Creating healthy, safe, and just communities by transforming the lives of individuals at the center of gun violence
DeVone Boggan has dedicated his life to helping young people heal and transform their lives. When the city of Richmond asked him to help reduce the gun violence ravaging the city, he knew a life-altering opportunity awaited. In 2007, Boggan became the first Neighborhood Safety Director in the country working within government to reduce gun violence in urban areas without the tools of law enforcement. Where many saw an insurmountable problem, Boggan saw humanity and the need for practical solutions informed by the individuals at the center of gun violence.
In 2010, Boggan launched the “Peacemaker Fellowship,” which in its inaugural round provided deeply intensive, customized support to a cohort of 21 African American men under the age of 27 years old, all of whom had committed multiple gun crimes but avoided incarceration. The model is based on Boggan’s conviction that participants are products of their toxic environments and capable of changing their lives, a theory that is supported by outcome data. Between 2012 and 2019, firearm assaults in Richmond dropped by 85 percent and homicides were down 65 percent compared to the eight years prior to launching the program. In 2016, Boggan spun off the Peacemaker Fellowship® into a non-profit, Advance Peace, which has supported the model’s implementation in Richmond, Stockton, Sacramento, Fresno, Salinas, and Woodland.
Every one of our Fellows on day one of their fellowship should be in jail. Not only are they active, they have been engaged as a habitual shooter. Advance Peace builds trust with each Fellow through goodwill, love, and engagement and helps them identify and achieve their goals.
– DeVone Boggan
- In 2020, California saw 2,161 homicides — an increase of 503 homicides (30.3%) from the prior year. Firearm related deaths account for 91 percent of the overall jump in homicides.
- In California, 86 percent of firearm homicide victims are male and African American males are disproportionately impacted. From 2015 to 2019, African American males aged 15-34 had a firearm homicide rate 16 times higher than white male firearm victims of the same age group.
- Violence is often an adaptive strategy for dealing with the shared trauma across a community that derives from disproportionate incarceration, family disruption, and economic devastation.
- The public sector primarily addresses gun violence through law enforcement approaches. Police budgets typically comprise 20-45 percent of the discretionary funds in city budgets.
- Advance Peace’s Peacemaker Fellowship is an intensive 18- to 24-month program that provides customized support to cohorts of 20-30 individuals — primarily African American men between the ages of 14 and 34 — who have committed gun violence but avoided incarceration. It currently operates in six California cities — Richmond, Stockton, Sacramento, Fresno, Salinas, and Woodland.
- Fellows participating in the Peacemaker Fellowship meet with mentors — who share similar experiences and are from the impacted neighborhoods — to establish and achieve customized life goals. Mentors meet with Fellows multiple times a day, and, drawing on deep local relationships, intervene directly in community disputes to stop violence before it occurs.
- Fellows who make notable progress on their goals are eligible for monthly stipends and excursions such as college tours, service projects, meetings with government officials, and fun activities. The excursions represent the first time that many fellows have left their hometowns.
- The Peacemaker Fellowship differs from other intervention programs in several ways, including that it focuses on healing from trauma, centers the needs of individuals instead of treating gang members as a group, has no affiliation with law enforcement, and its members receive several touchpoints every day.
- Since the completion of the first Fellowship cohort in Richmond in 2012, firearm assaults have declined 85 percent and homicides have declined 65 percent. Of the 127 Richmond Fellows enrolled over six cohorts, 97 percent remain alive, and 66 percent have had no new gun charges since becoming fellows.
- Since 2018, Advance Peace mentors in Stockton prevented 44 murders by interrupting imminent gun conflicts and mediated over 500 conflicts that prevented escalation into gun violence.
- In 2018 and 2019, Sacramento had no youth homicides, after experiencing its highest youth homicide rate in 2017. Of the 120 Fellows enrolled in the Sacramento fellowship over two cohorts, 94 percent have had no new gun charges, 72 percent report an improved outlook on life, and 85 percent rate their mentor as one of the most important adults in their life.
- In 2022, Boggan and his team will partner with local leaders to launch Peacemaker Fellowships in Antioch, Merced, San Francisco, and Vallejo.
- Advance Peace has a track record of scaling and supporting replication of its model in California, New York, Texas, Toronto, Birmingham, England, and Nairobi. By 2030, Advance Peace plans to reduce firearm-related homicides by 50 percent in 20 of the most violent cities in America.
- As local governments consider shifting public funding from law enforcement programs to community-based strategies that de-escalate and prevent crime, Advance Peace offers an alternative, evidence-based approach worth examining.
-  Public Policy Institute of California
-  Ibid.
-  National Library of Medicine
-  The Center for Popular Democracy
Video by Talking Eyes Media
The written profile and video reflect the work of the leader(s) the year they received a Leadership Award. Please contact the leader(s) for current information.