Crime Lab READI Chicago

The Rapid Employment and Development Initiative (READI Chicago) delivers intensive, innovative programming to those at the highest risk of becoming involved in gun violence. Launched in fall 2017, READI Chicago connects individuals at elevated risk of gun violence involvement with 18 months of paid transitional employment with regular participation in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), skill-building, and support services, plus an additional six months of follow-up case management and coaching support.   

Co-designed by Heartland Alliance, the Crime Lab, community providers, and city partners, READI Chicago is grounded in research that tells us that gun violence often stems from “in the moment” decisions in which an argument turns deadly because a gun is ready at hand. This insight suggests that at least some of Chicago’s violence could be prevented by helping people slow down their thinking with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT has been found to reduce violence among youth populations in Chicago, and among criminally-involved adults who have experienced highly traumatic events, both alone and in combination with stipends or employment. 

In just less than a year, READI Chicago has demonstrated the ability to identify, engage, and serve Chicagoans at elevated risk of becoming involved in gun violence. Participants enter READI Chicago via three different pathways: recommendations from community partner organizations, reentry into their communities from jail or prison, or through a referral by the Urban Labs Risk Assessment, a tool that uses predictive analytics to identify individuals at highest risk of gun violence involvement.  Many are coping with significant trauma and other issues that threaten their progress and create barriers to long-term success: over 80 percent have lost a family member to gun violence; almost half report having been victims of violent crimes; and almost all have had contact with the criminal justice system or spent time in prison. Despite these barriers, as of the end of September 2018, READI Chicago providers had engaged over 600 participants with over 275 having committed to transitional employment.  

In order to understand the impact of this critical investment, the Crime Lab is rigorously evaluating the program’s effectiveness. To learn more, please visit

To learn more about READI Chicago or how to contribute, please contact:

Barbara Hoffman
Chief External Affairs Officer
Heartland Alliance

READI in the media

Block Club Chicago: "Radical New Program Finds Men Most Likely to Be Shot -- And Hires Them"'

Chicago Tribune: "In hopes of stopping bloodshed, a multimillion-dollar effort is providing jobs, therapy to city's most violent"

New York Times: "Want to Quit the Gang Life? Try this Job On"

Chicago Sports Alliance

READI was featured in this commercial from the 2019 Masters Golf Tournament.