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Malcolm Jenkins shared some stories from criminal justice reform efforts

A leader on and off the field

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Malcolm Jenkins went on the Desus and Mero show on Monday and talked about a few topics.

It was a lively interview with some serious and not so serious discussion. Here’s some highlights.

Desus: Who’s your favorite team to play against?

Jenkins: My favorite team to play against has got to be anyone in the [NFC] East. Giants is fun. Going to Dallas is fun. Redskins is always competitive.

Mero: Are you sad that Tony Romo is out, you can’t pick him off in the fourth quarter with ten seconds left?

Jenkins: I never picked him off. That’s unfortunate.

In fairness to Jenkins, Romo missed two games to injury against him, so he didn’t have as many chances as he’d like.

Desus: You’ve been involved in criminal justice reform. Do you feel being an athlete helps you?

Jenkins: Definitely. For me it started last year with Philando Castile was shot and then you had Alton Sterling within a day of that, and then you had five officers in Dallas shot and I’m sorry but I want to do something. And that kind of got me into criminal justice reform and a group of players including myself was able to go to DC and meet with members of Congress. And that’s kind of when I realized that being a football player, being an athlete, it gets you access that the people who do this work every day can’t get. So the people like Black Lives Matter, all these other ground roots organizations can’t just walk up, go to Capitol Hill and sit down with a Congressman. Or just walk into a police station and sit down with the chief of police. We can do that, and so we’re trying to use that platform to kind of bridge some gaps and put some pressure on some people to make decisions, and continue to push that agenda.

Desus: So in the past year you’ve visited a prison and also gone along with some police ride arounds. Has this changed your view on what’s going on in the areas you’re trying to change?

Jenkins: No, but it changed my perspective on how to communicate. So the first thing I wanted to do was talk to the police. Because it would be very easy for me to just go “fuck the police.” But I want to hear from their voice what the issues are and see what they deal with, and also bring the voices of the community to the table. And there was some common ground, some tough conversations. Through the ride along I was able to see examples of police officers that do it right, and we can go into the neighborhood, it’s an all black neighborhood and white officers and all of them give them hugs and they know him, he knows them, knows the kids.

And then we can go into another one responding to a shooting and it’s a group of ten officers in the middle of the street and nobody is talking to anybody. There’s plenty of people in the community but there’s no relationship. Everybody is frustrated. So you can see where it was broken.

...I was advised “you should probably go speak to some of the prisoners.” I took a trip to Graterford [PA] Prison. Toured the facility, I had never been in a correctional facility…

Mero: What was that like?

Jenkins: It was crazy, because I thought we were going to have more security, or needed more security, but it was just us and three women giving us a tour and they took us into B Block and closed the door behind us and I’m like “uhh….”

*laughter*

Jenkins: But it changed my perspective because I really had no reason to feel that way. Which I think is everybody’s false perception. Then we were able to sit down, a group of inmates and us, the whole security had left the room to let us talk and it was eye opening because I think four out of the six guys who sat there were juvenile lifers. All of them had been in prison longer than I’ve been alive. One dude went in when he was 14 and is still incarcerated. Just taking that in and taking that perspective of what kind of life these guys are actually living… because we don’t get to see that. Somebody and gets sent off and they commit a crime it’s easy for us to be like “well you did the crime, do the time” and then we go about our days.

But to try to bring that voice out to the public so that people know what’s going on… and then when you know what’s it like in their scenario, when these people do get out, we want them to be upstanding citizens, we want them to be productive, and we want to feel safe when we get out. We’ve got to look out for them along that process and that’s something that is not happening now and we’re trying to push forward.

There’s not much to say here that wasn’t already said by Jenkins. He’s right that his status as an NFL player gets him through doors that ordinary people can’t get through, and it’s nice to see him use his status as an athlete to try to help rather than whatever the latest incident a player on the Cowboys is caught up in.

They ended with a fun one.

Mero: Winning that Super Bowl and living that Greek life, you must have gone to some wild parties.

Jenkins: I was more of a house party guy than the clubs. It got to the point where our campus parties were so lit we were charging dudes $40 to get in.

*disbelief and laughter*

Jenkins: Dudes would say the same thing, walk up and be like “$40? Nah.” We’d be like “alright then step aside” and like 10 women walk in and they’re like “damn, alright.” We had all the drinks, food, music, it didn’t close, we’d go to like 6 in the morning.

Forty bucks? Damn.