CeaseFire Illinois, the Chicago-based anti-violence initiative featured in the documentary The Interrupters, has lost almost 60 percent of its funding from the state of Illinois. The cuts, which drop the organization’s budget from $4.7 million to $1.9 million, will go into effect with the state’s proposed 2016 budget from Governor Bruce Rauner. According to CeaseFire program director Jalon Arthur, the cuts mean that “all program activities must cease immediately.”
The organization’s methods, which include employing former gang members and other community members to intervene and de-escalate conflicts before they reach the point of violence, gained national prominence when Hoop Dreams director Steve James made them the focus of his 2011 documentary The Interrupters. The film, which aired as part of PBS’s public affairs series Frontline, focused on three of the organization’s recruits, including Ameena Matthews, daughter of a notorious Chicago gang leader, as they worked to counsel young people away from the course of violence.
Rauner cited financial crisis as the reason for the cuts to the program, which operates under the umbrella of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Cure Violence initiative. (Some of the organization’s budget is also being moved to the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority’s Adult Redeploy program, which works to move non-violent offenders out of the state’s prisons.)
Research from Northwestern University published in 2009 shows that CeaseFire’s intervention methods are effective in reducing shootings and other violent crimes in the communities in which they’re enacted. Forty-five people have been fatally shot in Chicago so far this year.