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Russell Simmons, LL Cool J visit NYC jail complex, encourage youth to believe in themselves

Inmates at the Rikers Island juvenile detention center listen as Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons speaks, Thursday, July 31, 2014, at the facility in New York. Simmons, founder of the RushCard Keep the Peace initiative, was accompanied by L.L. Cool J and other entertainers to the detention center to offer advice to the inmates on reducing violence in their neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

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Inmates at the Rikers Island juvenile detention center listen as Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons speaks, Thursday, July 31, 2014, at the facility in New York. Simmons, founder of the RushCard Keep the Peace initiative, was accompanied by L.L. Cool J and other entertainers to the detention center to offer advice to the inmates on reducing violence in their neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

NEW YORK, N.Y. - A group of young people at a New York City jail complex got some words of encouragement on Thursday from hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and actor LL Cool J.

The two visited Riker's Island to mark the launch of a national anti-violence program from Simmons' RushCard, a prepaid debit card.

RushCard's Keep the Peace initiative is giving grants to neighbourhood organizations. One of those is LIFE Camp, a Queens organization that works with young people, including those at Rikers, to reduce violence.

Cool J told the audience that his rough upbringing could have had him where they are if things had worked out differently, and he encouraged them to believe in themselves.

"You can absolutely without a doubt do anything you put your mind to," he said.

Simmons told them to focus on what's inside them.

"It's your spirit you've got to work on," he said.

Deputy Warden Clement Glenn said partnering with programs like LIFE Camp is among the ways the Department of Correction tries to get young people to change their behaviour.

We're "trying to encourage them not to come back into the system, hoping they will integrate into society and become contributing members of their community," he said.

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