Monday, September 24, 2007

Preventing Violence - Part 1

See Friday's post for our announcement of this blog's series featuring MVFHR members' work in the area of violence prevention.

Gordon and Elaine Rondeau’s daughter Renee was killed on Halloween night, 1994 by a man and woman who followed her home, robbed her, and murdered her in her apartment. (The murder happened in Illinois; Gordon and Elaine live in Georgia.) Explaining their opposition to the death penalty, the Rondeaus have said, “The idea that the threat of punishment would have deterred these two, who were hard-core drug users and whose brains had been burnt out years before on cocaine, is sadly mistaken and does not allow us to understand the complex social issues that lead human beings into lives of crime. Most important, it prevents us from identifying the kinds of things that are necessary to prevent crime.”

The Rondeaus continue to believe that death penalty abolition work needs to be combined with violence prevention work. They wrote to MVFHR recently, “It does not make sense to just end the death penalty if we don’t work simultaneously on stopping the fire before it starts. We need to work on both ends of the spectrum.”

In 1997 Gordon and Elaine established the Renee Olubunmi Rondeau Peace Foundation, which offers a combination of direct service, advocacy, and education. One of its initiatives is a scholarship fund for research into the causes of crime and how it can be prevented. Another of the foundation’s programs is the National Coalition of Victims in Action (NCVIA), whose board members are involved in an impressive array of violence-prevention work throughout the U.S.

“Violence-prevention work” can mean a lot of different kinds of activities. The Rondeaus have worked with Chicago’s innovative community-based crime-fighting program, the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS). They have initiated and organized public meetings called “Community Cares” events, held in a variety of venues around the city of Atlanta and attended by law enforcement officers, legislators, judges, district attorneys, victims, and leaders from domestic violence and child welfare groups. The Rondeaus have also spoken at a huge assortment events and gatherings over the years, including a conference on adolescence and crime prevention held at The Carter Center.

In 1998, Catholic Social Services in Atlanta held an event at which Sister Helen Prejean publicly recognized Gordon and Elaine Rondeau and their peace foundation with a "Bringing Hope to a Culture of Violence" award. Representatives from several government organizations, including the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, were there that day.

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