From behind bars at the Washington, D.C., jail, Sylvester Jones could sense that the streets in his city were even more dangerous than when he was picked up on a gun possession charge in January. The city should create an incentive program, he told a crowd at the jail Wednesday, in which community members get music studio time in exchange for turning in weapons. That way, he said, officials could steer the community away from music that glorifies guns and shootings, reports the Washington Post. “They’re killing each other for sport, and it’s motivated by music,” said Jones, 42, standing beside a poster board that said “SOLUTION” in capital letters. Around him in the Correctional Treatment Facility in Southeast D.C., other incarcerated people shared their suggestions about how to stop the type of behavior that landed many of them in handcuffs. As part of a program called LEAD Up!, the men spent 10 weeks this summer considering what resources could help keep D.C. residents safe.
A 22-year-old charged with murder proposed more mentorship for young people. A 19-year-old found guilty of carjacking said the city needs more job programs. Another group of incarcerated men said the District needs an entirely new agency to “treat gun violence as a public health emergency.” Listening were local officials and academics involved in anti-violence work. D.C. has struggled with a rising total of killings despite providing a deluge of programs aimed at reducing gunfire. Homicides are up eleven percent compared with the same time last year, putting the city on track to reach a 19-year high. The District has already implemented many of the ideas that the students proposed Wednesday. Most groups wanted to see more mentorship opportunities, which the city provides through at least three agencies.