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The Hard Road Home

Statistically, it is well known that if you wind up in prison and are lucky enough to get out, you will be going back some time soon. Julio Medina is someone who has beaten the odds hands down. It was a long way from prison and his past life as a drug dealer when he stood beside President George W. Bush at the White House National Conference of Faith Based Community Initiatives in 2004.

Medina served 12 years in prison for his crime. He spent countless days and nights in his cell thinking about how could he change his life around and use his experience to help others. He attended New York Theological Seminary while at Sing Sing Prison and when he was released he put his plan to help others in action. The first job he landed as a substance abuse counselor working with ex-offenders quickly brought him the realization that the men and women he counseled struggled to fit within a free society because of the defense mechanisms that they had built up to survive the prison experience. Julio then vowed to help them break the repetitive cycle of recidivism he was witnessing.

In 1999, Julio opened Exodus Transitional Community in East Harlem, New York, to assist formerly incarcerated men and women as they integrate back into the community. His organization offers social, economic, educational and spiritual support to individuals in transition from incarceration, drug addiction and homelessness. Exodus’s services include counseling, employment preparation, job, housing, health and education referrals, court and parole assistance, and computer training. The amazing thing about Exodus is that its staff consists entirely of ex-offenders or individuals directly affected by incarceration.

Exodus also provides HIV/AIDS education and referrals for the person released from prison and his or her partners, spouses, friends and families. Other activities include an after-school group with neighborhood youth and gang members and a speakers’ bureau of formerly incarcerated persons who make presentations to raise public awareness about prison conditions and the impact of incarceration on individuals and communities. Its life-altering approach is based on a “contract,” an assessment tool and action plan, by which participants evaluate their status in areas of family, physical well being, education/vocation, and community involvement. The self-evaluation is the basis for formulating goals and plans and encouraging each individual to take back control of his or her life.

So impressed with Julio and his organization filmmaker Macky Alston recently captured Julio’s life saving organization in a new documentary titled, Hard Road Home. Throughout the film its characters aspire to freedom and security “on the outside,” while grappling with the constant challenges posed by poverty, addiction and the relentlessness of rage and despair brought on from their incarceration. Just when things look good, someone you’ve come to care about falls apart. Just when you have given up hope, someone beats the odds and hangs in.

Julio Media is the first one to admit that life after prison is indeed a “hard road home.” But with the dedication of caring individuals like himself and the staff of Exodus, one can be assured that the cycle of recidivism can be broken if the correct ingredients are applied to those who reenter society.

The Hard Road Home makes its New York premiere at the NY International Latino Film Festival 2007, Saturday July 28, 5pm at Director’s Guild Theater 110 West 57th Street NYC. Tickets can be purchased at www.nylatinofilm.com more info at info@hardroadhome.org

ANTHONY PAPA is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com

Papa’s artwork can be viewed at: www.15yearstolife.com/art1.htm

 

 

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Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.

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