FLINT, Mich. – André Wallace, 35, was 14 years old the first time he was locked up.
The Flint man said the American dream felt out of reach.
“America just wasn’t showing me, growing up, that there was a better life out there than what I was already experiencing. I didn’t see it coming from where I come from.”
There were more than two million people behind bars in 2016, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Wallace was one of them.
He was released in 2017 after serving time for robbery. Advocates of criminal justice reform say many people have a hard time returning to normal life.
They’re going to prison, where they are not getting adequate treatment for what caused them to be there in the first place, and then they get out–words for the weary–with a criminal record–and not having had that root cause addressed,” said Rodd Monts, outreach coordinator of the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice. “So, they’re already set up for failure.”
“You’re supposed to learn from your punishments. You’re supposed to get something out of your punishment. Punishment not supposed to break you down to where you can’t recover. That’s almost what the prison system do.”
Two weeks ago, he moved into a transitional house, which is operated by M.A.D.E. Institute. In addition to providing housing, the organization offers mentorship and connects people with jobs training.
“It was: ‘what (do) you need? Here you go. It was just ‘here you go,’ as long as it was a righteous endeavor.”