‘When you get out of jail, what do you have left?’: Nashville organization combating youth violence

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — This year News 2 has reported an uptick in the number of violent crimes in Music City. But there’s another statistic that’s going down.

According to data from the Metro Nashville Police Department, juvenile arrests have actually decreased 36% this year.

Wednesday night former Nashville gang members spoke to another type of gang. A group of kids in the Gentleman and Not Gangsters program (G.A.N.G.) which helps juvenile offenders become reformed citizens. It’s run by Bishop Marcus Campbell.

“I think it’s very important you know to be able to see somebody that has been down the road you’re going. Knows about the gang life. Knows what it’s like to go to jail and things like that. But then to hear the maturity in them on how they come through and how they see life now,” Campbell said.

Men convicted of past crimes told the teens about their time in prison and talked about the other consequences that resulted from their time behind bars.

“I’ve seen people be raped, I’ve seen people be murdered, I’ve seen people be bashed in the head,” Damien Thomas said.

“That’s my oldest son right there. So I missed his whole life. Thirteen years, nine months. I couldn’t put him on the bus. I couldn’t take him to school. I couldn’t take him to football practice,” a man nick-named ‘Clack’ told the young men.

In 2020, juvenile arrests have declined in Nashville. But the latest data from Metro police shows a 300% increase in juvenile homicide victims this year. In 2019, two kids under the age of 17 were murdered. This year, that number has already risen to eight.

“You can kill someone today, but when you get out of jail what do you have left?” one man asked the teens. “If you really want to be successful in life, and you want to live a prosperous life, this is the time where you really have to think about the decisions you make.”

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