As a previous police officer and child protective investigator, I have seen the ugly side of families living in poverty. Oftentimes, a simple lack of resources, encouragement or support at home, has led the most vulnerable kids in our communities to an “underground” economy…one that has always preyed upon children from impoverished, broken and fatherless homes…leading to a predictable prison-probation-prison pipeline…and despair lasting for generations…more MUST be done.

I remember my first “drug bust”, early one Saturday morning, that involved a teenage kid, who was selling marijuana cigarettes to his “customers”, near Davie and East St. in Raleigh.
I also remember my Sargent’s disappointment, when I was not more excited about my first “official” arrest. I told him that I viewed the young man as more of an entrepreneur than a criminal…that the young man was probably doing what he felt like he had to do to have extra money, and help pay bills, in what was most likely a single parent home.
As a 30 year old “rookie”, I think I had a different view of the world than some of my fellow classmates in the 53rd Raleigh Academy, most of them under the age of 25. We were black, white and latino…and we all had our own unique life experiences that we brought to the job.

Back in the 80’s, during the “War on Drugs”, mandatory and “three strikes” sentencing was being imposed, on young men and women. These laws have had a disproportionate and more punitive effect on communities of color. In particular, laws relating to the marijuana, and simple possession, have been a major factor in the prison-probation-prison cycle of poverty and despair…especially for ones who cannot afford to make a bail payments.

Hopefully, Washington will make decriminalization a higher priority, and individual states will make more progress with laws designed to allow more Moms and Dads to come back home. With a bit more hope, anything is possible.

With the help of instructors at Shop Space, a local non-profit, our hope is to give some folks an opportunity to learn a trade…specifically, to learn more about welding and metal fabrication as a vocation…and even how to go about turning fabrications skills into a business enterprise , with the assistance of mentors.

There is always HOPE…and help…if you know where to look.