Carl Upchurch, 53; Ex-Gang Member Was Activist, Author

From Staff and Wire Reports

Carl Upchurch, 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 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.

Over the last 15 years, Upchurch also worked as an advocate for prison reform.