NOVA to Rehabilitate Criminals in Hopes of Providing Second Chance, Safer Streets

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In 2011, 114 people were murdered in Kansas City, Mo. In many of the killings police say drugs played a role. In fact, police says drugs and violence go hand in hand.

Next year, a new organization will launch and will work to curb violent crime by rehabilitating offenders. Next year, the No Violence Alliance, or NOVA, will work with offenders instead of putting them in jail or right back on the street.

Reverand Ladell Flowers is the Executive Director at Dismas House in Kansas City — a certified outpatient substance abuse treatment center. He says he’s able to relate to people who come through his door because he, too, wasn’t always on the straight and narrow.

“I can relate to the pain, to the suffering, to the hopelessness, to the fear, to the anguish,” he said, “but I can also relate to the desire to not be there.”

Flowers grew up in one of St. Louis’ most dangerous neighborhoods. At 15 he started drinking and then turned to drugs. But he says he was given a second chance. Now he spends his days helping others start over.

“I see people hurting real bad — men and women,” Flowers said. “They want a way out. They just simply don’t know, and we’re going to try and point the way and provide the resources.”

Flowers works with thousands of ex-offenders a yea. He says it’s clear drugs are the biggest link to crime and violence.

Captain Joe McHale, the Project Manager for the No Violence Alliance says drugs may be Kansas City’s biggest, growing problem.

“We are a victim of our geographic location and the transportation infrastructure that is in place,” he said. “We are on I-70, I-35, I-29 with Los Angeles, Lorado, Texas. We are the main transportation corridor for narcotics in the United States.”

McHale says getting drugs off of the streets is key to the program’s success.

“I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of the drugs,” he said, “but if we can impact the networks that are involved in violent crime I think we could be successful. I know we’re not going to completely eliminate violent crime, but even a 30 percent reduction in this city means 40 lives.”

NOVA brings police, the prosecutor’s office, the community, organizations and agencies like Dismas House together to offer ‘focused deterrence.’ McHale says not every criminal belongs in jail. He says in some cases by giving offenders individualized attention and connecting offenders with the right treatment plan you can stop the person from re-offending. He says giving those individuals help early could mean saved lives down the road.

Flowers says that for the right person programs like his work. He says he’s hopeful NOVA will make a difference in curbing violent crime in Kansas City. McHale says he’s optimistic, too.

“Efforts in cities such as Cincinnati, Boston and Indianapolis have resulted in significant decreases in violent crime in those cities,” he said.

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