Judge Mathis Launches PEER Prison Initiative
Judge Greg Mathis is launching a Prisoner Initiative entitled PEER, standing for Prisoner Empowerment Education and Respect. Through the initiative, Judge Mathis will visit jails and prisons throughout the country to encourage inmates to change their lives. Motivated by his own experience as a troubled youth who overcame the challenges of being incarcerated, Judge Mathis will share his personal experiences and offer advice and encouragement to inmates.
To date, the Judge has made PEER appearances at the Wayne County Jail in Detroit, where he was previously sentenced to serve nearly one year, the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, GA and the State Correctional Institution at Chester, PA. He also spoke with the youth population at Rikers Island, NY and most recently visited Folsom State Prison in Folsom, CA. The Judge is scheduled to return back to NY to speak with the adult male population at Rikers as well as visit Sing Sing.
Judge Mathis is strongly committed to reinvesting in this population, as African American males make up over 50% of the national prison population and they are incarcerated at a rate of 6.5 times that of white males. At the same time, African American males make up approximately 6% of the entire population of the United States. The majority of those incarcerated do not have a diploma or GED and return to prison within 18 months of their release. These staggering numbers may reflect the lack of positive male influences in the lives of African American males and failed education systems. As an African American male, Judge Mathis hopes his personal investment of time and testimony will offer inmates hope that they can educate themselves, transition to productive lives and provide positive influences for young black males.
The deathbed wish of Ms. Alice Mathis was that her son gets a GED and changes his life. That and the compassion of a Detroit Judge, who sentenced Judge Mathis, helped turn his life around. He obtained the GED and then went on to receive a Bachelor's degree and law degree. He also found inspiration from Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Push organization, an organization that Mathis would later become a key member establishing the Detroit Chapter of the "Reclaim Our Youth" church-based mentorship program for non-violent offenders. This program was established by Rev. Jackson through Rainbow/Push and was implemented in Detroit by Young Adults Asserting Themselves, Inc, an agency founded by Judge Mathis and his wife Linda nearly 25 years ago.