Sept. 21 MTSU symposium focuses on reducing gang-r...

Sept. 21 MTSU symposium focuses on reducing gang-related violence

MTSU is providing a forum on Wednesday, Sept. 21, for an in-depth discussion of one of the most pervasive social issues of our time: reducing gang violence.

MT Engage logo-webMT Engage, a program focused on enhancing student engagement, will sponsor a symposium on gang violence reduction hosted by the university’s Department of Criminal Justice Administration and Department of 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

Dr. Michael Sherr

Dr. Michael Sherr

“Making serious inroads to reduce gang violence requires multisystemic problem-solving and action,” said Dr. 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.”

Dr. Carter Smith

Dr. Carter Smith

Dr. Carter F. Smith, a lecturer in the Department of Criminal Justice Administration, 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 an MTSU alumnus.
  • Dr. Barbara Turnage, a social work professor at MTSU.
  • Cornelius Carroll, a former gang member who is now a nationally recognized gang expert, counselor and author of “Black Gangs in America.”
  • Detective Sgt. Chris Haney of the Murfreesboro Police Department’s gang unit.
Dr. Barbara Turnage

Dr. Barbara Turnage

“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. About a third of jurisdictions report an increase in gang threats to law enforcement.

The symposium is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be provided.

For more information, contact Sherr at 615-898-5673 or or Smith at 615-656-3505 or

— Gina K. Logue (

2016 gang violence symposium poster web