Men incarcerated at Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland are using their experience to help reduce gang and youth violence.
Member of the Extra-Legalese Group, an award-winning crime prevention initiative at the prison, hosted their annual Peace Initiative Symposium in July. The staff of the CFSY attended. CFSY was recognized for its longstanding partnership and role as a valuable resource. We learned from the men alongside approximately 30 “outside guests” from organizations that included the Justice Policy Institute, the Maryland Parole Commission and RBlock, a Baltimore community organization directed by a formerly incarcerated youth. More than 100 men from the facility, including several who are serving extreme sentences for crimes committed as youth, also took part in the symposium’s workshops and plenaries.Several incarcerated individuals spoke about the trauma they experienced during childhood, the influence that gang leaders had as they sought a sense of family, and their current experiences of living in a violent community in prison.

In addition to their personal commitments to peaceful living, organizer asked guests and their supporters to ask state policymakers to invest in gang reduction funding; violence prevention programs that include implementation of Peace Initiative models; implementation of college credit courses for incarcerated individuals among other and legal awareness programs to make youth aware of penalties of illegal behaviors.