Youth violence is nothing new. Johnny Hunt, 55, is living proof.
The South Bend man spent some 30 years behind bars for murder and robbery.
Hunt is now out of prison and determined to make a difference in the community.
“I just wish people would listen and don’t do what I did because it’s really bad and I hurt a lot of people in my days, I didn’t care but now that I look back on it, it really hurts to know what I did and I came to say I’m sorry to people I did it to,” Hunt said through tears during an interview at Dismas House in South Bend.
Hunt offers a unique perspective. He knows firsthand what it’s like to be a violent young man, and he knows what it’s like to be an adult who is concerned about youth violence.
In his youth, Hunt says he was known as “Scarecrow” and belonged to a gang called the Sin City Disciples
“I was in a gang. I sat there in prison 35 years and there’s only three people that come to visit me. My Aunt Gert, Maxine Payne, and Delores Butler,” said Hunt. “All them gang members and all my friends that said, called, they were my friends, ain't visit me not once, and they think, oh my dogs got me backed up; no they don't.”
In August of 1983, Hunt and an accomplice decided to rob two men who were drinking on the Leeper Park Island in South Bend. Although the men did not offer any resistance, 23 year old Peter Davis died of a gunshot wound to the back of the head.
“I tell then, yeah, I did it. I did it and now it’s over with and it’s in the past,” said Hunt. “You know, you do things then everybody wants to say, I didn’t do this…If you did, you did. You know, be a man about it. Stand up and pull up your boot straps and say you know what you did.”
Hunt was a special education student who bounced around from one foster home to another. Hunt was illiterate when sentenced on the murder charge and couldn’t write his own name.
“I had to have somebody write my stuff down for me, I asked somebody to write my name on a piece of paper so when I go find, it; when I sign it, I'd look on that piece of paper and sign it,” Hunt said.
Hunt learned to read in prison and now that he is free, he is ready to share some other lessons he learned by doing hard time.
“When God gives me time, I'm going to the county jail and talk to them youngins down there because they need talking to,” Hunt explained. “If you had a cold heart before, and you change your life, it will bother you. And you have to make amends for it, and that's what I'm trying to do with everybody that I can come in contact with.”
Hunt now lives at Dismas House in South Bend which offers help to offenders who are adjusting to life beyond bars.
Hunt recently spoke at the group’s forgiveness breakfast. He hopes to start his own shoeshine business.
Hunt was released from prison in June of 2012.