Handgun Intervention Program
an effort to save lives." - Terrence Evelyn
Handgun Intervention Program (H.I.P.) was established by the Honorable
Willie G. Lipscomb, Jr., in July of 1993. This innovative program
strives to educate citizens about the senseless violence that all
too often results from the possession of handguns. Coordinated by
Probation Supervisor Terrence K. Evelyn and managed by Denise Hall
of the Civil Division, the H.I.P. volunteers are fiercely dedicated
to ending the handgun violence so deeply entrenched in both our
local community and across the country.
"In 1992 37,502 Americans were killed with firearms in homicides,
suicides, and accidents... That's 103 American women, men, and children
every day." - National Center for Health Statistics
The 36th District Court's approach to this widespread problem is
unique in that it is the first program in the nation in which the
court orders defendants to attend a class as a condition of their
bond. This new approach has proven effective and has received national
attention. Indeed, the program has been duplicated in courts in
New York, Oregon, Florida, and Minnesota; it is now being implemented
in schools as well. The H.I.P. also caught the interest of Dr. Jeffrey
Roth, Director of the Urban Institute in Washington D.C. and author
of influential article, "Firearms and Violence". Dr. Roth was awarded
a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Justice Department to study the program.
His findings, published in May of 1997, concluded that after attending
one 3-hour H.I.P. class, the participants' attitudes regarding handguns
did in fact change favorably.
day, fifteen children ages 19 and under are killed with
handguns". - National Center for Health Statistics
January of 1993, a bright, college-bound teenager who was like a
son to Judge Lipscomb was shot and killed. No longer able to watch
gun-toting youths pass through his courtroom without a lesson, the
judge channeled his grief into action and launched this novel technique
to help make the streets of Detroit safer. The H.I.P. focuses on
the pervasive problem of youth homicide, the vast majority of which
result from the illegal handguns carried by children and young adults.
The current beneficiaries of the program are first- or second-time
offenders ages 12-28, predominantly African American males, who
have been charged with carrying illegal and/or concealed weapons.
The program is divided into three main segments:
graphic slides of murdered gunshot victims are shown, along with
explanations of the types of wounds and the circumstances that
caused the homicides. There is an emphasis on portraying the victims
as real individuals with grieving families and friends. This presentation
aims not to shock the defendants but to appeal to their sense
- Next, there is a discussion of various historical figures,
including civil rights leaders, and the numerous scarifies these
people made so that the defendants could lead better lives. The
message that the participants do in fact have a choice to turn
their lives around, to improve the socioeconomic conditions of
their communities, and to sacrifice for future generations, is
underscored. For those willing to accept the challenge, educational
and vocational opportunities are made available.
- The final segment consists of volunteer guest speakers
who share their tragic experiences of losing family members to
handgun violence. These speakers are carefully chosen to include
lawyers, factory workers, doctors, and ministers of both sexes
and a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds. This is the most
interactive part of the H.I.P. session, and it is here that Judge
Lipscomb addresses and answers questions from the participants.
An informational packet is handed out; the discussion focuses
on conflict-resolution strategies, how to avoid or neutralize
tense situations, etc. Lastly, the participants take a vow of
homicide is the number-one cause of death for black males between
the ages of 15-24, and it is the second leading cause of death for
all 15-24 year olds." - National Center for Health Statistics
the participants continually point out, the problem of illegal handgun
possession and its attendant is both vast and deep-a fact that Judge
Lipscomb acknowledges. "It's not going to happen
Judge told the Associated Press in an interview after the program
began. But he firmly believes the H.I.P. is making a difference.
"These are just young boys and they want somebody to talk with them.
They are not bad. There are just bad influences around them." The
increasing success of the program since its inception bears out
Judge Lipscomb's words. The study by the Urban Institute consistently
demonstrated that after one session the defendants' attitude shifted
significantly on a number of issues related to handgun violence.
These issues included situational avoidance. For example, if a defendant
needs a gun to fit in with friends, he/she needs new
friends. They also included
ethical considerations, such as deciding that an insult is not a
sufficient reason to shoot. An analysis of participants' views on
the risks vs. benefits of guns revealed that post-H.I.P.
respondents - considerably
more than pre-H.I.P. respondents - agreed that a gun does not necessarily
put one in control, that a situation sometimes worsens due to guns,
and that carrying a gun is not worth being arrested. A distinct
change was noted in terms of individual responsibility as well.
Far more post- than pre-H.I.P. respondents agreed that it is important
to set a good example for children, that they might ask friends
to leave guns at home, that they would try to get educated and find
good jobs, and that they could reduce violence by getting involved
in the community.
self-defense is the most often-cited reason for having a gun, a
gun kept for self-protection is forty-three times more likely to
kill a family member or friend than an unknown attacker."
- New England
Journal of Medicine
addition to the encouraging results of the Urban Institute study,
there has been consistent positive feedback and ever-increasing
participation from Detroit-area police departments and from defendants
who have attended the classes. In keeping with its goal of preventing
handgun violence by changing the defendants' behavior before violence
occurs, the program has expanded to include juveniles sent by the
Juvenile Court. The H.I.P. was selected for a 1996 national teleconference
produced by the U.S. Justice Department. The program is also cited
in the Justice Department's report entitled 'Reducing Youth Gun
which is distributed by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Prevention
as a resource for organizations committed to reducing this pervasive
The Handgun Intervention Program can easily be duplicated with
cooperation from the court system and dedicated, compassionate
individuals determined to eradicate the omnipresent handgun violence
plaguing our country.
a way to reach our children, before it's too late." - Denise Hall