I am formerly incarcerated and justice-impacted and I decided to utilize everything that I had been through, the mistakes I have made, to be a catalyst for positive change.

August 3, 2021

What are you working on right now?

I am the Statewide Program Director of Nation Outside. We are a Michigan based grassroots and advocacy organization entirely led by the formerly incarcerated. I also serve as a consultant to various nonprofits and foundations focused on reform work. One organization I consult with is the Youth Justice Fund in Washington County, Michigan. They are invaluable to our returning citizens who went in as juvenile lifers and they are doing a lot of meaningful and impactful work providing mentoring services, educational and employment opportunities to those coming home.

One project my team and I at Nation Outside are working on involves creating an advocacy roadmap for sustainability reentry in Michigan. The criticism of current reentry services is that they’re not robust enough. We want to add features to the regular reentry service model to replicate what’s been done with substance recovery coaches and mental health recovery coaching, to open the door for funding. In Michigan, we have over 9,000 people that come home from prison every year and less than 5% are receiving services which is why our recidivism rates are so high. So that’s really important.

Another important project involves the work of our Flint Nation Outside chapter, who is in close partnership with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department. By law enforcement pulling in formerly incarcerated experts to think through how they can better serve people, they’ve been able to implement some really groundbreaking and innovative changes around reimagining the services in their jail, resulting in a mass culture change in that county. The sheriffs in Minneapolis, Minnesota have recently reached out to replicate our model.

What drew you to justice reform and how did you get involved?

I am formerly incarcerated and justice-impacted and I decided to utilize everything that I had been through, the mistakes I have made, to be a catalyst for positive change. That’s my life’s purpose, my mission. It’s something I’m very passionate about so I don’t really think of this as work. My father and all of my uncles are also justice-impacted and served a number of years. In fact, I wouldn’t have met my father if it wasn’t for Michigan’s repeal of mandatory minimum sentences in 2002 that allowed him to get out early. It’s incredibly important to not only me but my family and friends.

What’s the most satisfying thing in your work?

The most satisfying thing in my work is getting to see real, tangible wins for people, to know that our work is truly impacting the trajectory of someone’s livelihood moving forward. We were proud of the effort in Genesee County to do same-day expungements at the recent Clean Slate expungement fair. It was the biggest single-day expungement event in Michigan’s history with over 1200 people being serviced. We had a woman who was able to get her record expunged earlier in the day at 3 PM and was calling us by 7 PM in tears because she secured her job. She was so happy and it was so impactful for her. That’s why I do the work, because we can change someone’s life in a day.

What do you hope to get out of Leading with Conviction?

Leading with Conviction is essential to my growth and development with regards to my confidence. They uplift our voice and our spirit and motivate us in truly invaluable ways. Without Leading with Conviction, I wouldn’t be able to speak with as much purpose as I speak with. It’s really given me the confidence I need to be effective in raising my voice and knowing my greatness and believing in myself. I’ve come such a long way from being incarcerated, going on 10 or 11 years, but I still struggle with the confidence to be able to yield all these skills that I’ve obtained in that time. So it was critical to owning my greatness.

Where were you a year ago today?

I was transitioning into my doctoral program at University of Southern California. I was leaving the world of child welfare and saying goodbye to all my children and my great colleagues to pursue adult reform work which is so segmented from juvenile justice. I was making a major transition.

What is your vision for the future?

My vision for the future is a society where communities are safe and vibrant, where the dignity and worth of people are paramount and where justice and fairness are accessible to all.

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