[The 90’s raw: Rev. Al Lawrence of Prison Fellowship – Mount Pleasant riot]

Raw footage shot for the award-winning series The 90's. In Washington, DC, Reverend Al Lawrence talks about the Prison Fellowship organization and the church's involvement in prison reform. The last two minutes of the tape features footage of Rev. Jesse Jackson on the streets of Washington, D.C. during the May 1991 Mount Pleasant riot.

00:00Copy video clip URL Exterior at night in front of a store. Workers are removing something from the shop as a small crowd looks on. Workers inside clean up debris. A man says to camera: “This ain’t for The 90’s. Cause what’s goin’ on here ain’t about the ’90s or the ’80s or the ’70s or the ’60s.”

00:38Copy video clip URL Change of location. Videographer starts recording in mid interview with Reverend Al Lawrence talking about someone named John who is the most respected man in the city and that he is in prison now. He has a job waiting for him when he comes out on work release, transporting money collected at parking lots to the bank. He notes that John had asked him for help to get something for his mother for Mother’s Day since he could not do so from prison. Lawrence notes that John uses his phone call privileges to do things like make doctor appointments for his mother. Lawrence says that he believes it’s the church’s responsibility to help such incarcerated people more than just with a prayer. “We have to be seen making a difference.”

03:34Copy video clip URL Lois West (later Lois West Duffy) asks about a drug dealer. Lawrence responds that a drug dealer coming out of prison is a target for others because he is considered a new face on the street. He doesn’t have money and needs work. Other dealers take advantage of this to recruit. It’s imperative these people have some legitimate job to go to upon release to avoid this cycle. Lawrence stresses that his church offers prison releases an alternative.

06:30Copy video clip URL Lawrence admits that the church is failing now. He believes the church needs to be seen as a place to go. People don’t have confidence in the church anymore. The church has become distant.

08:50Copy video clip URL He notes that middle-aged men are the most frustrated of church goers. All of the church positions for men are filled. Women on the other hand are active in choirs and auxiliaries. They are an untapped resource we can use to be mentors for families in need who have family members in prison.

11:05Copy video clip URL In Washington, DC, Lawrence notes, there are about 12,000 incarcerated men and women. That is twice the national average in the world. There are thousands of children who are without a father figure. It creates another generation more likely to go to prison.

12:51Copy video clip URL Lawrence says that young people have no guidance, but want it. If the church made itself available for that and was trained to deal with those issues, the church would be less fearful of engaging it.

14:29Copy video clip URL West notes that Prison Fellowship is a national organization serving prisoners and their families by working with them in and out of prison. She says the Fellowship was started by Charles Colson after his release from prison for his involvement in the Watergate Scandal. They educate prisoners on the Bible who then educate others in prison. The organization now includes 40,000 volunteers going to prisons to help facilitate Bible studies, marriage seminars, life planning seminars. She notes the Angel Tree program helps serve families of prisoners. For example, a prisoner can have their child on the outside receive holiday gifts in the parent’s name, gifts purchased and distributed by the church. This is a way of involving the church with the issue. Reverend Lawrence is one of those who goes into prisons to set up the program.

16:50Copy video clip URL West adds that a recent study shows that people involved in religious programming have a reduced recidivism rate. “We knew this anecdotally,” she says, but now we have the numbers to back it up. Nationally it’s seventy-three per cent, out of one-hundred people seventy-three will be back in prison, usually within 5 years. We demonstrated an eleven percent difference: sixty-two percent return to prison and of that many it took a longer time before they were back.

18:16Copy video clip URL West notes that she is a public relations director for the organization.

18:38Copy video clip URL Lawrence comments that the Prison Fellowship means that the church can help identify how individuals can make a difference in the lives of prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families, making a difference for a longer period of time.

22:18Copy video clip URL Lawrence says that when he was in prison the most difficult thing he had to deal with was the question, “What happens after prison?” He says he was a law enforcement officer and he’d violated some principles that wouldn’t allow him to go back to that profession. When he was released he connected with people who had visited him while he was incarcerated and with whom he had a connection in sharing the teaching of the Bible.  He says upon release he was disoriented about what to do next with his life. There’s a lot of healing needed for self and family. He adds, “You know that the stigma of being an ex-convict will be with you for the rest of your life.” There will be a paper trail that will affect you getting jobs, insurance.

26:28Copy video clip URL Lawrence says that if he could go back into law enforcement he would not enforce the law any differently. He adds that his responsibility would be to enforce the law. He notes he would probably be a more gentle law enforcement officer. He comments that as undercover agent buying drugs you had to put fear in people, as though you were someone not to be dealt with. “But you don’t have to hurt people to do it.”

28:40Copy video clip URL Lawrence says that a person is influenced by those around him. That “them versus us” attitude prevalent in law enforcement (the law versus the crooks), can make a law enforcement officer think that anything they do is permissible. “If they do it to enforce the law it’s good.” Many crooks begin to think that they won’t get a break no matter what they do. So they decide if they’re going to do something illegal, they’ll do it with as much gusto as they can.

