Prison Radio
Sergio Hyland

What’s up everybody. It’s Uptown Serg. I want to address the question of violence.

Nobody can question whether or not the great city of Philadelphia is still in the thick of a gun violence epidemic. It may be difficult for many to accept, but it’s one of the most populous cities in America. Violence, particularly gun violence is something that will never be fully eradicated. Yet we still have an obligation to try. That’s where all of the debate begins.

I’ve read an editorial recently which argued that the best way to stop the killings and/or reduce the murder rate in Philadelphia is to do a better job at convincing witnesses to testify in court. It also suggested that corrupt cops be rooted out and fired, and finally, that action be taken to clear unsolved murder.

Unfortunately, on every level, the author of this editorial is wrong. And I’ll tell you why. First, however, I should mention that I’m not only a survivor of gun violence, but I’ve also been in prison for the past 20+ years straight after I accidentally shot and killed one of my best friends when I was just a teenager, so I have a unique view from both perspectives.

Our goal as a community should be to stop gun violence before it happens. Firing corrupt cops, increasing the rate at which witnesses come forward, and clearing unsolved murders, while important and necessary, are all reactionary measures which fall short of addressing the root causes of this violence in the first place.

Much in the same manner as masks and vaccines are considered proactive measures to stop the Coronavirus, gun violence must be viewed as a public health crisis, so to prompt politicians, health officials, and community leaders to make efforts for providing potential victims and potential perpetrators with the means necessary to protect themselves against being negatively impacted.

For example, in Philadelphia, most victims and perpetrators of gun violence are young men of color. That doesn’t indicate any inherent violent qualities related to race. The socioeconomic status is something entirely different. Shamefully, our city of Philadelphia, the so-called birth place of democracy, is the poorest large city in America.

People of color are hit hardest by that reality in a nation that prides itself on dignity, self-respect, and honor, a young poor person such as myself sought out any path that I thought would lead me to being able to acquire those precious virtues. Sadly, my heroes were the local drug dealers who also earned their respect and dignity through the misguided philosophy of violence.

What I didn’t realize all those years ago is that people aren’t violent by nature, nor is violence the answer to our problems. The violence taking place throughout the city is largely a result of a diseased culture which was created by the wholesale disenfranchisement of black, brown, and poor white communities. Social scientists refer to this phenomenon as a colonized mentality where dominated group of people are quicker to turn the knife to their own neighbor than they are to the colonizer.

Combating the alarming trend of violence begins with a plan to combat the culture responsible for that violence. Accordingly, violence prevention programs must be implemented in tandem with meaningful economic and educational opportunities. This will help to keep our youth off of the streets while doing something that they can take pride in. Also, more funding must be a lot of the communities so they can rebuild homes, recreation centers, and other important cultural infrastructure.

Last but not least, the community must be able to decide how their neighborhoods are policed, because it doesn’t matter how much good publicity the mainstream media tries to give the Philadelphia Police Department. Communities of color will remain this distrustful of the police due to the harsh realities of the past.

Politicians don’t have the answers to this epidemic. Neither do the police. It’s time for the decision-makers to start listening to the real experts: people like me who have been on both sides and continue to suffer.

Thanks for listening. I’m Uptown Serg. You can follow me on Instagram @UptownSerg, and to learn more, go to

These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.