“We want you safe. We want you alive, and we want you out of prison.”
That theme on repeat at the first Erie County Reentry Services and Support Alliance’s (ECRSSA) “call – in” meeting at the House of Prayer church.
Sheila Silman, ECRSSA program manager, says, “The folks that have been notified that we have tracked through data and criminal incidents to find that they’ve been among the ones that have been creating a lot of violence or have been participating in it. We’re looking to meeting with them not for the point of arresting them or duping into anything, but to bring them here so that they can hear the message.”
Fifteen of the 17 people invited who have been identified as being apart of a gang in Erie showing up, taking steps forward to find a way out of that life.
Yvette Jennings says, “Take time out and just be forgiving, be loving, just try to be peaceful. Your life is worth so much more than a bullet, or a knife, or an argument.”
Law enforcement, federal and local, speaking directly to the participants.
But they also heard directly from a mother who lost her son to murder.
Jennings says, “The violence has to stop. It really has to stop at some point. That we’re killing ourselves off. There’s so much talent, there’s so much intelligence and ingenuity that’s being just destroyed on a daily basis.”
Everyone telling them to choose a new path and stop the senseless violence.
Michael Outlaw, ECRSSA case manager, says, “It’s up the them. If it’s school, if it’s finding a home, a job, college, whatever it is we’re here to support them. If it’s mental health, drug and alcohol. Whatever it is.”
The program is free to the participants and is funded by the Community Foundation and the United Way of Erie county – but is overall a community-wide effort.
Moving forward, it depends on how many more names are identified on when and how often the call-in meetings will be.