Former inmate Colwin Williams reflects on 6 months of freedom

    In March, I went to an anti-violence rally at Love Park. When Mayor Michael Nutter showed up, there was no shortage of people trying to get his ear. One man got it.

    I watched as Colwin Williams, just weeks out of prison, shook the mayor’s hand, looked him right in the eyes and told him that he had just gotten out of prison after “18.9” years and wanted to help.

    Something about how precise he was about his time behind bars, about how determined he was to be heard, caught my attention. He was just one ex-con, but his story spoke for the thousands of men and women struggling to make it on the outside after serving time in jail.

    So I asked Williams to tell me his story. He did, and for the last six months I’ve chronicled his successes and his failures. There have been plenty of both.

    Williams has reconnected with children and grandchildren who were born while he was in prison. He realized a jailhouse dream of sharing his story with young people. He’s taking classes at Buck County Community College.

    But he also violated the conditions of his release by smoking synthetic marijuana and getting into a verbal confrontation with a manager at his halfway house.

    For all his confidence, there have been moments of struggle and uncertainty and just plain dumb decisions. But then that mix of determination and bravado that was evident that day in the Park returns. “Failure is not an option.”

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