The program was set up so quickly that there was no formal way to measure its results, according to hundreds of documents reviewed by CNN and interviews with those who participated in the program.
Records provided to CNN show that $54.5 million was spent on the NRI program, mostly through the governor's discretionary fund, which doesn't require legislative approval.
The only data on the program's accomplishments come directly from the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority. The NRI states that it created more than 3,484 jobs, provided counseling for more than 3,100 children, and helped 1,175 ex-cons.
The NRI's self-reported results are being examined by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago. No formal report has been issued.
CNN reviewed hundreds of documents related to the program and conducted dozens of interviews with program participants which show how some of the money was spent:
NRI participants were paid $8.75 an hour, first to receive mentoring from adults, and then go out to pitch positive messages and hand out fliers in their neighborhoods.
Lazaro Vasquez, 18, said although he couldn't explain how the message in the fliers he was handing out would help stop violence, he supported the program.
"I just know that I'm trying to do my best that I can (to) pitch that message to youth, and let them know that we're trying to help the community," he said.
In another instance, students earned $8.75 an hour to visit the DuSable Museum of African American History and to the National Museum of Mexican Art.
"It was an effort to expose the students to a broader perspective on the cultures in their neighborhood and provoke some discussion," explained Dan Valliere, executive director of Chicago Commons, one of the lead agencies under the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
"The goal is to shift youth attitudes and help them develop a perspective on how they can be leaders and impact their neighborhood in a positive way. Over time, this kind of work can help reduce violence. There is research and experience to back that up."
Students were also paid to attend a yoga class as part of the program's effort "to point them out of their comfort zone ... think differently and become more a leader in their own neighborhood," Valliere explained.
The NRI also paid teens from the Better Boys Foundation to march in the 82nd Annual Bud Billiken Parade on August 13, 2011, with Quinn, according to records and video of the parade.
"Their job was promoting positive messages, etc., which is what the parade is about," a spokesman for Quinn said.
An audit of one of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative's lead groups -- The Woodlawn Organization -- uncovered a "lack of clear accounting and record keeping" and "questionable decisions." The group, which has a two-year contract, received $1.2 million before the state de-funded it.
According to the audit -- which is separate from the ongoing state audit of the entire NRI program -- The Woodlawn Organization used the money to buy $2,000 in American Express gift cards for two employees working for one of its subcontractors.
The two staff members "had to work far more hours over the course of the program than they were paid to do," said Joel Hamernick, director of the subcontractor, Sunshine Gospel Ministries.
Hamernick told CNN that his group got permission from The Woodlawn Organization "to make these two gift cards available to this staff in order to show our appreciation for their hard work."
Georgette Greenlee-Finney, the former executive director of The Woodlawn Organization, did not return repeated phone calls from CNN. James Taylor, attorney for The Woodlawn Organization, said the group would provide all documentation requested by the state for its audit of the NRI.
Illinois legislators, like Sen. Murphy, have been demanding specifics about whether the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative delivered on its promises.