NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Deep Dish Conversations hosted its first live discussion with a panel of Davidson County judges and a prison reform advocate Thursday breaking down the criminal legal system.
Deep Dish Conversations first started in 2019 and has grown beyond a podcast to a television program and soon a book in partnership with Vanderbilt.
"I wasn't looking for a book [and this growth], you know, I was just doing the work," explained Jerome Moore, creator and host of Deep Dish Conversation. "I'm just really pushing the envelope with the how far can we go with this? How far can we impact Nashville? Impact communities? And how valuable can this really be to our communities?"
Moore invites people of impact onto his podcast to discuss controversial topics affecting the Nashville community.
"It really shows, I think of the diversity of Nashville that care about these particular topics and want to be engaged in them," explained Moore. "Deep Dish Conversations is exploring the perspective of social change. Just like they were exploring humanities, we're exploring the different perspectives that people have about these serious issues that affect all of us."
"I want them to see diversity of Nashville, I want them to see people, to come from all different environments, and really have that explore factor. Be it people that they never thought they could meet or have proximity to. And also leave the room thinking, ‘Wow, what can I do to change will maybe make a difference in our criminal legal system,’ but also, ‘What can I do just in general, to be more a part of these conversations and making a difference in the communities that live here in Nashville,’" explained Moore.
For the discussion about what he calls the criminal legal system—notably not the justice system—he invited the following Nashville judges to sit on his panel: Khadija Babb, Rachel Bell, Allegra Walker, Robin Kimbrough-Hayes, Shelia Calloway and I'Ashea L. Myles.
"For me, it helps me be a better judge and make better decisions when I understand what it is the community is concerned with. And when I'm making decisions on the bench, so I'm just excited to be in a room with other judges and having the ability to talk to the community and just figure out what they want. And getting a bit of perspective from the community," said Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Khadija Babb.
"I think we need to do it more than just once a year and more than just during election or more than just during Black History Month. I think it needs to be a consistent conversation about ‘how do we fix this justice system,'" explained Babb. "We need to keep it in the forefront and not just wait when egregious things happen and we start to have these conversations."
Speaker, author and prison reform advocate Cyntoia Brown Long also was invited to take part in the conversation Thursday—one she said is a starting point.
"I think change ultimately happens. Now, obviously, it doesn't happen immediately. But it's a good start. You have to start talking about the issues. You have to bring things to the light in order for them to be dealt with," said Brown Long. "I think it's really important to talk about things from different perspectives, even perspectives that we may not necessarily agree with. We should hear all sides. And so I feel like conversation is a very important starting place for change."
"You have general sessions, court judges, and you have a criminal court judge and the Chancery and so they're not in the same space as far as like in the courtrooms together even the same building. So having them all come on stage together is a very unique thing," Moore explained.
The discussions Thursday night ranged from talking about the police, incarceration, criminals and most boldly, justice.
"People come from different backgrounds and if we don't take the time to sit down and have conversations and understand each other, understand each other's lived experiences, then we don't we don't get to know each other," explained Babb. "We make assumptions and have biases about people without taking the time to really have conversations and understand what it is that somebody has experienced and why do you feel the way that you do and the way that you feel is valid, even if that wasn't my experience."
To listen to some of Moore's Deep Dish Conversations, check out the podcast.