Leon El-Alamin, founder and executive director of the MADE Institute, served as the keynote speaker for the annual meeting of Safe & Just Michigan, a statewide organization that promotes sentencing reform and lobbies against over incarceration.
El-Alamin, a Flint native, founded MADE Institute after he served time in prison. It helps to train formerly incarcerated people, help them gain employment and find housing. He also is president of Abdullah Building Performance Bloc, a property management company that also hires returning citizens and at-risk youth.
The annual meeting drew about 200 people to the Radisson Hotel in Lansing. The theme of the event was, “Moving hearts and minds toward justice” and also featured Ellen Buchman, vice president of The Opportunity Agenda in New York.
Related story: “MADE Institute: Building new beginnings after prison”
“A lot of what people think they know about the criminal justice system is outdated or just misguided, and that harms formerly incarcerated people who are trying so hard to turn their lives around,” El-Alamin said. “Prejudice against formerly incarcerated people makes it nearly impossible for them to get a job or rent an apartment. There’s dignity in being able to work and put food on the table, and when you take that away from someone, you’re telling them that they’ll never be forgiven or get a second chance.”
Safe & Just Michigan was originally founded in 2000 as the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending. It changed its name earlier this year to Safe & Just Michigan.