The Present & Future of Policing & Incarceration in Nashville
Each of our panelists began organizing for racial justice and reform in Nashville after their own experiences with the prison system.
“In Tennessee, there are young Black men treated like animals within prisons; experiencing racism, death, and the drug overdose epidemic. The desire to be fully free is what continues to push and drive me,” explained Buford.
Per Campbell-Gooch, “I grew up in a zipcode with the highest rate of incarceration. The only way out of this situation is through community organizing, not through individual politicians, business owners, etc.”
Both Buford and Campbell-Gooch have tried to find ways to reform systems of policing and prisons in Nashville— such as serving on the Nashville Community Oversight Board or starting organizing campaigns.
“My experience on the Nashville Community Oversight Board is what led to my abolitionist work. No body or institution should have absolute power over the people the way the Mayor’s office and police chief do,” Campbell-Gooch said.
Through their work, they’ve both found that reform isn’t just a matter of change to police or prisons, it spans a much larger legislative shift that they’re hoping to see.
“One in five incarcerated folks can’t even vote,” Buford explained, with Campbell-Gooch adding that “over-policing happens even before the police, it happens in legislature. By disenfranchising almost half a million people, they don’t have a voice in policy changes. Those defining the crimes are the ones creating the situation for criminals to come into existence.”
For Campbell-Gooch, a prevailing solution is reforming our budgets and legislative spending. “We need to focus on how the city is spending their dollars. In over 10 years, Nashville has invested over $1 billion in police but under $50 million in housing. So it’s no surprise that we’re in a housing crisis as it’s not prioritized,” he said.