The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek


Rev. Jeffrey Brown Interview Highlights

Brown on Why He Got Involved in Working With Youth To Prevent Violence:
“It came home for me in a particular way when a kid was mortally wounded at the housing project down the street from my church. When he had been mortally wounded he was running down the street that my church was on, and was running in the direction of the church. And he died some 50 to 100 yards away from the church. And if he would have gotten to the church, it wouldn't have made a difference. The lights were out and no one was home. But the imagery of that just bothered me. A young teenager being accosted by a group of youth and was running for his life, dying. And if he would have gotten to the church, the church wouldn't have been there to help him. So the imagery of that just sort of brought home to me the urgent need for somebody to do something about the violence. And I realized at that point that I had been preaching a lot about community, but there was a population of the community, these young people who were perpetrating this violence, that I wasn't including in my definition of community. And so I made a decision after much prayer to get involved.”

Brown on Involving the Faith Community in Violence Prevention Work:
“What I've found is that in every community, in every city, there are groups of clergy that have faced the same dilemmas that I've faced in Boston. Many of them have begun to engage directly with the youth, which is a key component when you're looking for clergy who are willing to do this kind of work. You want to look for those individuals who integrate the message of street outreach and work with gangs and drug dealers and whoever's out on the street -- they integrate that into their church's mission. And you're looking for people who are committed to doing the work, and not so much for press clippings. And I often say to people, I'm looking for the folks that, if you look at their church signs, that if their name is larger than Jesus' name, then that's not the person I'm looking for. But I'm looking for those individuals who are really committed to the mission of the church, and tie the work of antiviolence into their mission of the church, and they see it as integral to that. Those are the folks that you want to work with.”

Brown on Incarceration as a Necessary Intervention for Certain Youth:
“When you are dealing with violence in the community, and you've got a kid who's already killed two or three people, a line has been crossed. You can't just sort of continue to try to work on him as he continues to try to plan murders. You've got to be able to ensure the safety of the community. And part of that is getting those kids, who've gone to that extreme, and putting them in a place where they can do no more harm. When it comes to violence, there are some youth that you're not going to be able to reach outside of prison walls, they're going to have to be in jail.”

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