Kevin Shird says some of the smartest kids he's ever met in his life were from some of the toughest neighborhoods in Baltimore. He still sees them making the same bad choices he did as a young man growing up in the city.
"Every single day, you're already in this world," Shird says of Baltimore's drug culture. "Every single day walking to school or from school. You pass the drug dealers, you pass the drug users, you pass that environment."
Shird wrote a book about his life called "Lessons of Redemption." It outlines his path from car thief, to drug dealer, to inmate and back. He says that as much talk as there is about the opioid crisis today, he still sees kids getting sucked into a life of crime.
"These kids are way smarter than we give them credit for. All we have to do is put the information in front of them and they'll figure it out.
He says that drug problems need to be stopped before they start, and is calling on more residents and to help keep kids from making bad choices.
"The reality is that there aren't enough mentors in Baltimore to mentor the number of kids that actually need that support," says Shird.
According to Shird, having a good mentor probably would have kept him out of prison. He says more evidence based prevention programs are necessarily to make a difference in schools.
"We've gotta do something dramatic to break that cycle or it's just going to continue," he said.
After spending 12 years in jail on drug trafficking charges, Shird was eventually tapped to serve on Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's Heroin Treatment Task Force. He's also worked with the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.