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Community groups support prisoners as they’re released

Boston Herald - 8/13/2022

He was a member of a drug gang based in Orchard Park when, around midnight on Nov. 1, 1990, Armand Coleman pulled the trigger of his .38 Special.

The victim was distracted, watching some fight, when Coleman killed him.

“It was just me trying to prove myself to the gang,” Coleman told the Herald Saturday.

They were both 17.

Now 49, Coleman, his beard tinged with gray, is executive director of the Transformational Prison Project, one of several nonprofits represented Saturday on a grassy square in Grove Hall. Although the organizations differed in detail, they all shared the same goal: meeting the needs of former prisoners — for some, mental health treatment, for others, food, clothing, housing, employment — so that they can reintegrate into society.

“I take them, polish them up and take them to the unions,” said T. Michael Thomas, who founded Trades Not Triggers more than 15 years ago.

“We teach them don’t serve time; make time serve you.” said Stacey Borden, who served three months in jail for assault and battery after her boyfriend assaulted her, she said, and she fought back.

Borden founded New Beginnings, which works to reduce recidivism by advocating for and providing services to women who are reentering the community.

“Everyone deserves a second chance,” said City Councilor Tania Anderson. “People are redeemable. With the right support, they’re less likely to go back into mass incarceration, the new Jim Crow.”

Coleman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and spent the next 28 years in prison. And then, on Christmas Eve 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Miller vs. the state of Alabama that it was unconstitutional to imprison a child for life and he was let out. He’s now trying to make up for lost time and make a difference, for the better, with the time he has left.

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