Friday, October 07, 2016

[099] MTSU departments host symposium on gang-related violence Sept. 21

MURFREESBORO — MTSU will provide a forum for an in-depth discussion of one of the most pervasive social issues of our time.

MT Engage, a program focused on enhancing student engagement, will sponsor a symposium on gang violence reduction hosted by the departments of criminal justice and social work from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, in the Student Union’s Parliamentary Room. A printable campus map is available at

“Making serious inroads to reduce gang violence requires multi-systemic problem-solving and action,” said Michael Sherr, professor and chair of the Department of Social Work. “The symposium brings students and community members together to raise awareness and discuss options for addressing such a devastating social problem.”

Carter F. Smith, a lecturer in the Department of Criminal Justice, will moderate the panel discussion. Smith is a three-time winner of the Frederick Milton Thrasher Award from the “Journal of Gang Research” for excellence in scholarship and service in public safety issues posed by gangs.

“Both our areas are putting Band-Aids on a problem,” said Smith. “Nobody’s doing radical surgery. If you would have criminal justice professionals talking to social work professionals on an ongoing basis, both of their jobs would be easier.”

The panel will include:

  • Neal Pinkston, district attorney general for Hamilton County, Tennessee, and MTSU alumnus;
  • Barbara Turnage, social work professor, MTSU;
  • Cornelius Carroll, former gang member, gang expert, author of “Black Gangs in America”;
  • Det. Sgt. Chris Haney, Murfreesboro Police Department Gang Unit.

“Looking at gang membership through a variety of lenses — sense of belonging, support system, identity, etc. — I will be focusing on what gang membership gives to the youth, not just the harms of gang membership,” said Turnage.

Street gang membership increased in about 49 percent of law enforcement jurisdictions between 2012 and 2014, according to the 2015 National Gang Report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The same report states that 50 percent of jurisdictions had increased gang-related crime during that period. Approximately one-third of jurisdictions report an increase in gang threats to law enforcement.

The symposium is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact Sherr at 615-898-5673 or or Smith at 615-656-3505 or

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