Hometown: Olive Branch, MS
Education: Studied Social Work and Psychology Nashville State Community College
Known as: Eric
Recognizable by: His glasses and headphones
At 17 years of age Eric was arrested and subsequently charged with especially aggravated robbery and first degree murder. Aware that the court was seeking a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, he pled guilty in order to receive two 25 year sentences (with a chance for parole) to be served concurrently in the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
While in prison Eric earned his G.E.D. After years of maturation, he denounced his gang membership and led members of other gangs to step away from gang life, get their G.E.D.’s, and attend trade classes. He went on to spend 6 years studying Comparative Religion and Developmental Psychology while becoming a State of Tennessee Board approved Licensed Barber. He annually attended Christian Ministry workshops. He became a member of Parents in Prison, a program that addressed the needs of children of incarcerated fathers. It was programs like this that he learned to express remorse for his role in the crime and found that he had a love for working with others.
Eric was paroled in 2004 after 10 years.
After his release he began to volunteer in Alternative Schools for students with behavioral issues. He joined AmeriCorps Community Health corps and assisted in establishing full service medical clinics inside of local high-schools that provided health care to poor and underserved students and families. Eric became an independent vendor for the public school system. He facilitated trainings for school staff and campus security that offered strategies in identifying gang members and providing intervention for them and their families. He partnered with the Juvenile Detention Center and local organizations to provide services for students with trauma related issues. The goal of this coalition of providers was to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system. As a Program Director for the YMCA of Middle TN, Eric operated a 3-point program that addressed the socio emotional development in students with behavioral and academic performance issues.
Eric now serves as the Youth Justice Advocate with the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. In his role he speaks to groups throughout the country in support of our public education and advocacy efforts.
Eric is a founding member of ICAN or the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network. He also works with formerly incarcerated youth to help engage them deeply and strategically in the movement for the fair sentencing and treatment of all children.
“We have to be mindful of the fact that children who commit these crimes are often some of the most broken and that they still have something valuable to offer their community, after they’ve spent years picking up fragments of themselves, putting those broken pieces together, and struggling to feel whole, they deserve a second chance”
During his down time Eric enjoys spending time with family and cycling. He finds time for a ‘flea market flip’ every now and then.