‘This program saved my life’: South Side organization helps men return to communities after prison


On a December evening, James “Lil’ James” Collins took the stage to tell his story.

A visit to seize a chew to eat ended with Collins’ older brother dying earlier than his eyes. Collins’ brother had pushed him back into a gangway to save lots of him from getting shot, he recalled, and Collins sat there listening to his brother die whereas photographs continued to ring out,

Collins was 16 years previous. Another 9 individuals in his life can be killed by gun violence by the time he was 18. Traumatized, Collins began carrying a gun daily. An aggravated illegal use of weapon charge received him six months in Prepare dinner County Jail and seven days in an Illinois Division of Corrections facility.

In hopes of adjusting the trajectory of Collins’ life, an uncle informed him concerning the Inside-City Muslim Action Community (IMAN), which helps males reintegrate after incarceration.

“This program saved my life,” Collins stated in an interview. “I all the time thought I’d be a statistic, either lifeless or in jail. They actually care; they ain’t just speak,” he stated. “They assist you to out in so some ways: housing, garments, food, no matter. I by no means met anyone who requested you, ‘What’s happening in your life?’ and truly try to assist me change it.”

Collins, 21, is a member of the primary cohort of multigenerational members in IMAN’s Inexperienced ReEntry, a South Aspect program that takes a holistic strategy to healing and reintegration after jail. When he graduated from this system in December, he — together with other members — stood onstage to share narratives of their previous lives. By means of this system, Collins, a Roseland native, is now a licensed electrician. He went from a life marked by gangs and guns to at least one crammed with a job and objective.

“You’ll be able to help individuals get a job, but when they still have some of these similar issues related to professionalism and what it means to have a job and carry yourself, it won’t last long,” IMAN caseworker Gemali Ibrahim stated. “Or in case you’re getting arrested or can’t journey the bus as a result of individuals are in search of you, trying to shoot you and that type of factor.”

Ibrahim has been working with the returning citizens inhabitants since 2009 and takes satisfaction in being part of a group that puts an emphasis on actual life expertise, the place individuals can shift their mindset from illegal behaviors to legal ones.

“With this program having a element of brief-time period and long-time period sustainability, the blokes obtain a stipend and receive trade training — electrical, HVAC, carpentry. I’m really pleased with with the ability to put something actual in their lives. At the similar time, we put an emphasis on what we name life expertise training, where we help individuals have a…



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