Tommie Mabry of Jackson was in trouble for drugs, carjacking and burglary when he was younger. Now, he teaches at the school that kicked him out.
Teens being patted down by officers is becoming a common sight.
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
As recently as this weekend, we've seen police arresting teenagers for serious crimes.
Nationally, the latest reports show teen crime is on the decline. However, it doesn't feel that way when you watch the news. Teens being patted down by officers is becoming a common sight.
Two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old were arrested in February for an armed carjacking in Jackson. Other crimes are more violent. Also in February, Kahlil Kennedy, 17, was arrested in connection to the slaying of Janie Fullilove.
Jermaine Wilson, 16, is charged with capital murder in the death and sexual assault of his adoptive aunt Odessa McGee.
In Warren County, six teens have been arrested in connection with the murder of another teen. The youngest is 15.
"Unfortunately, some children are just gonna have to go to jail and do some jail time, that's reality," said Alternatives Do Matter owner Nancy Bradley-Gaynor.
Alternatives Do Matter is a court mandated program for some adults and recommended for youth, to keep them out of jail.
Gaynor says the "transformation of their mind" doesn't happen overnight.
"You have to be there for their needs, you know, not just slap them on the hand for doing wrong, but tell them a solution. Tell them an alternative, you know to getting high, for stealing," explained Gaynor.
Alternatives Do Matter is a 24-hour-a-day program for Gaynor. She believes churches and volunteers have to be proactive before teens get in trouble and after. Gaynor says young people need mentors for education, job training, life-goals and morals.
"There's a church on almost every corner and the churches have to be the vanguard of the community. They have to take a responsibility," Gaynor said.
Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith tends to agree.
"I think once the individuals are released, they require serious intervention. We've been trying to get our churches involved in counseling these individuals," explained Smith.
Smith believes there should be a structure in place once teens are released from jail helping the convicted teens adapt back into society and away from the culture they learned on the streets and in jail.
He points to the background of Justin Lomax. Smith says the Hinds County man's criminal history started as a teen. He's since been convicted of multiple house burglaries and was sentenced to more than 100 years in jail.
"You try to balance whether or not the severity of the crime is something, if the person can be rehabilitated based on the severity of the crime," explained Smith.
The Department of Justice reports 1.6 million juveniles were arrested in 2010, nationwide, which is a 21% drop from 2001.
Tommie Mabry of Jackson was in trouble for drugs, carjacking and burglary when he was younger. He has even been shot twice. Now, Mabry teaches at the school that kicked him out. He's an author and speaker, encouraging teens to take a new path once they go back home.
"It's not uncommon to see teenagers who have not matriculated in their education process at all. It's unbelievable," said Smith. Different things factor in to how teens turn violent. It could be a bad life at home, little education, peer pressure, or instant gratification; many times it's all of the above. The solutions vary just as much.
There are success stories, like Mabry, but recidivism is a concern. Many juvenile offenders are given light sentences or probation or a second chance. Smith says most young offenders come from a single parent home and lack an education, some simply stop going to school.
"I'm a product of what y'all are doing right now but I'm not judging you. I want to give children outlets and an outlook. Instead of telling a child what they can't do, show them what they could do. And a child feeds off that vibe," is how Mabry described his speeches to young people.
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