Conclusion of a four-part series
Joseph Williams was what might be called a habitual offender. He had been addicted to heroin for more than a decade. When his eldest son, now 26, was born, he decided to change his life.
“I had been a career criminal and hard-core heroin addict for 13 years,” Williams said. “When I came out of that lifestyle, I wanted to do something to give back to the community and also to help people who were still stuck in that lifestyle.
“I realized that having a criminal record and being a drug addict for a father would not afford him much chance in life, I didn’t want him to experience the hurt and the pain that I experienced. For he first time I had a reason why I should change my life. Then I met some other guys who were former drug users and former offenders, and because they were Christians they had allowed God to change their lives and I wanted to do the same with my life.”
Williams is now CEO of Transition of Prisoners (TOP), a program he started 13 years ago. Curbing Black male violence requires a group effort. This is not the kind of thing a Black male – or anyone else, for that matter – can do alone.
Williams said he started working with Prison Fellowship Ministries, one of the largest prison ministries that helps offenders change their lives, and was later approached to spearhead the pilot program in 1993.
TOP offers a wide range of programs, including Children Having the Motivation to Pursue Success (CHAMPS), Male Day Reporting and Female Day Reporting.
“We have three contracts with the Department of Corrections,” Williams said. “One for the Male Day Reporting, one for Female Day Reporting, which means they are accountable to us for 40 hours a week. We also have support groups for them, treatment options, life skills, employment skills, housing and job placement.”
Williams is motivated to help others because of the compassion he feels due to his own background.
Help for children with
According to reports, youth whose parents are in jail have a higher risk of getting involved in criminal activity.
VIP Mentoring reaches out to those young people. The organization provides mentors to students whose parent is in jail. The program started more than 30 years ago, providing mentoring for young adults ages 17-25.
Niecy Mohammed, program director, said the program helps to steer youth in the right path.
“One parent or, in some cases, both parents, are incarcerated. We also work with at risk children,” Mohammed said. “We have a high population of incarcerated people in Michigan. Many of our young people have one or two parents who are incarcerated, and we have other children that suffer from abandonment, low self-esteem and poor grades.”
The organization also works with the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Detroit Public Schools.
“VIP Mentoring started well over 30 years ago. We specifically started working with children more than 12 years ago,” Mohammed said. “The young adult program was geared toward young adults ages 17 to 25. The young adult program is what guided us toward the mentoring program for youth. The young adult mentors said they needed this type of program when they were young. They said they probably would not have not have gotten into the type of situation they were in if they had mentors when they were younger.”
Other organizations, such as Peace in the Hood and the Detroit Job Corps Center, also offer programs designed to reduce violence. Peace in the Hood has held rallies in Detroit. The organization formed after rapper Proof was slain in April. After the well-publicized rash of violence, organizations began to speak out to encourage others to steer away from violence and instead use peaceful methods of resolving conflict.
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