03/26/13 — Goldsboro Partners Against Crime

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Goldsboro Partners Against Crime

By John Joyce
Published in News on March 26, 2013 7:05 AM

He spoke as if he were alone in the room with them.

He talked to them as though any one of them might have been the one who killed his son.

Then, he addressed them as if they were his sons.

Craig Doubt Jr., whose son and namesake was shot and killed just before his 19th birthday in 2008, addressed the 10 parolees and known violent offenders called into the City Council chamber Tuesday night by the Goldsboro Partners Against Crime.

Doubt was one of the speakers who were trying to reach out to the men, to convince them that they needed to change their lives before it is too late.

Police Capt. Teresa Cox also addressed the young men brought in for intervention. She wasn't in uniform, and she wasn't wearing a badge.

She said she knew them and their stories, and they knew hers as well. She lost her son to violence. The story was difficult to recount, but she did so anyway, hoping that telling it one more time might reach them.

Representatives from Wayne County Public Schools, The Goldsboro Housing Authority, and Rebuilding Broken Places also were there.

They spoke on behalf of a community whose mothers are grieving and whose children are in fear, whose citizens say they are fed up with the violence plaguing the city and Wayne County.

The men, seated in the front three rows of the council room, listened to each speaker intently. Had they chosen to look away, they would have found the faces still speaking to them, displayed on three video monitors positioned around the chamber. The message was inescapable.

"They are here because they made bad choices. Now they will have one last chance to make the right choice," said Allison Pridgen, student support services director for the Wayne County Public Schools.

Following the community comments and the stories about loss and the heartfelt pleas for change, a group representing law enforcement filed in from an adjacent room. They took the seats behind the bench, with placards noting their positions: U.S. Marshal, ATF, DEA, district attorney, U.S. attorney.

Goldsboro police Chief Jeff Stewart and Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders opened the law enforcement side of the GPAC presentation with stern messages. Stewart said that he cared about the young men there before him, but that he cared more about protecting the community.

Winders was even more stern.

"I don' have to give my inmates anything but three meals a day. You want a phone call. I don't have to give you phones. I'll turn your (phones) off," Winders said.

He acknowledged that the jail is overcrowded, but he said he had plenty of side cells and solitary confinement space available.

"If that doesn't satisfy, I have no problem sending you out of the county," he said.

The ATF and DEA representatives talked about their jobs as well. Both said that the next gun or drug crime any one of the men committed would carry a minimum sentence of 10-15 years. District Attorney Branny Vickory spoke up and backed their claim.

"You've been flagged. Any contact you have with law enforcement anywhere, I'm going to get notified," Vickory said.

Between Vickory's office and the U.S. Attorney's office, whichever can prosecute for the harshest sentence will take the case of any of the offenders who have now been notified. And since they have been notified, if they decide to offend again, there will be zero tolerance, zero leniency and sentences in the range of 30 to 40 years, or life.

Vickory added one final fact after all the statements by all the law enforcement and court personnel.

"The death penalty is still on the table," he said.

He told of a man he had sent away for murder who committed another murder while incarcerated. Vickory and Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge attended the man's execution. They sat with his mother and watched as she wept and her son died. Vickory was blunt. He told the offenders this could ultimately be their fate and that it could be their mother crying.

The first-ever GPAC call-in concluded with a short video and some handouts from community service providers, including Francine Smith, program director at Rebuilding Broken Places.

"I'm your mother. I'm your sister. I'm your auntie," she told the men. She said that she has sons and nephews who look like them and when she looks at them that's whom she sees, "and I don't want to see them sitting here."

She said if they wanted help, she would help them. She offered programs that teach trade skills, education in entrepreneurship.

Councilman Bill Broadway came away from the session impressed.

"This is a first for Goldsboro. It shows how serious we are about stopping violence," he said.

He went on to say that he thought the message was loud and clear, that "We're tired of it. We're just simply tired of it."

Stewart and GPAC coordinator Sgt. Theresa Chiero were visibly relieved afterward, and spoke about the amount of work that went into the program. Both remained optimistic about the program and hope that, as was said throughout the night, "if we reach just one of them ... it starts with one."