Our look at the true “Cost of Violence” continues with a profile of one man who is offering solutions.
He counsels prison inmates while they’re in jail and once they’re released, hoping to keep them from getting in trouble again.
Kwan Jenkins is one of those inmates.
He served ten years in prison for attempted armed robbery and he just got out of prison 15 months ago.
Jenkins was arrested first at age 21 and again at 24, when he received the decade-long sentence.
Berman: “Did you own a gun?”
Jenkins: “Yeah, I got caught for it, that’s what I got caught for a gun. I didn’t get caught with a gun per se, but I did own a gun and being in the city of Hartford to be honest with you, it’s very easy to get a gun.”
But Jenkins says it’s not easy for kids coming from single-parent homes to find good role models and mentors.
“Somewhere down the line I got caught up with the wrong people and that led me to violence in the street.”
Kwan finally caught up with the right crowd, of all places, in prison.
It’s where he met Winston Taylor, who visited twice a week through his role in the Shiloh Prison Ministry.
“People are desperate, they’re confused, they don’t have hope”, says Taylor.
And “Brother Winston”, as he’s known, is in the business of offering that hope, be it through his weekly youth mentoring, his prison visits, or his 3rd Annual Community Prison Awareness and Prevention Gathering, which is set for October.
“The buck stops with us. No particular social program is going to change the violence. Each individual is going to make a difference”, says Taylor.
Last year people came from Greenwich, Hartford and Bridgeport to be there for the violence prevention workshops, networking and mentoring.
“We are tackling the tough issues, we are not afraid of them. We are offering solutions”, says Shiloh Baptist Church member and prevention gathering coordinator, Debbie Phillips.
JENKINS SAYS HE OWES A LOT TO WINSTON TAYLOR AND THE CHURCH.
“When I was in prison, if it wasn’t for Winston and them, I don’t’ know where I would be because you don’t get no schooling in there, no programs basically to help you reform yourself.”
This year like last, Kwan, who is now employed as a cook, working on his bachelor’s degree and married, will share his story of recovery with kids and adults at the prevention gathering, hoping to give back some of the hope that Winston instilled in him.
“My goal is to go back to Hartford one day and to help out the same community I ran around reckless in and give back because I believe that younger generation can be… you can reach some of them”, says Jenkins.
The “Community Prison Awareness and Prevention Gathering” is Saturday October 26th at the Shiloh Family Life Center in New London from 9am to 2pm and it’s free.
There’s also an ongoing essay and art contest for those ages 6 to 26 leading up to the event.
The essay or art should focus on the question: “What am I doing to prevent crime in my community?”.
Submissions are due by October 11th.
You can email those to Winston Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 860-889-3292 for more information.