Shutting revolving prison doors…Partnership revealed at Freedom Corner

Despite the bitter wind that blew through the Freedom Corner monument, a dedicated group that included police, prison officials, clergy, anti-violence and offender advocates announced a new partnership to stem violence and reduce recidivism.

Perhaps none more dedicated than Rev. Glenn Grayson and his wife Marsha, whose 18-year-old son Jeron was fatally shot while at a party just 12 days earlier on Oct. 17.

DIVINE GUIDANCE—As Rev. Glenn Grayson and his wife, Marsha, who recently lost their son to gun violence look on, Building Bridges Program Manager Jonathan Backers and Divine Intervention Ministries Founder Debra Germany announce a partnership to reintegrate offenders to society. (Photo by J.L. Martello).

“My wife and family and I find answers and strength in prayer,” he said. “We lost a son to a man who had been incarcerated. He’s going to have to atone, but everyone like Keith Jones (the shooter) deserves a second chance.”

The gathering was organized by Divine Intervention Ministries founder Debra Germany, who also lost a son, Raymond, to violence in 2001, to announce that her organization is partnering with the Pennsylvania Prison Society to bring its Building Bridges-Second Chances reentry program to SCI Pittsburgh, formerly Western Penitentiary, to mentor and support offenders reentering society.

“We can’t keep losing our sons,” said Germany. “We have to have something for these young men when they get out or blood will continue to run in the streets. I want to thank the Prison Society and everyone here who is working to make sure their return to their families and communities is successful.”

Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper also praised the new initiative.

“This is about guiding these men after prison. We don’t have to keep locking them up if we show them the right way,” he said. “With these good people of faith here, today is about stopping that revolving door.”

One person who has stopped it, and is trying to help stop it for others, is 31-year-old Brandon Humphrey, himself an ex-offender.

“When I came out of the state prison in 2007, I started a commercial/industrial cleaning company,” he said. “Working with the Pittsburgh Initiative Against Crime and now Building Bridges, I’m hiring guys like me, right out of jail. Right now I have six guys working and three in training and I’m looking for three more.”

Humphrey said he just started a new venture called Halo Concierge Service, another cleaning company aimed at corporate clients.

“I have a bid out now, and if it comes through, I’ll be looking for 10 more guys,” he said.

Building Bridges Program Manager Jonathan Backers said he is pleased to be able to work with Pittsburgh’s faith community in helping to mentor and support men from SCI Pittsburgh in their transition back to the community.

Dorothy Stubbs, evangelist with the AME Pittsburgh Conference 3rd District Prison Ministry was pleased to see other clergy at the press announcement.

“I’m so hoping the pastors come on board. Don’t just send someone, come out yourself,” she said. “You can’t just preach it from the pulpit, you’ve got to get out and do the work.”

Service providers who may be of assistance or anyone interested in mentoring can contact Building Bridges at 412-918-1935 and Divine Intervention at 412-621-0622.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburgh­

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