Wilmington’s Hope Commission pays off for former offenders

An approach for supporting young men and keeping them from returning to prison could be adopted across Delaware.

Wilmington’s Hope Commission has a model for transitioning offenders back into society that could go statewide. The foundation of the model offers a variety of support; from workforce development programs to housing and educational tools.

“I rather crawl to my future then to run back to my past,” Tyrone Williams said.

49-year-old Williams admits it’s not easy, but with the help of the Hope Commission it’s certainly possible.

“I remember when I first started coming here. It was kind of hard because I was closed off so that was like a problem in the beginning,” Williams added.

However leaders at the center and partnerships with other local programs helped to change Williams’ attitude.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I wasn’t going to do. I knew certain situations that I wasn’t going to allow myself to ever be back in that situation again, no matter what. So that was the foundation for me,” Williams said.

Three years behind bars was also enough to motivate Williams.

“It’s just a horrible experience. You got to dig deep in yourself. I just remember that I spent most the time reflecting on my situation, you know my life what it took for me to get there, how unhappy I was to be there, how disappointed I was in myself, how I expected more of myself, and just what was I going to do differently now that I had all this time to reflect,”

Nowadays, Williams is working at a Delaware recycling plant, taking care of his family, furthering his education, and most importantly encouraging recently released prisoners to change their lives.

“I remember what my grandmother told me as a kid. She always told me this and I always heard her but you know some things you have to find for yourself. She said nothing good is going to come out of anything bad,” Williams said. 

According to Executive Director, Charles Madden, the Hope Commission has helped 120 men since October 2014. That’s a significant number that could lead to more services for offenders outside of the Wilmington area.

“So lots of conversations about trying to increase the amount of people we serve here. When we started out, we were hoping to create a model that could be expanded across the state. So at some point we like to see ourselves expanded into some of the other counties because there is a need for this across the state so we like to try to meet that need,” Madden said.

At this time, the Hope Commission only takes referrals from the Department of Corrections and other local agencies dedicated to helping former offenders. In fact, thanks to state funding, the commission is able to successfully rehabilitate most of the men that walk through its doors.

Tune into First tonight at 5:30pm and again at 11pm to see the full story and hear from others who are able to transform their lives and transition back into society after being in prison.

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