CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- What does life after incarceration look like in Charleston? What challenges do those individuals face when trying to re-enter society?
The Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council held their second event of their “Summer Community Event Series.” Tonight, formerly incarcerated community members shared their stories and answered questions.
People asked questions about their experience in prison, their transition into normal life after, and even what they felt could be improved with the current criminal justice system.
Keith Smalls was the emcee of the evening. After his time in prison; he lost his son. Through heartbreak he found a way to cope by mentoring people who went through similar situations.
“In order to get to the root” says Smalls, “one must dig deep.”
The panelists moved from table to table every 10 minutes and shared their stories with the group. One individual, Montaine Lawton, told his story of violence to inspiration.
Growing up, Lawton claimed he was a violent person who thought he was smarter than everyone else. He started selling drugs at a very young age because he wanted to take after his father and grandfather.
He went to jail many times for various circumstances until one day something changed his life forever. He was attacked by his cell-mate in the middle of the night.
When he defended himself with a knife, he was certain that the man was dead. “3 years to go and I just killed someone,” said Lawton.
His cell-mate ended up surviving and from that day on Lawton decided he didn’t want to live that life anymore. When he got out of prison, The Turning Leaf Program was able to get him a job.
“They’ve given something to me that I never had.”Montaine Lawton
What the Turning Leaf Program gave him was hope. Now, Lawton plans to finish college and give back in the same way the program did for him.
The CJCC believes that the first step in making progress in the criminal justice system is by communication. Being able to get feedback and understanding from the community is essential to their development.
They are holding one more event this summer before they roll our their fall plan. You can learn more about the organization here.