This case study is part of the Reimagining Public Safety Impact Updates Resource, which highlights successful programs in cities, towns and villages across the country. View the Reimagining Public Safety Initiative to learn more about NLC’s work in creating safe, equitable communities for all. This is one of three municipalities illustrating Community Violence Intervention, in which credible community members establish relationships with individuals most impacted by violence through street outreach and violence interruption efforts.

Chicago, IL (pop. 2,746,388): Rapid Employment and Development Initiative (READI Chicago

READI Chicago (Rapid Employment and Development Initiative), a CVI program founded in 2017, has led to some participants experiencing 79 percent fewer shooting or homicide arrests, according to analysis by the University of Chicago Crime Lab.

READI Chicago Participants, Especially Those Referred by Community Outreach, Experienced Decreases in Violence

bar graph demonstrating the difference between READI participants and those that were referred to the READI program and how those referred by community outreach experienced a decrease in violence
Source: Heartland Alliance. “READI Chicago: A Community-Researcher Partnership to Reduce Gun Violence.” January 2023.
Notes: Rapid Employment and Development Initiative (READI) Chicago statistics reflect the results of a large-scale randomized control trial from researchers at the University of Chicago Crime Lab, the University of Chicago Inclusive Economy Lab, the University of Michigan, and Cornell University. Almost 2,500 men in Chicago were identified as high risk of gun violence involvement using 3 referral mechanisms: a predictive algorithm, community outreach workers (shown in graph in blue), and staff from prisons and local jail. A lottery was used to determine READI program participation and researchers have evaluated the program outcomes for participants in the 20 months after being identified for the study. “Arrests: Other serious violence” includes sexual assault, robbery, non-shooting aggravated assault and battery.

The program is administered by Metropolitan Family Services and delivered through six community-based organizations to leverage pre-existing data infrastructure with community ties and relationships while building local capacity. The READI model is informed by evidence that combining cognitive behavioral interventions (CBI) with paid transitional jobs may help reduce violence.

READI Chicago has the potential to contribute to the safety and economic opportunity of people who are disconnected, underserved, and at grave and disproportionate risk of violence and legal system involvement. Ninety-eight have been arrested, 80 percent have been a victim of violence, 35 percent have been shot at least once, and 83 percent have lost a family member to violence. Overall, participants in READI are 52 times more likely than the average Chicagoan to experience gun violence.

For every dollar invested in READI, society saw benefits of between $3.50 to $17.70 by reducing costs associated with crime and violence.

READI Chicago’s combination of evidence-based program components and innovative design yields valuable lessons for public safety. One key feature is the idea of proactive outreach – trying to offer effective supports and services in the form of cognitive behavioral intervention and a job in advance of another shooting incident. READI is expanding pre-release engagement in Cook County Jail and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice while also creating new engagements in the Illinois Department of Corrections so that individuals can benefit from exposure to cognitive behavioral tools, referrals to critical support services, and a relationship to program staff who will engage them as soon as they are released and able to return home – as well as employment with a formal paycheck. READI has also standardized and supported the implementation of policies and procedures, including data sharing, to achieve stronger performance outcomes.

In 2022, READI’s budget of $20 million was primarily funded through private philanthropy. READI has received increasing levels of funding from the City of Chicago, though it is a fraction of the program’s total budget. In 2022 and 2023, the Chicago Police Department spent at least $210.5 million and $293 million on overtime, respectively. Through June 2020, READI Chicago invested more than $20 million into community organizations to promote safety and opportunity, as well as more than $9.5 million directly to participants in the form of wages and client supports.

Some key performance metrics collected include:

  • Number of eligible residents
  • Number of participants
  • Participation rate
  • Retention Rate
  • Effectiveness of the program on violence involvement
  • Effect of the program on shooting and homicide arrests
  • Effect of the program on shooting and homicide victimizations
  • Cost-benefit ratio of the intervention

Acknowledgements for contributions and review from Monica P. Bhatt, Senior Research Director, University of Chicago Crime Lab and Education Lab; and Kimberly Smith, Director of Programs, University of Chicago Crime Lab and Education Lab.

View the Reimagining Public Safety Impact Update

Learn more about what different cities have done to support public safety, including qualitative and quantitative measures highlighting the impact of community responder models, group violence interventions, hospital-based violence interventions and community violence interventions.