Actual non profits which do not get huge donations from large corporations and wealthy philanthropists are usually grass roots community efforts…. they can obtain grants and eventually move forward if they utilize enough volunteers. HSUS and ASPCA which are basically FACTORY FUNDRAISERS for ARs, we would never donate a penny to them. However, we would bend over backward for a group like the one described below, because it is not a ripoff group, it is not a marketing group, it does not utilize propaganda to take people’s money, and yes, one of the key players has a cool pitbull that we met years ago. A bull in a china shop doggie for sure.
In time, we believe we can start an animal related effort with this group without involving the local AR-influenced SPCA. We can get media attention easily since the CEO is already asked by the government and the County for his input on many topics. Additionally, Mr. Craig helps low income clients with potential issues which would require legal help, and calls us for help on that. Our foreseeable efforts in that direction would be to help establish expanded community legal/paralegal service locally.
The article below was for 2012.The current status of Mr. Craig’s goals, which include a mentoring program with alternative sentencing inmates, now in effect with County’s permission of course, at the Butte County jail; a roadside cleanup (volunteer) with the County by the newly formed 501(c)(3) non profit, P.I.E.C.E.S (People Invoking Empowerment, Change, Employment and Success). In addition, real property has been located for rehab to eventually establish transitional housing and future programs for helping others to transform their lives. The real estate owner is willing to work on the endeavor and judging by the time the government contracts go through, this could take 2-3 years.
Life interrupted: Thomas Craig aims to help people transition after prison
OROVILLE — Re-entering society as a productive citizen after serving time in prison for violent crimes isn’t easy, but an Oroville man said once he took a small step toward change, positive things started happening to help him. When Thomas Craig, now 46, was released from prison on parole at age 37, after being incarcerated for more than half his life, he found that society did not welcome people who have committed violent crimes.While trying to steer his life on track, working to be a good father and husband, and trying to give back to the community, Craig also is trying to get an organization off the ground to help released prisoners with the transition.
Craig said people coming out of the prison often have work skills, but they can’t find jobs.
So released prisoners often return to criminal activity, Craig said.
“When society finds out you have a criminal and violent background, society washes its hands of you,” Craig said. One of the things Craig would like to do is impress upon the business community that people can change their lives, and they need a chance to make honest livings.
“I don’t care how much money you spend on programs, if you don’t impact the ideas of the larger community, the programs won’t work,” Craig said.
Craig entered the criminal justice system as a teenager, where he says he became involved in prison gangs.
Craig said his mother had been a positive influence in his life, so he could always envision a bright speck in the darkness that told him he should not be involved in the criminal life.
After his mother died when he was 12 years old, Craig’s life slid sideways. The youngest of eight siblings, Craig and his sister lived with older siblings for a while, but ended up in foster care. Craig began running the streets — robbing and stealing — to get money for things he wanted that other people had.
Craig said he felt angry because his mother had died and left him, and then his older siblings would not raise him or his sister, who was a year older than him. “I’d ask why?” Craig said. “And why should I give a damn? Why should I care? I just became a very angry and hostile young person.”
After a series of failures in foster homes, Craig went to live with his father in the Bay Area. He was an alcoholic and didn’t provide supervision. “I did whatever I wanted to out on the streets,” Craig said. Craig first entered the criminal justice system with the California Youth Authority at age 14, where he says he hooked up with a high-level prison gang, and began the gangster lifestyle. Although some people, including a foster family in Chico, tried to help Craig, he said he wasn’t ready to change his lifestyle.
He ended up in state prison. Craig said his sister never gave up on him, visiting him and sending him inspirational works to read. He remembers reading one such thing that said most people are afraid to change because it exposes them to the unknown. However, once a person takes a first step toward change, then all the forces of the universe converge to help, Craig read.
“The thing is that it’s true,” Craig said during an interview on Wednesday at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. “Once I made a commitment to change, all kinds of things started to happen — positive things.”
In addition, an older man he calls Mr. Bruce who had been in and out of prison all his life took Craig under his wing. Mr. Bruce had changed his attitude too late, and he would spend the rest of his life in prison, Craig said. The older man introduced Craig to books in the prison law library, and Craig turned his attention to studying. Craig said he was paroled when he was 37. Now he is trying to be a good father and family man.
He said it’s his responsibility to teach his youngest son and daughter to prepare for their future and to give back to the community. He and his son volunteer to help paint and clean up at a local school.
Craig contends prisoners returning to society also need to volunteer and work with people from the larger community to broaden their vision.
Craig said many people complain about issues, but they won’t accept responsibility for solutions.
“There’s no shortage of people lined up to say how much they support the community who will not even pull a weed,” he said.
Although he still does not have a job, he said he does odd jobs to help keep his family afloat. He also does hauling jobs to help people clean up properties that have been red tagged by code enforcement. Craig participated in the Pathway to Positive Change in Southside a couple of years ago and went through its leadership training to spark change in the community.
From the training, Craig developed the idea of forming an organization to help people who have been incarcerated re-enter society.
Thus far, Craig has developed a website and has a board of directors. He has filed for articles of incorporation and is working to form a nonprofit that can collect donations.
The website at www.wix.com /piecesoroville/southside is still under construction but it offers information about PIECES, which stands for People Invoking Empowerment, Change, Employment and Success. PIECES has also adopted sections of roads in Southside Oroville for cleanups– see below..
Craig saw the need for people who have experienced incarceration and the transition back into society to talk to people being released from prison because so many people come up to him who know his past life and ask how he changed.
Now Craig also has a family to give him a reason to care, he said.
He said he and his family do not have a lot of material things and money, but they have a lot of love.
“I have been blessed in so many ways since I made a commitment to change,” Craig said.
One blessing was when a former victim contacted him on Facebook and said he forgave him for what he had done to him 22 years ago. Craig said the man’s father is a prominent person in the community who he had always respected.
“For him to be able to do that was very amazing,” Craig said. Craig said the main thing he wants to emphasize is that people can change their lives.
“People should not give up,” Craig said. “If they keep trying, they can make the transition, but it takes so much commitment.” Craig said people often lose hope during the transition phase and go back to alcohol, drugs and negative behaviors.
Staff writer Mary Weston can be reached at 533-4415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PD Note: We can tell you why most people give up, quit trying, and just don’t care. It is because they have bought into the belief that happiness or success is shrouded in material consumption, like they see on TV “reality” shows, and the constant yammering of idiots who have nothing better to do but worship $$ and movie stars. Go try living outside for a week with a tent and water. You will soon find that you likely could never make it without any electricity? When the day comes that you realize that you are allowing everything to control you and that basically, you control almost nothing, especially in terms of what you could be really doing, or who you could be actually helping, or how you hate your job, wake up. Being alive is half the battle but how you live— is up to you.