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Local program works to give convicts a second chance – Metro US

Local program works to give convicts a second chance

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper pushes for longer prison sentences for gang crime and many in Halifax clamour for a similar crackdown, one organization is proposing a different solution.

Halifax’s Centre for Entrepreneurship, Education and Development’s Second Chance program recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. It recruits participants from prisons and shows them how to turn their street skills onto legal paths.

Edward Matwawana, manager of the program, says tougher sentences make for tougher criminals.

“Jail is the best school for crime. When they come out, they’ve got tattoos, they’re pumped, they have a different attitude,” Matwawana says. “We support those young people who say, ‘I’m tired of this life, do you have an option?’”

The program teaches participants to integrate with mainstream society using business concepts.

“We teach them the business of life,” Matwawana says. “The question is: Do you want to be bankrupt? Do you want a bailout? Or do you want to be successful?

“We say, ‘What you were doing on the streets is running a successful business, just the wrong product and the wrong service.’”

Cory Cromwell grew up in New Glasgow and wound up in Springhill penitentiary. He says it’s dangerous to be alone in jail.

“You have to have some kind of backup,” he explains. That backup is, of course, other criminals. “You learn how to enhance your criminal skills. You’ve got all these men who are old enough to be your father telling you how to do it better.”

Second Chance helped him break the cycle. When he was released, he turned to Matwawana and the CEED course. He graduated as class valedictorian last year and is now an assistant trainee.

“Without this program, I have no clue where I’d be today,” Cromwell said. “It helped me find out who I was, put some goals in my life and find some mentors.”

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