Andre Hursey is keenly aware that his life could have taken the same negative turn that short-circuited the lives of many of his peers.
Hursey shared his experience growing up in Bloomington’s public housing Thursday with the McLean County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.
But for his mother’s discipline and positive influence, Hursey may have become involved in the same criminal justice system he helps local youth avoid through his work with Jule Foundation. Hursey’s presentation is part of the council’s interest in exploring ways to address youth violence in McLean County.
The access to guns has changed the stakes for teens, said Hursey.
“People would fight but that was it. We lived to fight another day,” said Hursey, whose foundation works with about 35 at-risk youth.
Hursey partners with Eastview Christian Church, 100 Black Men and other local organizations which provide funding and mentoring services. Referrals to the program come from schools. More volunteers are needed to work with teens in junior high and high school, said Hursey.
“This a community deal,” he said.
Judge Casey Costigan said youth violence was identified by council leadership last year as an area of potential interest for the group comprised of community leaders and criminal justice stakeholders. Formed a decade ago to address jail overcrowding, the CJCC will maintain its role as monitor of the jail’s population, said Costigan.
A new member took a seat at the table Thursday after the CJCC approved a bylaws change to add a representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District as a nonvoting member.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Ghrist said he will serve as a conduit between the federal office and McLean County to help prevent youth from becoming swept up in violence. Providing assistance to ex-offenders after their release also is important, said Ghrist, a former McLean County prosecutor.
Ghrist cited his role in a two-month federal trial in 2019 in Peoria involving 13 defendants convicted of killing and harming people over a six-year span as an example of the need for prevention.
“Youth violence through hybrid gangs is real,” said Ghrist.
Information on grant opportunities and other federal assistance that may benefit McLean County also will be part of Ghrist’s work with the council.
Last month the council heard from Andrew Held about his Bloomington ministry for at-risk youth. The CJCC is expected to hear from more leaders of local efforts to reduce violence among youth at its upcoming quarterly meetings.
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