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North Nashville zip code has highest incarceration rate in the country

From: FOX 17

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) —37208: That's the north Nashville zip code that has the highest incarceration rate in the entire country, according to a study by the Brookings Institution.

North Nashville is full of history, but it's history about which many of us don’t know a lot. Kwame Lillard, however, does. He was one of the sit-in protesters in the 1960's fighting for civil rights.

“I confronted mayor Ben West and I asked him, did he believe in racism, and he said, ‘no,’” Lillard remembers. “From that point on, Nashville became one of the premier civil rights cities and became the first city to integrate lunch counters."

But now, the area has a different reputation.

A report by the Brookings Institution found that one in seven people who were born in the 37208 zip code between 1980 and 1986 were incarcerated at some point in their lives - That’s the highest number in the nation.

“You get a lot of murders, a lot of shootings, and drug related incidents,” said resident Travis Cambridge.

He’s lived in the area for most of his life and says all of that is slowly changing.

“It's improved a lot, I can say that,” Cambridge said.

The report further cites income as a good prediction of incarceration, saying boys who grew up in families in the bottom 10% of the income distribution are 20 times more likely to be in prison on any given day in their 30's.

Lillard says we need to push the positive aspects of the community and change some of the role models for kids.

For example, Nashville’s Citizens Savings Bank & Trust is the country's oldest Black-owned bank.

“But they don't come to Citizens Bank and see a banking operation, they see drugs being pushed on the corner and they become the models for some of our children,” Lillard said.

He sees hopelessness in some of the young kids and says that needs to change. He also believes the city needs more living options for middle-class folks on Jefferson Street.

Cambridge says there is a lot more police presence in the area than there used to be, and he believes that plays a big part in crime prevention.

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