University of Chicago Urban Labs and the Social IMPACT team at Heartland Alliance has enabled the collection and analysis of data to inform real-time program improvements and to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness.