The Interrupters

Posted on July 26, 2012 by


Image: Amazon

“Words can get you killed,” explains Ameena. She is one of the violence interrupters who walk through Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods. She and the other interrupters walk through a world that is as foreign to middle class America as any passport destination. They cool down arguments, insert themselves into brewing storms.

Billed as a documentary about violence prevention, The Interrupters is about grief, concentrated disadvantage, poverty, education, and, finally, a modern take on the medicalization of crime. The idea that crime is a disease is not new – in the early 1900s enthusiasm for the 20th Century Rehabilitative Ideal quickly reached a fever pitch, if you’ll forgive the pun.

The analogy is compelling. If crime is a disease, then, like a disease, we can search for a cure. We can identify symptoms, treatments, prognoses, preventative treatments.

Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. Crime is a complex phenomenon that requires very broad perspectives ranging from sociology to biology to sociology to political science to economics to…  you name it. Fitting the medical model to crime is something we do to make ourselves feel better, not to actually deal with the problem.

But that doesn’t mean The Interrupters is a total waste.  Just ignore the medical model stuff, and the rest is fantastic.