Backtalk with Judge Greg Mathis

TV star and youth advocate shares his passion for keeping youth out of the criminal justice system

For those who do find themselves in trouble with the law, who’s to blame and where does the problem begin?
The problems we see in our communities begin with fatherless and impoverished households that are deluged with drugs and guns. Eighty percent of fatherless boys end up in the system. We [black males] are disproportionately impoverished and live in more drug and crime infested areas.

What is the solution?
Strengthen the education system in our communities, focus on the development of black males, and instill proper manhood values in them. Besides that, a massive job training program needs to be created. Many black men run from their family obligations because they feel ashamed that they are unable to care for their family as society says they should. It emasculates them so they decide not to stay in the same household. Many of them run to drugs and alcohol to soothe the pain and end up abandoning their children. And the current economic condition in our country doesn’t help either because it’s preventing unskilled workers from getting jobs; they’re competing with educated people for those jobs once held by the working class. With the country in a recession, many programs geared toward developing youth may be cut across the board.

How often do you see programs that can help change their lives fall by the wayside?
Every day. Young men and women want to change. They look for opportunities to turn their lives around, but can’t find them. They don’t know where to turn or what to do. When I got my GED, I didn’t know what to do. I applied for the Army and they rejected me because I had a felony. My cousin helped me go to college through an affirmative action program. And if they can’t find the encouragement in person, I make sure I
use my TV show to offer it to viewers. A young man recently returned to court and thanked me. He was a gang member; he said I convinced him to drop his gun and pick up books. My show is part of the obligation I have to help, so I use it responsibly to uplift our community.

This story originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

Pages: 1 2