Carl Upchurch, Ex-Gang Member Was Activist, Author

Carl Upchurch, at the age of 53, a onetime gang member who earned a degree in prison and became an author and social activist urging peace in urban ghettos, died May 2, 2003,  at a hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The cause of death was not given.

A native of Philadelphia, Upchurch grew up in poverty and violence on the city’s South Side. By age 13, he was involved in gangs.

A convicted armed robber, Upchurch spent 18 years of his life in reformatories and prisons, but turned his life around while incarcerated and earned a college degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

He wrote two books. His first, “Convicted in the Womb: One Man’s Journey From Prisoner to Peacemaker,” told his life story in stark detail and was made into a movie by the Showtime cable network. His second, “Breaking the Chains” was published in 2002.

Upchurch earned a degree of national recognition in 1993, when he helped organize a summit of gang members in Kansas City to urge an end to gang killings in U.S. cities.

Upchurch also worked as an advocate for prison reform.


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