Jason Sole began selling drugs on the streets of Chicago at the age of 14 and later became one of the leaders of a notorious street gang. The son of a cocaine addict, this three-time felon spent two years in prison and a year on work release.
Sole turned his life around through education. He earned Bachelor and Master degrees in Criminal Justice and is pursuing his Ph.D. His mission is to help children learn from their mistakes and to help ex-offenders keep their eyes on the prize. Sole is an instructor in the School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University in the Twin Cities; provides training and case development for ex-offenders through the AMICUS organization; mentors and trains juveniles and adult through 180 Degrees, Inc. and the Council for Boys & Young Men; and volunteers with sex offenders in the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Sole was the one of the keynote speakers at the Gangs Conference, an annual event hosted by the Correctional Management Institute of Texas for corrections personnel, law enforcement officers, probation officers, investigators, school administrators and security personnel. The conference provides training and insight into gang investigative techniques, trends and statuses, influences and concerns as well as valuable networking opportunities. More than 200 people attended this year’s conference in Austin.
“The gang aspect impacts everyone across the board,” said Jeff Marton, project coordinator for CMIT.
One of the issues highlighted at this year’s conference was the emerging threat of Mexican drug cartels. Jose Garza, Director of Homeland Security for the Kansas City Southern Rail line and former Intelligence Officer for the FBI in McAllen, discussed US-Mexico border issues including border violence, drug cartels, alien smuggling, gangs associated with the cartels, and cultural aspects involved with the Mexican narcotic traffickers. He covered weapons trafficking both national and international, sea ports and rail lines in Mexico being utilized by the cartels.
“One of the biggest impacts and influences continues to be from the Mexican drug cartels in supplying narcotics/drugs, jeopardizing the safety, security and sanctity of Americans/Texans by the uninhibited/indiscriminate use of guns and violence as well as the trafficking of humans,” said Marton. “Their tentacles reach into American cities. An extension and resource partner of the Mexican Drug Cartel are U.S Gangs, together they create a large army with uniform goals.”
Participants also received the latest information on prison gangs, identifiers such as tattoos/markers/symbols, and the structures of their operations from Emil Garza of the Security Threat Group Management Office the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Consequently, what happens inside prisons amongst gangs impacts what happens on the outside, and what happens outside impacts gang members inside.
The conference offered breakout sessions geared toward different agencies dealing with gang issues. They included Understanding Gang and Crime in Texas; Gangs from a School District Perspective; Gangs in the Military, West Texas Border Violence; Females in Gangs; Gangs in Schools; Dealing with Gangs, and Texas Prison Gangs and Mexican Organized Crime.
“The Correctional Management Institute seeks to provide forums for our criminal justice professionals to exchange information, share best practices and learn critical information that can enable them to enhance their public safety efforts within our communities across the state,” said Doug Dretke, Executive Director of CMIT. “Our annual Gangs Conference every year gathers committed and dedicated professionals all very focused on the complex and challenging dynamics of preventing, managing, mitigating, and disrupting the impact of security threat groups and gangs within their jurisdictions and reduce criminal behavior. “
Participants received 20 credits from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers Standard and Education from the conference.