Formerly incarcerated people tell their stories at Newburgh forum to stem crime

30 July 2019

At the age of 23, City of Newburgh resident Marquis Thompson has spent more than three years of his life in prison.

“I used to carry guns on me all the time,” Thompson said. “I used to get into fist fights all the time.”

Those 41 months behind bars opened his eyes and helped him realize that he had to change.

Now he’s looking to prevent others from making similar mistakes, and also to do what he can to reduce gun violence in his hometown of Newburgh.

Thompson organized a forum held Sunday at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center for city residents to discuss how to make the city a safer and better place.

“I was once at a moment in my life when I was part of the problems in the streets,” Thompson told the approximately two dozen people who attended the first of what is expected to be a regular meeting.

Thompson said his 2-year-old son also helped him realize that he has to be better, and that he wants a better life for him and other children in the city.

As part of organizing Sunday’s discussion, Thompson reached out to Newburgh police to help coordinate the event and provide support.

Lt. Joseph Cortez said the forum was exactly what the city needs, and commended everyone who came out.

“People, and young men in this city, need role models, and you guys are the role models,” said.

Coleridge Lewter was one of several people who shared their stories of incarceration and how they changed their lives.

At one point, he said he was facing a 55-year sentence in a drug case, but was eventually sentenced to 25 years and released after 11 years.

He said that a lot of violence can be avoided just by provoking thought and being diplomatic with other people.

When it comes to violence, people often don’t think about the consequences, and a decision made in five minutes can alter lives, according to Lewter.

“You’ve got to weigh their options for them, because most people don’t weigh ’em themselves,” he added.

Malcolm Davis, a program coordinator with the Osborne Association, grew up in Harlem and has spent time in prison. When he got out in 2001, he had his GED, but since then he’s added two master’s degrees and runs his own business in addition to his work with Osborne.

Osborne provides services and programs to people in trouble with the law and training to help inmates transition back to employment and living a productive life.

“If we take that criminal thinking and apply it to something positive, you’d be surprised what you can do,” Davis said.

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