Five pastors and five inmates got together in Indianapolis on Tuesday to discuss possible solutions to the problem of youth violence.
The pastors are from the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition, a faith-based organisation that aims to address street violence and other issues affecting the greater Indianapolis area. The five inmates are currently incarcerated in a maximum security prison in Pendleton, Indianapolis, where the meeting took place.
According to WTHR, the five inmates reached out to the Ten Point Coalition in an attempt to convey the message to youngsters that prison is real and not a life that they should want for themselves.
The inmates are all doing time for serious crimes, but they claim to have turned their life around through counselling and classes in the Pendleton prison.
One inmate advised the coalition to listen and be aware of what is happening on the streets.
"You need to listen to what's going on out there, listen to the kids," the inmate told the pastors.
He warned that because "life is hard", once kids become embroiled in violence on the streets, there is no way out for them.
"(T)he street just snatches you up," he said.
Another inmate said that they are the best people to give the youth advice on how to avoid violence and the danger that it brings to their lives.
"(W)e've been there, done that. So what better people to get certain advice from than people that have gotten incarcerated that want to change?" he said.
After the two-hour meeting, the pastors and inmates agreed on two needs: more facilitated meetings between youth in juvenile centres and crime victims to demonstrate the effects of violence; and more action to make kids feel that they are loved and valued.
The Ten Point Coalition said that is only the first step in their collaboration with the Indiana Department of Corrections, and that there will be more discussions to further develop the strategy of using reformed inmates to curb violence.