Friday, March 6, 2009

how to be a better criminal: lessons from the clink


cory cromwell grew up in new glasgow. he was a leader by nature - a top point guard on the school basketball team - but lost confidence in himself and became a follower. he wound up in jail. he got out, only to have his parole revoked in short order. the next time he got out, he was determined to stay out, so he joined CEED's 'second chance' program, which is why i was interviewing him today for monday's metro.

when he was quietly listening to the dapper-suited head of the program, ed matwawana, speak, he was serious and a little intimidating. when he spoke, he was polite and occasionally let off his 1000-watt smile.

jail is a great 'school for criminals,' he said. he went into springhill alone, but you can't survive alone in prison - 'you have to have some kind of back up - you really do need to have a couple of buddies behind you,' he told me. everybody's in jail, so of course your new friends are criminals, too. 'you learn how to enhance your criminal skills,' cromwell said, explaining that he was surrounded by older men telling him how they did it back in the day.

so they 'graduate' from jail with a better criminal skill set and a greater network of co-crooks. matwawana, who's originally from congo, says the second chance program takes those skills and teaches the guys how to use them for legal activities.

"we say, ‘what you were doing on the streets is running a successful business, just the wrong product and the wrong service,’” he told me. take those entrepreneurial skills and apply them to your life - or a legit business - and the world gets better for everyone.

cromwell's now working as an assistant trainee on the CEED course and his studying for his ged, with an eye to further education after that.

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