October 9, 2014 – One of the purposes of this blog is to share information with the public the mainstream media cannot or does not cover. Recently there have been a number of significant issues falling into that category. With the additional layoffs at the primary general circulation daily newspaper, the times it happens may well be on the increase.
On Wednesday, October 8, 2014, the Shelby County (Tennessee) Commission Law Enforcement, Fire, Corrections & Courts Committee met and heard from District Attorney General Amy Weirich. The topic was mostly about gangs and youth crime. There were no great revelations, and as one might expect, General Weirich did indicate her office could use more resources, translation: money.
Committee chairman Mark Billingsley followed Weirich’s comments referencing the “Action Agenda with Detailed Action Plans 2012 – 2016″ produced by Operation Safe Community, saying “After reading this, I have to tell you, the answers are here.” The document can be found on-line at http://safefrayser.com/assets/1294/osc_2012-2016_action_agenda_with_detailed_action_plans_final_102212.pdf
After her comments and answers to commissioners’ questions ended, Weirich exited the committee room and it appeared all the reporters present went out to interview her in the hallway. Meanwhile, the committee had one request from the public to speak on the matter. Rev. Earnest Gillespie, III, addressed the committee. What he said is sometimes heard in private conversations but rarely in public. Furthermore, it seems to differ significantly from parts of the Operation Safe Community’s approach.
Here’s what he said.
Rev. Earnest Gillespie, III: “I’ve been working with youth in our school district as a gang investigator for over 12 years. I’m also a reserve deputy with the sheriff’s department. And what I see in meeting with these young people we see that continue to commit these crimes the problem lies within one of our judicial system, which is juvenile court. When these young people go to juvenile court it’s a joke to them. Some of them feel as though they’re home and the reason they feel they’re at home is because most of the kids when they go home, they go home they sit in a room all day, watch TV, play games, come out, use the restroom. When they go to juvenile court they sit in a chair in an orange docking [?] suit, watch TV, they go eat, so when they come out they feel they’re the biggest kid on the block. They come back to school with their ankle bracelets on and they portray around to other kids like ‘hey, I’ve been to juvenile court, it was no joke.’ I feel to you all today, today we cannot walk and use pay phones any more, that’s antiquated. All of us has got cell phones, everything has changed. If we do not change the way these kids are treated at juvenile court it’s a revolving issue. And what I mean, we’re going to have to make juvenile court an uncomfortable position for them to go to. They go to juvenile court we need to wake them up four, five o’clock in the morning, take them out somewhere, let them work, let them do something to change their behavior until they’ll say ‘I don’t ever want to go to that place again.’ They look forward to going. Even parents when they feel they cannot handle the kids what they do, they say I’m going to turn them over to juvenile court. They want to send them there because it is a way of getting them away from home. So I appeal to you all today, I’ve been dealing with this for a long time with our young people in the gang, until we address that issue at juvenile court when these kids go down there, change the way — I know some people might say it’s inhumane, this is wrong — but I see more men walking their dogs than walking their sons. So we’re going to have to, as a group of people, that our people can sit on their front porches, that they can walk the streets, because the same young people that go to juvenile court and you release them, they come out and commit the same crime over again. I lost a young boy, Edward Stanley got shot years ago at Wooddale. The boy that killed him he went, he got time, he got out, killed another boy in Southaven, Mississippi. So we got a revolving — they spent over $125-billion on gunshot victims a year nationally. So something is telling us something is wrong. The source is, I’ll close on this, and I want to say this not to preach to any of you all, but this is who I am. The disciples was messing with the water and the boat was still getting full. But when Jesus our Savior got up and spoke to the wind that’s when the waves settled down. We are dealing with some issues that is not going to solve our solution. Thank so much for allowing me to sit hear and speak to you all. And that’s where I say we need to start first of all.”
Committee Chairman Mark Billingsley: “Thank you so much for coming down today and taking the time to come down. We appreciate your comments. I know there will probably be a number of us to follow up with you and we thank you for being here. Commissioner Roland is seeking to be recognized.”
Commissioner Terry Roland: “Hey pastor, don’t run off yet, don’t run off yet. I’m liking what you’re saying. Pastor, I agree with you 100%. When I was growing up they had a place called Tall Trees and they had a couple of more places and those were tough places. If you went, you didn’t want to go back. And I’ll agree with you 100%. We got to make their stay unpleasant. And that’s what I was kind of alluding to earlier with the [District Attorney] General, we’ve taken the rights of the parents away for discipline, we’ve taken away the rights of the teachers and our educators for discipline. There is no discipline now days. Would you agree with that?”
Gillespie: “Yes sir. Like I say, I work within the school district. I’m one of the gang investigators. Been doing it since they first started this program and you are exactly right. Even people wonder why the kids do what they do. You know, the Vice Lords, they have to go to church, they going to make them go to church. And we talk about discipline, I have a fifth grader, I wish I had the time and I’m willing to meet with you all to show you the videos, how they beat these kids. They’re afraid to get this whipping, that’s the reason a lot of them stay in and if they want to get out the whipping is so severe they don’t want to take this whipping. So we’re saying we don’t need to touch them but the gang members actually beat them crazy. You know, a fifth grader. This is what’s going on. Until we address the issue, honestly you all, we’re going to have a lot more of our young people. That’s the reason we have a lot of funeral homes opening now — not you Mr. Ford — but they know they’re making money off our young people. And I’m not saying this to be inhumane. You say how they get funded? Well, they call themselves fast cash. How they get fast cash? The young girls, the state and government have given these cards to, they get their food stamps and things. These young fellows they get the cash from these young girls where they don’t have to work so they can survive. So many things these young people are doing, and they are as young as twelve, eleven years old and they laugh at our juvenile court system. But when they had Billy Wicks there years ago, when they put that whipping on them down there, a lot of these kids didn’t want to go back to juvenile court. But they don’t have no problem going because they can sit in air conditioned, eat a meal, sit there, get out, and say ‘I’ve been to juvenile court.’ Please you all, let’s see what we’ve got to do to start there first.”
Juvenile crime and corrections are very complex issues. It would seem that whatever solutions have been attempted in the past several years have not provided the results many would desire, at least not as promptly as desired. It is interesting when someone involved in the process at or near the street level expresses a different point of view than those around the conference table.