'You have to value you': Ex-cons determined to veer Milwaukee teens away from life of crime
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- For years, Milwaukee has seen a rise in violence among youth. This year alone, at least 17 people under the age of 18 have died as a result of gun violence. An unusual duo, an ex-con and an ex-probations officer have teamed up to change the streets of Milwaukee.
"I was gang banging; I've been a gang member since I was 13. That was my identity, that was my life," said David Murrel.
Murrel has been in and out of jail since his youth. After 20 years inside a cell, Murrel stepped outside with a new perspective and drive to help young men.
Murrel and Pastor Virginia Pratt, an ex-corrections officer, invite youth to the Alma Center located in Milwaukee's north side.
Every first Wednesday of the month, the two listen to the young men on the brink of a violent path. The teens are joined in the sessions with other ex-cons.
"A lot of times people live by testimonies so if you have heard the sad, the hurtful stuff that's going on. He'll be able to help them and say ' hey' and teach them a different way to go," said Pastor Pratt.
These ex-cons, all friends of Murrel, are part of EXPO Wisconsin, short for Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing. Their purpose is to use their experiences to guide others from incarceration.
Murrel believes violence within youth has gotten as brutal as it has because the lack of conflict and resolution skills, a skill the sessions aim to teach.
"I want them to get it because I understand what's at stake," said Murrel.
Murrel said the sessions have only been going on for about six months but hopes one piece of advice sticks, that their lives matter.
"You have to value you, cause one thing I found was that all my friends when I went to jail didn't value me," said Murrel.