POUGHKEEPSIE – Fifteen-year-old Jaleni Jones was shot to death in broad daylight last Monday at the intersection of Main and North Clinton Streets in Poughkeepsie and the suspected shooter is still on the run. On Friday, SNUG, the program tasked with reducing gun violence, held a “shooting response.”
Historically, family members of victims do not speak at the response rallies but Friday’s event attendees heard from Jaleni’s sister, Irisa Butler. “It’s hard,” she said. “I’m trying to come to terms with losing my baby brother but it’s hard.” Butler was the last family member to see Jones before he was shot. “He came by my house to borrow $20 for a haircut. I gave him the money and I told him to bring back my $5 change,” Butler said while fighting back tears. “I got you,” Jones said before heading off to get his haircut – he never arrived at the barbershop.
SNUG (guns, spelled backward), under the umbrella of Family Services, Inc., has outreach workers, many of whom are former convicted inmates from the Poughkeepsie area.
Eric “Yahya” Archer, the senior outreach worker at SNUG said, “We are working to curtail violence by interacting with kids between the ages of 16 and 25 because they are the ones most at risk. We have several programs available for the youth and we are looking to join forces with other programs to reduce the violent acts.”
A few people at the rally questioned SNUG leaders about program availability to keep kids away from guns. “We have the programs, we have the counseling, and we’re always here in the community,” said Archer. “We need you to put us in touch with the kids at risk. Bring them to us or call and we will go to the kids. We need this to stop.”
Debra Long, program manager for SNUG and the vice-president of the Poughkeepsie City School District’s Board of Education, said, “violence is plaguing our community, and this is not acceptable. We must continue to work on changing the community norms. In order to do this, we need the entire community’s support.”