The redemption and compassion of Flint community leader Percy Glover

This article is part of the People-Centered Oversight Series, which aims to elevate the issues most affecting the Flint community. The series was created in partnership with Flint Beat and made possible by support from The Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy, and funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

FLINT, Michigan — Flint native Percy Glover is a believer in second chances. A national speaker, advocate, and educator for jail and judicial reform, he serves as Executive Director of Community Engagement at the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office and is a recent contractor for the National Sheriff’s Association.

Along with the many contributions he’s made to his community, he is also a member of the Big Brothers & Big Sisters Mentoring Taskforce, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and a father to a 13-year-old son. In 2020, he became a published author when he released a collection of self-reflective poems entitled Concrete Lies & Abstract Truths.

But before he stepped into his numerous impactful roles in Flint and around the country, Glover was once a victim of gun violence in his hometown and spent more than a decade of his life in the Michigan prison system. When he was just 21, he was convicted of manslaughter for his involvement in a fatal shooting that led to him being sentenced to 11 years in prison. “My worst experiences have been my best education to serve the people,” said Glover.

How did it happen?

Glover explained that the moment that changed the trajectory of his young life stemmed from an ongoing issue his friend had with a rival.

“There were layers to it,” he said, “but the short version of it is, I had a friend who had this back-and-forth ongoing battle with some guys, and it spilled over to me when he and I became friends. It built over collectively between him, other friends of ours, and their friends, and then it heightened. It was all immature, honestly. I think they might have been upset with him being a sports guy, along with being a drug dealer, and he had all of the bells and whistles; you know, sneakers, clothes, cars, jewelry. He was just being young and it brought on some jealousy and envy.”

What Glover thought was a harmless beef quickly escalated into a string of shootings that would leave one person dead and a community impacted.

“That day, I was involved in three shootings. It wasn't even 24 hours,” he recalled. “We were shot at some time around one or two o'clock in the afternoon. We retaliated sometime that night, around 11:00 p.m. And then a couple of hours later, I witnessed the shooting. Some really violent times. I can't even wrap my head around how violent it was back then.”
Glover's book "Concrete Lies & Abstract Truths" is comprised of poetry he wrote while incarcerated. 
Glover soon realized that the course of his and his friend's actions were far more widespread than he thought, leading him into a new chapter that would change his life forever. “In that moment, in that rage, it was more about the retaliation without understanding the impact it would have across all areas of my life. It really forced me to mature, and force maturity around my thinking and behavior.”

Although Glover spent his 20s incarcerated, the experience helped him understand the true meaning of accountability and just how much damage one's actions can do.

The day that he began to think about the rest of his life, as well as his life's purpose, was on the first day he began his prison sentence.

“It was a process,” said Glover. “Immediately, I said to myself, ‘Okay, day one, this prison stuff is not for me.’ I knew that instantly, but I'm still young, you know, I'm only 21-22, so it was a developmental process. It just had to flow. And I said over and over to myself that I would never return to prison. And the closer I got to release, I had two goals for myself: I was going to college, and I was going to find a job where I could wear a suit and tie every day. I think that was probably small in my thinking, but those were my goals for when I was released.”

Turning over a new leaf and finding purpose

While incarcerated, he underwent a personal and spiritual transformation as he learned to forgive himself and others while cultivating himself within those prison walls. 

“God always prepares you in the most mysterious ways, He was preparing me,” explained Glover. “I didn't realize it, but through all those struggles, He was building me up for something a lot bigger and a lot greater than me. There's no irony in me being a contractor for the National Sheriffs Association or being a full-time salaried employee for the Genesee County Sheriff's Office. That was God's plan. Once I understood the mission God had me on, once I understood my purpose, I started to rationalize and understand the need for me to give back.”

Glover led a conversation during a community listening session at the Genesee County Jail on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Tia Scott | Flintside)
During those years, Glover discovered his thirst for knowledge, earning his GED while incarcerated, and after his release, going on to earn an Associate of Applied Science from Mott Community College as a Social Work Technician, a Bachelor of Arts in Relational Communication with a minor in Substance Abuse from the  University of Michigan-Flint, and a Master of Science Administration in Leadership from Central Michigan University. 

Upon his release, he made it his life’s mission to help people return to the community successfully after serving their time in prison. One of the ways he does that is through the I.G.N.I.T.E program which stands for “Inmate Growth Naturally & Intentionally Through Education.” The program helps to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement while raising the standards of jail reform.

Glover also aided in the development of a jail-based voting process for pre-trial and non-sentenced residents at the Genesee County Jail. November 2022 marked the 10th consecutive election that he organized jail voting activities at the Genesee County Jail as numerous jails across the U.S. don’t have a jail voting practice in place.  

He hopes that his story serves as a testimony of redemption and inspires others to set goals and put forth action to achieve them no matter their current circumstances. 

“Life is not about lemons,” said Glover, “it's about taking lemons and making lemonade. And there's an opportunity for that every time we open our eyes, every time we step out of bed, every time we walk out the door, there's always an opportunity for that.”
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