31:40Copy video clip URL Lawrence comments on how much of the problem is on the individual and how much of it is on society. He says the essence of the Christian ethic is to share and influence one at a time. In Washington, DC, he says, we tried a program called One Church, One Man. They tried to get each church to devote their resources to one prisoner. He thinks if that program continued they would have seen greater success. He says that if you can share Christ with some prisoner who has the respect of others, there will be a chain reaction of prisoners changing their life.

35:40Copy video clip URL B-roll, exterior of Shiloh Baptist Church. Lawrence says he’s meeting with George Shaw and Gilbert Batten, both ex-offenders having trouble getting employment. Lawrence walks up and greets Batten and they wait for Shaw. They don’t think Shaw will show, so they decide to head over to  a house. As they walk, Lawrence explains to Batten that he has a job opportunity at Bell Atlantic for him but he needs to fill out an application.

39:50Copy video clip URL As they walk, Batten notes that he is living with his parents and that he has to get some kind of employment. He says he’s applied to fifteen or twenty jobs and adds that some have said outright they don’t hire ex-offenders. They talk about filing for unemployment, but Batten admits to not knowing where to go to file.

42:20Copy video clip URL Lawrence notes to the videographer that they are walking to the home of a convict called Big John. They are going to help John’s mother, Aileen Josephs, by doing odd jobs and repairs around the house. This will be a special Mother’s Day gift for her on John’s behalf. He asks Batten if he’d be willing to help out. Batten says yes.

43:46Copy video clip URL B-roll of the two men and West walking through the neighborhood and into the Josephs’ home on Marion Street.

45:12Copy video clip URL Lawrence tells the Josephs that he made a deal with him that if he continues helping his fellow prisoners, talking to them about Christ, studying the Bible, that he would continue helping mother with her needs. He says they will do whatever is needed around the house: caulk, paint, shampoo the rugs, brighten the place for Mother’s Day.

46:16Copy video clip URL As everyone chats in friendly conversation, Josephs talks about her dog Charlie. She says he’s three-and-a-half years old. She says she herself is well and is doing the best she can. Lawrence lists the things that John has asked they do around the house to help get things in order, including getting Josephs to eat better and go to the doctor. Much of  the conversation is delivered in soft voice resulting in a low audio signal.

52:44Copy video clip URL They take a tour of the house to show the family what it is they’ll be fixing.

54:15Copy video clip URL Lawrence arranges to see the mother on Friday morning, “ready to work.”

55:46Copy video clip URL They regroup in the living room and continue talking in soft voices resulting in low audio signal. The meeting wraps up with non-directional conversation.

58:21Copy video clip URL The group exits the house and walk down the street, recounting the meeting and discussing things they need to do for the Josephs such as involving social services, getting her hair done, taking her to the doctor, but that nothing can replace of someone personally spending time with her.

59:33Copy video clip URL Lawrence reiterates for camera that Mrs. Josephs is not able to care for herself. The church will make a Mother’s Day gift out of Big John’s wish that someone could fix up the house and get some social services to attend to his mother’s care. If the church does not stand in for the son, she would deteriorate and waste away without help or companionship. He defines the Prison Fellowship program as the church getting involved in this way and bringing church and community together to help.

01:03:08Copy video clip URL Change of location. The videographer is with Lawrence in a car driving through a Washington, DC, neighborhood. They are engaged in undirected conversation about Batten’s dreadlocks. Batten hesitates to cut his hair, but is conflicted because he knows he might in order to get a job. This leads to a discussion about society’s preconceived notions of hair. Audio signal is low.

01:09:33Copy video clip URL Lawrence tells a Biblical story of Job and how love for someone should not be affected by one’s physical appearance.

01:10:14Copy video clip URL The conversation is interrupted. Change of location. Lawrence outside of the US Court of Appeals in downtown DC talking about an innovative US Probation and Parole Services program called Project Mainstream and the efforts of Probation Officer Dan Zapata to assemble the needed resources for an individual to make a successful transition from prison to society. He says Zapata’s efforts are revolutionary. He notes for the most part how a person transitions from prison life to society is left up to the parolee. Zapata’s program includes the government in the process to help provide resources for educational, medical needs, spiritual needs and jobs.

01:13:13Copy video clip URL Interview with Lawrence and Zapata sitting outside the building talking about the US Probation program. Lawrence is giving Zapata updates on local after care activity for released prisoners.

01:14:49Copy video clip URL Zapata notes that Project Mainstream works with various service providers in the city to help ex-offenders face the social problems they face coming out of prison.

01:15:55Copy video clip URL Zapata says that he is a US probation officer. He services primarily adult federal offenders. He feels there needs to be a balance in rehabilitation by getting communities involved to help provide services. The effort is to reduce recidivism. The primary weapon is educating ex-offenders and helping them develop skills that will make them employable. They address illiteracy and education. They focus on all the issues and obstacles that might be in the individual’s way to recovery: unemployment, day care needs, medical needs, counseling, family needs. He talks about how he works with Prison Fellowship to create 24-hour support for an ex-offender, setting up mentor programs and a religious network.

