Kit Partners with Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

DJJ embraces POPP programs; testimony inspires lawmakers’ support 
What a tremendous time for the Power of Peace Project. Under a twelve-month agreement with the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), I’ll be working in Georgia’s toughest  juvenile facility for the next year. Commissioner Tyrone Oliver and members of the board of the DJJ voiced support for our “Reward over Punishment” principles when I presented before them recently, and I found support among members of a Georgia House panel during recent testimony as well. It’s time for a change. 

DEPARTMENT OF JUVENILE JUSTICE

“This is a
complete
paradigm shift”

The DJJ initiative will begin at Eastman Juvenile Detention Center, known as one of the most challenging in the state. How will it work?

It flips the model.

I asked the kids: “If you had a big enough reward, would you guys be willing to work together to bring about peace?“

One young man nailed it: “We’re already working together — we’re working together to do evil. Give us a good enough reason and we can work together to do good.”

Basically we’ve got these kids on lockdown because of poor behavior and then we’re expecting them to behave better. When they don’t, they rarely if ever get back the privileges they lost and more is taken away, so the  issues remain or oftentimes get even worse. Kids are restless and get in trouble when they have nothing to do, and these escalating problems are taxing a severely understaffed system and fueling more violence.

This is a brand-new approach. If they show us they can do positive things, good things will happen for them and they can earn privileges back. Maybe it’s pizza. Or hygiene products like lotion. Or the return of their state-issued tablets. I tell them I can’t promise them everything, but I do commit that I will fight for them and work with the warden on their behalf. 

“How do we know you’re going to come back,” one asked.

“Watch what I do more than what I say,” I replied. I had only known him for ten minutes and this teen was already struggling with abandonment issues and experiencing separation anxiety. No one has ever come through for many of these kids.

The contract I signed with the DJJ is for the next year, and I then will be working with centers across Georgia where about 1,000 kids are currently locked ups.

They’re coming home one day soon. The question is, in what shape will they return?

“This needs to be in every state prison and I’m going to push the governor to make that happen.”

As I watched the lawmakers before me nod their heads and say things like the above, I was moved and energized thinking about the possibilities ahead. They were embracing what I had been building and teaching — it gave me so much hope. 

I was testifying before a Georgia House committee looking at the Georgia Department of Corrections, talking about the “Punishment vs. Reward” model for prison reform and was so encouraged by their engagement and response. 

This wasn’t just validation. We have a real shot. “I’m going to push to get this program throughout the state,” said one lawmaker. This is support, not just acknowledgement. 

There have been times when I wondered why I didn’t quit, why I was doing this.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

Let’s do this thing. It’s time.

Kit receives Spirit Award at the 24th Annual National Gang Conference in Chicago

Very grateful to have received the Spirit Award at the National Gang Conference in Chicago this week along with Cobb Juvenile Court Judge Wayne Grannis, Gang Specialty Court Probation Supervisor Sharon Mashburn, and Counselor Kalique Woodbury of our RISING Team.

This award recognizes new promising initiatives in the field of gang prevention, gang intervention, and gang counseling. So proud to be a part of this wonderful team!

We also earned two new gang specialist certifications. Time to fly back to ATL and continue fighting for our kids!

NAACP PRESENTS KIT WITH ‘LIVING THE DREAM’ AWARD IN RECOGNITION OF HIS CONTRIBUTIONS TO CIVIL RIGHTS

On MLK Day, January 20th 2020, the NAACP presented Kit Cummings with the Martin Luther King, Jr. “Living the Dream Award” in recognition of Kit’s contribution to civil rights. It was a complete surprise to him, as they had tricked him and told him he would be speaking at their annual Gala in order to make sure he was in attendance! It was one of highlights of Kit’s thirty-year career, as Dr. King has shaped his message and built the foundation for his work in the field of Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation. Below is his expression of thanks.

“I want to sincerely and humbly thank the NAACP for graciously honoring my work with the ‘Living the Dream’ award. I couldn’t be more grateful, as Dr. King changed my life and is one of my true heroes. To accept this on his behalf on HIS day means more to me than you can imagine. I AM living the dream, and sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s real. Huge thanks to NAACP past president and matriarch Deane Bonner, and current president Jeriene Grimes for partnering with the Power of Peace Project and helping to advance this very important work. Much love and mad respect!” Kit

Kit joins the Georgia House of Representatives Gang Prevention and Intervention Commission

Representative Carl Gilliard (D- Savannah) is leading the State of Georgia to take a hard look at how they are addressing youth gang violence. Kit Cummings is one of the experts who will help shed light on effective ways to take on this growing community threat. Kit serves on the Georgia House of Representives HB750 Gang Prevention and Intervention Commission. Kit’s field of expertise comes from the last twelve years working in prisons, schools, and the faith-based community bringing rivals together and teaching conflict resolution, cooperation, and reconciliation skills. Having proven his program’s effectiveness by bringing rival gangs together in prisons across the country, and in Mexico, and creating a significant reduction in prison violence, Kit will now turn his attention to Youth Gang Prevention on the streets, in the schools, and in juvenile detentions. We must block the pipeline from schools to prisons, and that is one of his primary missions. We must interrupt and redirect this brilliant, but often misguided, young generation and set them firmly on the pathway to extraordinary dreams.

KIT APPOINTED TO THE JUVENILE GANG SPECIALTY COURT IN COBB COUNTY GEORGIA

Kit has joined a new Cobb County Juvenile Courts program that seeks to block the pipeline between schools and prisons. In response to rising gang-related offenses in Cobb County, Juvenile Court Judge Wayne Grannis has established a new specialty court called R.I.S.I.N.G. This court will assist first-time, gang-related offenders and high-risk youths, and offer counseling services and life skill resources to them and their families. R.I.S.I.N.G. stands for each phase of the program process: Rebuild, Invest, Support, Integrate, and Graduate. This new accountability court will involve ongoing collaboration with local law enforcement, school officials, the District Attorney’s office, and other support agencies. Kit brings twelve years of experience working in the toughest prisons with rival prison gangs, and his extensive work in schools with at-risk youth, to catch these kids before they make a big mistake that sends them away for a very long time. This second-chance program can become a model for incentive-based corrections and restorative justice, and will give these kids a chance to have all their charges dropped upon completion of the twelve-month accountability process. It’s time to interrupt and redirect a young generation who are lining up to go to prison. Help is on the way.