image of a brick wall with graffiti on it; words "Getting Out" at top

Getting Out

Youth Gangs, Violence, and Positive Change

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For eight years Keith Morton codirected a safe-space program for youth involved in gang or street violence in Providence, Rhode Island. Getting Out is a result of the innovative perspectives he developed as he worked alongside staff from a local nonviolence institute to help these young people make life-affirming choices. Rather than view their violence as pathological, Morton explains that gang members are victims of violence, and the trauma they have experienced leads them to choose violence as the most meaningful option available. To support young people as they “unlearned” violence and pursued nonviolent alternatives, he offered what he calls a “Youth Positive” approach that prioritizes healing over punishment and recognizes them as full human beings. Informed by deep personal connections with these youth, Morton contends that to help them, we need to change our question from “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

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