01:21:16Copy video clip URL Zapata notes that people who make change come from spiritual inspiration, a source of strength within. He tells the story of one man who was abandoned by his mom and dad by the age of five, raised at a Muslim temple in Chicago. He left Chicago, went to New York, became involved in substance abuse, and was convicted of crimes in Washington, DC. Now he is on parole. He has committed himself to recovery and has stable employment. He’s committed to a spiritual life of faith.

01:23:30Copy video clip URL Zapata adds that he wants to present opportunities for the individual to make their own educated choices, to gain a sense of self-sufficiency.

01:24:14Copy video clip URL B-roll of Zapata and Lawrence in conversation about various future plans and programs, things to do, comparing calendar dates.

01:26:10Copy video clip URL B-roll of Buddhist monks. Zapata and Lawrence continue talking and discussing schedules for future meetings.

01:26:55Copy video clip URL Zapata notes that at some point the cost of prison mitigates simply ignoring the problem. Prison Fellowship has a focus on helping ex-offenders, but they don’t have the extensive resources to address all the issues: education, employment, spiritual needs. If we join agencies in a collaborative effort we can cover all the bases.

01:29:51Copy video clip URL Change of location. B-roll of Lawrence getting out of his car and walking to a small community church. He notes he is meeting with Christian Conquest ministries, a church with an outreach program. They are planning an after care center with Lawrence. He notes that this church will house fifteen men whose social and spiritual needs will be met.

01:31:15Copy video clip URL He meets with Reverend Paul Gaskins. They greet and enter the church where others are waiting for the meeting to start. Lawrence starts the meeting by affirming that Prison Fellowship has the mission of collaborating with churches to assist ex-offenders re-entering society. He would like today to explore how far the programs have come and what needs to happen next. One of the things he would like to do is introduce Gaskins to Zapata and Project Mainstream.

01:35:16Copy video clip URL Gaskins says that Christian Conquest is a way of introducing people to Christ and equipping them for a life of service. He says he wants ex-offenders to be able to give something back to the community, the same community from which they took something.

01:37:38Copy video clip URL Gaskins talks about the changes he’s seen as a result of Christian Conquest’s efforts. His wife Belinda and himself have been working with one man who lives with them. He’s 58-years old and had a drug problem. But having the Gaskins family waiting for him when he emerged from prison allowed him to pull his life together  find employment, and start rebuilding his life.

01:40:38Copy video clip URL Gaskins discusses how he convinces people to work with inmates. He learned from a mentor of his that programs don’t change people, people do. Building relationships with people in trouble will help you accomplish your reform goals. Our commitment is to represent Jesus’ teachings in every segment of life. He notes that today there are a lot of people who are connected with someone in prison. It’s important to establish relationships with prisoner you want to help and realize but for the grace of God you might be in that ex-offender’s shoes.

01:43:00Copy video clip URL Lawrence adds a bit about all that the Gaskins have contributed to these efforts. He notes women are the most neglected group in prisons. Mrs. Gaskins does a lot to see to the spiritual needs of female prisoners.

01:46:00Copy video clip URL Mrs. Gaskins talks about how she got involved with the fellowship, conducting Bible studies at women’s prisons. She shares her outlook on the issue saying that this work has given her a healthy perspective on prisoners, seeing them as people who made a mistake and need a second chance. She says women are more outwardly emotional than male prisoners. Women think of their children and of their mistakes more. They are more expressive.

01:50:00Copy video clip URL Lawrence introduces Melvin, a man recently released from prison who is trying to re-enter society.  Melvin tells his story of eleven years in prison. To change, he says, he needs to recognize what he’s done in life. He needs to rehabilitate himself. He needs to transform his mind, heart and spiritual foundation. He credits his relationship with Christ for his personal transition. He says he’s been in prison most of his youth and adult life. He realized he would have to change or spend his entire life in prison. Prison Fellowship introduced him to a new way of thinking. With fellow prisoners he created a grievance counsel to help ourselves. Prison Fellowship helped them improve upon their self-counseling.

01:55:43Copy video clip URL Gaskins gives a tour of the basement, showing how it will be finished to serve as an after care center. He points out where the administration will be, the kitchen, the dining area, the learning center to train the men and their families.

01:57:49Copy video clip URL He notes they have about 30 people in their congregation and that the ministry is about two-years old. He says his long term goal is to have more after care centers. He’d like to buy multiple homes and use them as centers. “This place would serve as a model.”

01:59:08Copy video clip URL The tour travels upstairs where Gaskins shows the bedrooms with bunk beds, enough to sleep eight men. It used to be for students coming in from around the world to learn about inner city ministry.

02:00:18Copy video clip URL Lawrence talks about the zoning troubles they have in turning the ministry into an after care center.

02:01:07Copy video clip URL Jesse Jackson is among a crowd, meeting and greeting, on the streets of a neighborhood in Washington, DC. He listens to their social concerns, shakes hands. Some audio is indistinguishable.

02:03:04Copy video clip URL END



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