Who we are

Founded in 2011, Chain Reaction: Alternatives to Calling Police is a volunteer-run initiative of Project NIA, a grassroots community organization in Chicago that aims to end youth incarceration. We started with the premise that every time a young person has police called on them or encounters police in school or their neighborhood, a negative chain reaction may be set off. Police contact leads to more police contact and state intervention, ultimately feeding the hyper-criminalization of Black and Latinx youth living in segregated neighborhoods.

A group of volunteers partnered with youth organizations focused on LGBTQ youth and others directly affected by the school-to-prison pipeline and frequent police interaction. Together, the youth told and recorded their stories about police encounters. Then adult and youth volunteers worked to create curriculum about a new kind of chain reaction--one in which community interventions reduce, rather than increase, contact with police.

We asked, what were the points of intervention that could have prevented police involvement? What would an alternative chain reaction look like? What resources, skills, and imaginative powers do we have in our communities to address violence and harm while reducing police presence?

Our organizational partners included Build Inc, Broadway Youth Center, Free Spirit Media, Gender Just, Howard Area Community Center, Project NIA (Circles & Ciphers Program), and Southwest Youth Collaborative.  Our stories aired on Vocalo public radio. Our volunteers included Emmanuel Andre, Sarah Brewster, Lara Brooks (organizational partner), Lisa Dadabo (PIC Collective Member), Billy Dee (illustrator), Michelle Emery, Andrés Gallegos (organizational partner), Jane Hereth (PIC Collective Member), Jessi Jackson, Carrie Kaufman (PIC Collective Member), Jake Klippenstein, Crystal Laura, Sarah Lu (audio producer and teacher), Emily Mannakee, Megan Milks, Mauricio Pineda, Andre Perez, Sara Powers (PIC Collective Member), Chez Rumpf (PIC Collective Member), Rosa Gaia Saunders, Megan Selby (PIC Collective Member), and Debbie Southorn (video producer). Mariame Kaba created the project and Lewis Wallace coordinated.

The project is currently not actively collecting stories, but seeking volunteers to help maintain our website and add to our resources. To find out more, e-mail projectnia@hotmail.com

To find out how we did this project, click here

To learn more about prison abolition, police abolition and transformative justice, check out our resources







Project NIA founder Mariame Kaba talks about why Chain Reaction exists, and why we need alternatives to policing. 
This video, which we used to fundraise a few years ago, pretty much sums it up: