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"The system is entirely broken" | Lawmaker, former inmate and therapist say Memphis needs a village to slow crime

Rep. Antonio Parkinson is one of 12 lawmakers appointed to a newly formed committee that will issue recommendations on sentencing policies.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A committee was created after a violent week in Memphis last month and the Eliza Fletcher case is working to address truth in sentencing, prisons, and parole. 

Many see TDOC as a revolving door of criminals in and out.  

But what will it take to reach our youth before they pull the trigger? 

"I watched how the gangs did. I watched how they fought the police," said State Rep. Antonio Parkinson. "That became my norm.” 

A norm mental health therapist Dr. Justin Dodson said young people growing up in Memphis can relate.  

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“When our youth are exposed to violence at an early age that impacts the brain in a traumatic way where we don’t really develop how we’re supposed to," said Dodson. "That can make for a bad recipe if the right protective factors aren’t harnessed around that young person.” 

In grade school, Parkinson was bullied, sharing he brought a gun to school for protection.  

"When it came time to make a choice before school that day when we were deciding which gun each person was going to get, it wasn’t even a second thought," the lawmaker shared. "You know I want this one the one with the bullets in it.” 

Parkinson said it was prevention and joining the marines at age 17 that turned his life around.  

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He’s one of 12 lawmakers appointed to a newly formed committee that will issue recommendations on sentencing policies.  

“We’ve got to come up with a better way and a better program that would actually rehab inmates as opposed to housing inmates,” said Parkinson.

Parkinson who is the only Memphian and African-American on the committee believes truth and sentencing is only a part of the solution to the crime saying intervention earlier on is critical.

“The system is entirely broken," Parkinson continued. "It’s not just the department of corrections letting them out or whether they let them out early. It starts way before Cleotha Abston becomes an adult rapist or way before Ezekiel Kelly becomes a shooter as an adult.” 

Anti-gun violence advocate Stevie Moore, who was previously imprisoned said it’s more than a justice system and police who have to help slow crime.  

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“I’m an ex-pimp, an ex-dope dealer," said Moore. "I wasn’t born to be a pimp or dope dealer. The community led me to that.”

A community Moore said needs repairing at home and in neighborhoods.  

“It’s our village that’s failing," said Moore. "They don’t have anything to do after hours. We used to have midnight basketball give them something with that energy they got.” 

Parkinson said the committee will meet several times before the legislative session starts in January.  

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