KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Na’im Al-Amin was first placed in handcuffs at eight years old.
Now age 41, the Kansas City, Missouri, man says he was arrested for robbery as a boy. The charges were later dropped, but it introduced him to the cycle of mass incarceration in the U.S.
That cycle meant he was arrested again years later and eventually spent five years in the Kansas Department of Corrections.
While in prison, he wrote a model for breaking the cycle and stopping recidivism.
Al-Amin’s solution is called SWAGG, INC.
It's a nonprofit he founded after his release from prison in March 2018. The title is an acronym for Serve Witness And Give Guidance, Inspiration Never Ceases.
The goal of the organization is to facilitate programs inside prisons to teach inmates job interview skills and introduce them to employers so they have a job waiting for them when they are released. Something Al-Amin did not experience.
“I wouldn’t have been released homeless, geographically displaced. I would’ve had an employer to build a relationship with. I would’ve had an organization that was advocating for me. So it would’ve made that transition a lot smoother,” Al-Amin explained.
Some studies show rates of recidivism in the United States have been as high as 80 percent.
Al-Amin believes taking ownership of the situation and finding a job are keys to helping people find a successful life outside prison.
“We want to look at re-entry as pre-entry. We want to prepare our clients for a new experience. It’s about creating new opportunities and a different set of circumstances,” Al-Amin explained. “But that burden of responsibility lays on our clients because we have ownership over our destiny.”
SWAGG, INC is just getting off the ground.
Al-Amin says COVID-19 restrictions and changes in leadership at various corrections organizations have kept him from establishing the program inside prisons. But he has reached inmates.
Antwan Oliver heard about SWAGG, INC from his friends. When he got out of Lansing Correctional Facility Monday, he tracked down Al-Amin.
The founder and CEO of SWAGG, INC works in the human resources department and UPS as he works to launch the non-\profit. He organized a hiring event Wednesday for UPS where he interviewed Oliver and others.
“[I want to] stay on the straight and narrow path, get a job, and hopefully tell my story to somebody who’s younger than me and they listen and learn from my mistakes,” Oliver said.
Al-Amin wants to make that statement a reality for Oliver and others. His organization has partnered with groups like JWA which runs a Good Lookin’ program, to provide headshots and resume-building resources for people leaving prison.
SWAGG, INC also launched a line of clothing and apparel to raise money for the organization. Its website has a list of items for sale and information on how to make a tax-deductible donation.