A suburban community is aiming to give individuals convicted of crimes a second chance at life, removing the stigma of incarceration by embracing programs designed to help combat recidivism.
Dolton Mayor Tiffany Henyard signed an executive order Tuesday, which she says establishes the village as a “second chance village.”
“My people, my Dolton residents, do believe in second chances,” she said. “They understand that. There’s a lot of parents that’s hurting because their baby has been locked up for years.”
Henyard says the executive order will push village officials to seek out grants from a variety of sources to help put forward a program that helps the formerly-incarcerated.
“I’m going to offer housing. I’m going to offer health care. I’m going to offer job opportunities,” she said.
A former convict who operates a program that could end up being a model of the kind of change Henyard is pushing for, Tyrone Muhammad spent 21 years of his life in prison, and is now the leader of a community outreach and anti-violence group called “Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change.”
He says he hopes the partnership with Henyard’s office will help prevent those who have been incarcerated to avoid committing crimes in the future.
“The fact that Tiffany has the audacity to take the hits, to take the abuse for changing and having an open mindset…that says that ex-cons are people too,” he said.
Muhammad hopes that other cities and towns will pay attention to the new program in Dolton, and will try to replicate it.
“Hopefully we can travel around the state or even the country. Just showing the model, and showing what reformation can look like,” he said.
Henyard agrees, and asks that those skeptical of the program’s chances of success give it a fair and honest evaluation.
“We can make a difference if we all band together,” she said.