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Four graduate from VIP

Four graduate from VIP

Four clients completed the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) during a ceremony on Tuesday, March 5, in Judge Brendan J. Sheehan's courtroom. Judge Sheehan congratulated each graduate and had them say a few words. He also encouraged current VIP clients in attendance to keep up their hard work. 26 people have graduated from the docket since it was created in 2018.

The guest speaker was Yvette Nosal of MetroHealth Medical Center. Yvette has provided critical trauma counseling to the participants in VIP and created a trauma-informed environment for participants to succeed. Judge Sheehan presented her with Court proclamation as Yvette transitions to a new career with the Cleveland Animal Protective League. 

Yvette told the graduates how proud she is of each of them, saying, "Resilience is facing a tough situation and bouncing back. You've developed a support network. Everybody who graduates makes it meaningful in a different way."

Judge Sheehan piloted the VIP 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 officially expunged for four of the graduates.