The founder of an organization that advocates for formerly incarcerated citizens has introduced a new networking program to help returning residents find better ways to get and stay successful.
Eric Weaver, founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Returned Citizens, made the announcement during a Jan. 10 event at the Southeast headquarters of Check It Enterprises, a local organization that seeks positive alternatives to gang activity for gay residents in D.C.
“I was incarcerated for 22 years, and from the year I first left prison to now, things haven’t changed much,” Weaver said. “It’s still very difficult to for re-entry citizens to get basic things like jobs, employment, cars and the simple ability to live with their families in public housing, because of their records.
“A lot of people aren’t just criminals by pure choice,” he said. “A lot of them want to go on and be their best selves, but receive major governmental hurdles that keep knocking them down. They’re looking for a way to survive, a way to take care of their kids. With this new organizational program, our goal is to connect re-entry citizens with other groups that specifically cater to people who have been incarcerated, giving them hope and another chance at life.”
The Jan. 10 event was attended and supported by dozens of local residents and organizations, including The Wire and the National Reentry Network of Returning Citizens.
“It is time for the population to come together,” said Ronald Moten, creator of Check It Enterprises. “If we don’t come together all of the progress we have made over the years means nothing. Politically, economically and educationally … we have to start now.”
In D.C. alone, Blacks account for 89 percent of incarcerated persons, despite making up only 50 percent of the District’s population. Most arrests occur in Wards 7 and 8, two of the most heavily Black-populated segments in the city. Of these arrests, over 70 percent are male.
But despite these alarming statistics, D.C. is also one of the few places in the United States that allows re-entry citizens to vote.
“This program, this organization … is much bigger than ourselves,” Weaver said. “It’s about mobilizing the people with the political atmosphere. We are a 501 C4, which means we can do things like lobby and endorse candidates. … This is a big election year and with the help of the Board of Elections, we plan to take the whole election process to the local jail and allow them to vote. These people can turn their lives around and want to make sure we’re a part of that and our re-entry community and make a difference.”