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District attorney asks churches to ‘adopt a gang member’

District Attorney Michael Jackson has an idea to solve Selma’s growing gang problem, and it doesn’t include locking up gang members and throwing away the key. It’s an adoption program.

Jackson is asking churches to adopt gang members who are leading troubled lives and steering others down that same path in hopes of turning their lives around and turning them into productive citizens.

He held a meeting at the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center last Thursday where he proposed the idea to a group of pastors that want to make a difference in the community.

“Most of the crime we have going on here and across the country is juveniles or young folks, and they’re involved in gangs most of them,” Jackson told the laymen. “We can’t bury our head in the sand and ignore that fact.”

In 2016, six homicide victims were between ages 17 and 20 years old. Six more victims were between 21 and 30 years old. Nine homicide suspects were arrested last year between the ages of 19 and 27.

Jackson asked pastors to target one gang member and show them they care about them by giving them some type of responsibility, whether it is joining the choir, serving as an usher or being a coach on a sports team.

“Once they’re around positive people, they start changing,” Jackson said. “This ain’t no contest to see who can adopt the most gang members. We’re trying to be effective to stop all of this shooting.”

The district attorney said many of the young men and women that are committing crimes in Selma don’t have a conscience, and that’s something he wants them to develop so they will think twice about pulling the trigger.

“Some of these kids will kill somebody in two seconds and won’t blink an eye,” he told the pastors.

“We want them to have a conscience so they have some second thought about what they’re doing.”

Some pastors questioned how they could go about identifying and adopting a gang member.

“Selma’s so small you hear things. That’ doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true about the person, but you need to take some of it and pay attention to what people tell you about a particular person,” Jackson said.

“If you keep hearing something about somebody in your church, that’s somebody you might want to adopt. Y’all know who all is in your church.”

Jackson said his door will be open for pastors with questions, and he plans to keep up with their progress.

“When I see y’all, I’m going to ask how it’s going,“ he said.

“I’ve been to a lot of churches in Selma, and some of the worst folks doing things in Selma are in church.”

Jackson said he plans to hold another meeting a year from now to see how the adoption program has made a difference.