Local News

Task Force Works To Keep Minorities Out Of Prison

Posted January 27, 2006

— It's been a year since a WRAL documentary zeroed in on a frightening trend. Black men make up 12 percent of North Carolina's population, but more than 62 percent of the prison population.

A group of volunteers came together to initiate change. Now, they hope they are closer to making a difference.

Dennis Gaddy spent nearly six years in prison and couldn't help but notice that many of the inmates looked just like him. Now, he's part of a task force to change that. For the last year, the Lost Generation Task Force has met once a week, every week in an effort to keep young black and Hispanic males out of prison.

"We ain't playing," said task force chairman Dr. David Forbes.

Dr. Forbes said with the high percentages of black prisoners, you can't play, but act. They know what the root of the problems is; now, they are figuring out how to attack them. Part of the plan engages parents along with their young children.

"Just like they are party to contributing to their kids going astray, they can be empowered to use the same energy and help," says Forbes.

One key component: getting into the communities that need the most help. The task force plans to do that by moving into this renovated building in southeast Raleigh by March.

The old Raleigh Safety Club is being reborn as a safe place - somewhere to be proactive instead of reactive.

We can not do it alone," said Forbes.

Gaddy thinks they can make it happen together.

"When I go out to talk to prisons and people on the bubble of criminal activity, they hear you different when they know you've been there," said Gaddy.

This task force is gaining momentum. WRAL's parent company, Capitol Broadcasting, recently announced a $100,000 donation to help the task force with its cause. The city of Raleigh is also considering a $50,000 grant for the group. The task force also plans to ask the county for funding.

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