PECKHAM IN ACTION

In 2019 Peckham launched Rising Out of the System (ROOTS), a vocational rehabilitation program for those recently released from incarceration. The program is a partnership with the City of Lansing and serves former offenders who are returning to Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties. The ROOTS program offers individuals social support, such as food, clothing, and housing, as well as vocational skill development such as resume building and budget creation. The program’s motto, “go anywhere from here”, is designed to inspire participants to achieve their vocational and personal goals post-incarceration.
This is the story of one of the program participants.

According to Kywane, a series of poor decisions landed him in the Michigan Department of Corrections for 23 months. A series of positive decisions – which included accepting counseling and reaching out to others for help – connected him with the ROOTs program at Peckham and, eventually, with a high paying job.

ROOTS helped with transportation issues, such as providing bus routes and free passes, clothes, and resources that would help Kywane with a car and its repairs, but it was his personal drive and attitude that helped him the most in his quest for success outside the prison system.

Kywane had a breakthrough moment while being incarcerated as he grappled with feelings of powerlessness. He told himself that he would change some things upon being released. He knew he might not be able to change “everything” right away, but he could start somewhere. This began with finding employment. First came work at businesses such as Arbys and A&W, where the pay wasn’t great. However, Kywane told himself he had to start somewhere. His motto at that point conveyed the drive that has propelled him forward: “do what you need to do, not what you want to do”.

A piece of advice he gives to himself – and to others in similar circumstances – is to keep persevering, keep making the phone calls, keep trying to reach the right person in human resources or temp agency. He  firmly believes that no matter how many times someone fails, when you do the right things “at some point, you will catch a break”.

Following his own advice eventually connected him Meridian Magnesium, a company based in Eaton Rapids that makes parts for several automobile manufacturers. They were willing to give those with a criminal background a second chance. With his foot in the door, Kywane’s perseverance and hard work shifted into high gear. As a result, he now has a stable, full-time job, earns an excellent hourly wage, and has numerous opportunities for advancement within the company. He is grateful for employers such as Meridian Magnesium that give people who have “done wrong in the past but want to do right now” a chance to prove themselves.

Through ROOTS, Peckham has been trying to help Kywane with access to housing, something that can prove difficult for people who have a criminal background or lack of a history of steady income. The housing challenges Kywane is currently experiencing, combined with his entrepreneurial spirit, has led him to try to help others who may find themselves in his situation and unable to secure a place to live. One of his goals is developing a real estate program for people who committed a criminal offense and are excluded from housing opportunities once they’ve completed their sentences.

Kywane is currently focused on reconnecting with family and friends. Peckham staff continue to reach out to find out to if he needs any help. He still talks to the therapist he had while at MDOC. He credits his success with having a good support network and at least one person you can count on to help him remain committed to his goals. He also underscores the importance of programs such as ROOTs which have given him and others a variety of resources they may not have been aware of, and assistance with important aspects of the reentry process.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that Kywane said he could envision himself working for an organization like Peckham in the future where he could draw on his experiences to motivate others. As he explained it, “I’ve been in (their) shoes, and look at where I am now.”

 

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