KANSAS CITY, Mo. — John Williams has a helping hand in his first week as a newly free citizen.
He walked out of the Missouri Department of Corrections' Western Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center in St. Joseph Thursday and into the arms of nonprofit SWAGG, INC.
The nonprofit’s goal is to break the cycle of recidivism by working with returning citizens before they even get out of prison to set up options for immediate employment, housing, transportation, health insurance and more.
Founder Na’im Al-Amin dreamed up the idea while in prison himself.
Williams became his nonprofit’s first official client when Williams’ mom reached out to SWAGG, INC. after seeing a profile on KSHB 41 News in January 2021.
“We’re really excited to have him home, really excited for him to be a part of the community because he’s going to bring a lot of value,” Al-Amin said.
Some estimates show up to 80% of people leaving prisons in the United States end up back in prison within five years. Both Williams and Al-Amin fit that statistic.
This time, Williams is confident the boost from SWAGG, INC (which stands for Serve Witness And Give Guidance, Inspiration Never Ceases) will help him land on his feet.
“It’s led me to a whole new mentality of what I need to do to take care of myself and the people around me,” Williams said.
With that new mentality, Williams, a talented artist who’s worked in tattoos and carpentry, hopes to launch his own business.
“I’m just ready to be the change, be a difference in everyone around me,” Williams said. “I want to lift people up and I want to teach people that it doesn’t matter where you came from, or where you started, you can come out of it and you can be inspirational, and really grow and inspire and be somebody.”
SWAGG, INC has a goal of helping returning citizens become entrepreneurs.
It has developed partnerships with the Hadley Project, DeBruce Foundation, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and its new W.O.R.C. (Work Opportunity for Returning Citizens) program, Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, Enterprise Car Rental, Allied Cleaning, All Care Services, FedEx, Goodwill and many more.
“It’s rewarding,” Al-Amin said of seeing his first client leave prison. “We want to help John create whatever it is he wants to create for his self and his family and leave that legacy in the community. It’s a confirmation on the business model and the work we’re doing and establishing great partnerships.”
SWAGG, INC. hosts a support group on Sunday mornings for families impacted my mass incarceration. It meets at Equal Minded Cafe, 4327 Troost Avenue, from 10 a.m. to noon.