Five clients completed the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) during a ceremony on October 31 in Judge Brendan J. Sheehan's courtroom. Judge Sheehan congratulated each person and the graduates were encouraged to keep[ up the good work, and to visit the program in the future as examples of what can be accomplished.
Judge Sheehan piloted the VIP in 2018 after recognizing the stark reality that Cuyahoga County experiences large numbers of gun violence and gun-related deaths each year. VIP addresses felony offenders with gun-related specifications. The program works to train felony offenders with gun-related specifications before they become a gun-violence or even homicide-related statistic.
The pilot program demonstrated tremendous promise, and VIP received support from the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judges, the Court's Probation Department, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office, the Office of the Public Defender, and other agency stakeholders allowing Judge Sheehan to pursue grant funds to expand. Volunteer peer mentors, trauma therapists, and job placement agencies assisted the program to include additional participants, specifically young men between the ages of 18 and 26 from high -poverty Cleveland neighborhoods known for gun-related homicides.
The Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Affairs, awarded the Court a $750,000 grant over a three-year period to support the VIP efforts. If they complete VIP , the cases against the graduates can be dismissed, effectively allowing them a fresh start and second chance. Charges were expunged for four of the graduates (the fifth graduate had a second count that did not allow for expungement).