2012 Black Male Seminar - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

2012 Black Male Seminar

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ALEXANDRIA, La. - According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, more than 80,000 African American men are incarcerated in the United States.

But one group is taking action. Targeting the young men before they end up in the same place.

They call it the "Black Male Seminar." It's not a scared straight program, but an information session about what life is really like in jail.

Jamar Gailes is a major in the Army National Guard, active in his church, and well-known in his community.

But on Saturday morning, he entered a classroom in the Rapides Parish Detention center wearing an orange inmate's jumpsuit as "Offender X."

Major Jamar L. Gailes: "Mostly what I saw was fear in the eyes of those young men. Nobody looks forward to getting into the penal system."

Major Gailes is not and has never been behinD bars, but he says this performance was a good lesson for the teenagers attending the 2012 Black Male Seminar, hosted by Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

Major Gailes: "But it's because of our bad decisions, peer pressure sometimes we end up here. So I just wanted to take them down the road of Offender X, who I was for the morning, and let them know some of the bad decisions that I could have made, but didn't make because I decided to do the right thing."

Undrea Walters says, he believed Major Gailes was a real inmate.

Undrea Walters, seminar participant: "Thought he was in here. He could have fooled me."

And Walters says, by the time he found out the truth, the message had stuck.

Walters: "I mean, it makes you think about some things that are going on. And some issues we can handle better, us being the black community."

This isn't the first year for this event, but it is the first year it was held in a jail.

Deirdre Fuller-Gamlin, Chairperson of the seminar: "To let them know that the penal system does exist. It's a very real system. And it is all the time not in their favor. And they need to do everything that they can do to avoid it."

Organizers say, they wanted the participants to get the full experience. The teenagers even ate a real jail lunch.

Fuller: "They have friends, they have family members who have been incarcerated. But it's totally different when you have to come behind those locked doors and see it first hand."

Major Gailes says if it helps even one kid stay on the right path, he'd put on that orange jumpsuit every day.

Major Gailes: "People have invested in me, through the church and community, and it's important for us to invest in our children, who ultimately are our future."

After the teens listened to Gailes, they also got to hear from real offenders and ask them questions about their time behind bars.

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