Lifers Incorporated is officially open for business.
The group of Graterford prison inmates hosted their first Crime Prevention Summit to find ways to reduce violent crime and drug offenses in Philadelphia.
Lifers’ President Tyrone A. Werts admits that their idea is far-fetched, but says it is also unique as the first of its kind.
The group wants to stop violent crime by bridging the gap between inmates and law enforcement.
Already, Mayor Street’s “Safe Streets” project shows a 13.6 percent drop in serious felonies, but the controversial program is expected to cost the city over a $100 million over the next five years.
Also, although many residents appreciate the efforts, they are worried that crime will return to their neighborhoods once the program ends.
Enter Lifers Inc.
Lifers Inc. wants to work with short sentence convicts to prevent them from recommitting crimes.
As Werts says, “The culture of crime is sucking our children – our next generation – through it. We’ve got to break that cycle. We can have some input into solving some of the problems out there.”
And Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson agrees: “It’s important that the whole nation sees what is happening at Graterford. Traditional policing is not working. Just locking people up is not the answer.”
In Pennsylvania, there are 100,000 men and women in state and county prisons.
Of those released each year, close to 40 percent return to prison.
Giving prison inmates and law enforcement the chance to work together is an effective alternative to Mayor Street’s costly plan.
The Lifers plan to do more than lock up criminals.
They want to break the cycle of incarceration and clean up Philadelphia’s streets – for good.
Conference contributor Joanna Thomas mentioned that our country has not “taken the opportunity to benefit from the wisdom behind the walls.”
With more than 100 community leaders and police officials attending the summit, the Lifers have given Philadelphia a chance to release itself from the grip of violent crime.
All we have to do is listen.
Brandon Lausch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.