Does Jayru Campbell belong in prison?

(Jaryu Campbell – Andre Smith photos)

The story of Jayru Campbell, the Cass Tech star quarterback who is facing repeated assault charges after his first assault encounter with a school security guard is stirring a debate about the crisis of young Black males.
While Campbell’s behavior is seen by some as exclusively belonging to a court of law where he must be held liable for his actions and face the letter of the law, others like the Atlanta-based Robert Johnson, founder of Fathers in Education, Campbell’s problems mirror a larger problem.
Johnson, a nationally known fatherhood advocate who has helped many African American men in Georgia recover including helping them with vocational training, said Campbell’s current state of affairs is a symptom to a bigger issue that goes back to the educational system.
“When you look at young Black men who are now moving through the educational system to prison, there are lots of variable environmental issues they face when you look at their profiles,” Johnson said. “When they wind up doing something wrong or committing a crime people don’t see the issues they faced growing up, or we sometimes don’t want to talk about their life story. We just want to lock them up.”
Johnson, who has spent time studying the emotional intelligence of young people said, “There are young people who respond to impulse which in turn hijacks the logic brain. When young people don’t have the proper nurturing and guidance they respond to impulse rather ran logic. They get angry, frustrated and then do something that is unacceptable.”
A 2013 ESPN RecruitingNation profile on Campbell noted that the football start grew up without his father who was in prison. At the time his dad was released he was already in middle school but the two did not develop a relationship.
“When my dad got out it was never really what I wanted it to be. The coaches (Jermain Crowell and Thomas Wilcher) really stepped in and became that part of my life that could tell me no you can’t do that, or what I should be doing,” Campbell told ESPN. “There have been plenty of times where I call coach Crowell during the day and we talk for an hour. They both help me by treating me like their own kid.”
Campbell recounted growing up in a neighborhood in Detroit where drugs and violence were rampant. He basically escaped the streets to make it as a football star after earning a scholarship.
“This young man (Campbell) needs a structure that can get him the opportunity to vent and say what’s wrong with him,” Johnson explained. “But he needs to trust that structure. The juvenile system is not that structure. That structure is a loving environment, and that’s the responsibility of Black parents. This is not a legislative issue. There used to be time when our men would take care of the kids in the neighborhood. That was manhood then. We don’t have that anymore.”
Detroiter Dr. Sabrina Jackson, the author of the book “He is Not a Statistic: 12 Laws for Single Mothers Raising Black Male,” said there is something amiss in the Campbell saga.
“Society does not understand that this young man is not a monster. Due to the fact that we have seen these two aggressive behaviors does not mean his is not redeemable,” Jackson said. “Also, within the Black community this saga demonstrates how we reject professional help early. We often go for assistance when forced. Our society has a negative stigma to receiving mental/emotional help. However all of us have something that will push our hot button and cause us to go off.”
Bankole Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle. E-mail


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