Ex-cons getting out of prison need a lot of help getting started again, according to a mentoring program in Richmond.
Men and Women of Purpose, referred to as MWP, is set up to provide the services to the newly released offenders. The program has the attention of officials throughout the state, including corrections officials and law enforcement agencies.
The program is funded through the state’s realignment plan that shifts the responsibility for low-level offenders to county governments. Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia said the county is using $5 million for community organizations such as MWP.
Sponsors of MWP recently applauded efforts of those who advocated for the program. Speaking at an open house for their new offices, the founder gave credit to local community leaders. Gioia, one of the honorees, said, “We are trying to show that investing in reentry is the best investment we can make to improve the success of the population, reduce recidivism, and make the community safer.”
“We are trying to show that investing in
reentry is the best investment we can make”
Former prisoner Ivory Mitchell represented San Quentin at the gathering. Mitchell said he was “up on the fifth tier of West Block all alone” when he realized that he had to surrender his will to God. “God put me there to cry out,” he says.
Thirteen years later, Mitchell is reentry manager for the MWP program. When he cried out on the fifth tier, he was back for his tenth violation and emotionally broken down. Mitchell said he just decided that “change is possible,” and he decided to do it.
Gioia said one of the best things about the program is that it can now be consistent and be able to follow up with men getting re-started. Speaking about the staff at MWP, “Now they are getting paid,” he added.
In addition to Gioia, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Chief of Police Chris Magnus, and Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay, were also honored for their contributions.
MWP founder Antoine Clorid has been persistent in advocating establishment of the mentor program. Noting his tenacity, City Councilman Nat Bates joked that Antoine is “number one begger in the city.”