The local chapter of Operation Save our Sons hosted a values forum Monday night to discuss the moral compass of young people in Jacksonville.
The event at Bethel Baptist Institutional Church in Downtown Jacksonville was focused on cutting down crime in the city by helping to instill a better moral compass in young men.
The issues discussed ranged from Jacksonville's divorce rate to how poverty can affect the justice system, as the rich often have a better shot in court than the poor.
State Attorney Angela Corey was among those in attendance — along with some of her harshest critics. But many more were on hand for the forum.
For Patricia Brooks, this was a personal discussion. She said her son was wrongly convicted of attempted murder, and she believes if he had more money, the verdict would have been different.
“That's it in a nutshell,” said Brooks, a member of Mad Moms: Mothers on a Mission. “If you're poor, you don't get a fair trial. If you got money, you're going to get a fair trial. That's just the bottom line, and we're sick of it in Duval County.”
Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford didn't just talk crime statistics on Monday, he also talked about the breakdown of Jacksonville families.
“It's a values issue and it's a family issue,” Rutherford said. “We've got to get back to strong families. We've got a 73 percent divorce rate in our community. That doesn't contribute well to a strong home life.”
Corey, who's taken criticism for how she prosecutes young people, agreed, saying families need to keep their kids out of trouble.
“It's that responsibility and being accountable to your families, to your loved ones,” Corey said. “I think if every child asked themselves, 'What would my mother, my father, my mentor think if they saw me right now about to commit this crime?' I think it would stop half the crime that we see.”
Another issue discussed was making sure society doesn't write off a young person who commits a crime.
“(We need) to say that they can be rehabilitated,” said Bishop Rudolph McKissick of Bethel Baptist. “(We need) to become intentionally programmatic about doing some things in the community, to put programs in place to help awaken in these young men some positive thoughts.”
Corey also reminded everyone at the forum that it's not police or prosecutors who cause people to get arrested. She said the choice to commit a crime starts before that, and that's what they're trying to change in Jacksonville.