by Kevin Jones-Bey, Director of Community and Public Relations for YMI at FCI Cumberland
“People have to be made to understand that they cannot look for salvation anywhere but to themselves.” – Ella Baker
A new day has dawned, pregnant with opportunity. For the first time, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has granted the status of “pilot program” to a prisoner-created, prisoner-run rehabilitation and reentry program, effectively offering prisoners an opportunity to control their own destiny.
For many of us who have spent decades in federal prison, the Young Men Incorporated (YMI) program is a reality few could have imagined. Now the fate of this extraordinary program, brainchild of Dominic Henry, may very well rest in the hands of the men at the Federal Correctional Institution at Cumberland, Maryland. If these determined and capable men are successful, YMI will have no further hurdles to overcome in its immediate objective of becoming a bureau-wide rehabilitation and reentry program.
For many of us who have spent decades in federal prison, the Young Men Incorporated (YMI) program is a reality few could have imagined.
For those unacquainted with YMI and its founder, Dominic Henry, we offer the following:
In 2002, Dominic Henry founded the Community Economic Development program (CED) while serving life plus 40 years at the federal penitentiary at Allenwood, Pennsylvania. CED was conceived as a program which would identify and educate influential prisoners who would then use their influence to assist others in transforming their thinking and behavior from aberrant to admirable for the benefit of the individuals, the prison community, and ultimately those communities to which they would return upon release.
CED caught on, and soon other components such as Adopt-the-Block – building alliances for reentry solutions – and Young Men Incorporated – teaching at-risk youth marketable skills and leadership – were developed.
When Mr. Henry was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution at Otisville, New York, he established the first certified inmate organizations – CED and YMI. These programs, though staff-sponsored, were designed, developed and implemented by the highly educated prisoners at the facility.
Not long after establishing CED and YMI, Mr. Henry’s commitment was sorely tested when his son became a victim of gun violence, wounded in a street war between rival factions in Fort Washington, Maryland. Staying true to his convictions, Mr. Henry used his Adopt-the-Block initiative, led by Tyrone Parker, in collaboration with Professor David Kennedy, prominent clergyman, community leaders, law enforcement, BOP staff and the young men involved to successfully negotiate a truce between the two factions, saving countless lives.
In late 2015, Dominic Henry was freed on parole after serving 35 years in prison and immediately set about realizing the objective of having YMI implemented throughout the Federal Bureau of Prisons. With the assistance of Executive Assistant Ms. Donna Hill, Associate Warden Starr and others, YMI was introduced to the Federal Correctional Institution at Cumberland, Maryland, in March 2017. The momentous occasion was documented by the HBO show VICE, scheduled to air at a later date.
YMI’s mission is to improve public safety by transitioning incarcerated citizens into highly prepared community leaders.
YMI’s goal is to fully prepare every incarcerated citizen for a successful reentry into his community, where he can provide leadership that deters others from following in his difficult path.
YMI’s mission is being achieved, and its goal is being met, by focusing on holistic reentry programs, stopping gang violence, implementing fatherhood initiatives and initiating community development.
Highlights of YMI’s work include:
- Over 4,000 successful graduates since inception
- Recruiting over 20 business executives to assist in community collaboration initiatives and the development of YMI’s entrepreneurial component
- Providing employment assistance to over 100 inmates upon their release
- Facilitating the production of over 100 prisoner-created programs and events.
Those familiar with the federal prison system will recognize this as an opportunity of a lifetime. For decades, we have struggled and fought to gain a modicum of control over our lives and destinies. Now we have won the opportunity to prove what we have long known, that we can solve our own problems if those with a vested interest in our failure are prevented from hindering our efforts.
Now we have won the opportunity to prove what we have long known, that we can solve our own problems if those with a vested interest in our failure are prevented from hindering our efforts.
Our time has come. We have the support of FBOP Central Office in Washington, D.C., and senior staff here at FCI Cumberland; we have a dedicated core of qualified and committed facilitators, including myself; and we have a large number of young men of all races and ethnicities eager to participate in this positive transformational process.
Please assist us in this necessary and worthwhile endeavor by donating your time and professional expertise, material resources, and/or words of advice, support and encouragement. Together, we will succeed!
For more information, contact Dominic Henry at DRHenry1.YMI@gmail.com. And send our brother some love and light: Kevin Jones-Bey, 32567-037, FCI Cumberland, P.O. Box 1000, Cumberland MD 21501.