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Former inmate gives back to community

June 18, 2014

BY JOSH PRESLEY
news@dailytimesleader.com

A West Point man is turning his former life of crime into a motivational tool for young people in the community.
Dewayne White,44, spent more than 20 years of his life incarcerated, with convictions ranging from drug possession and grand larceny to burglary and aggravated assault of a police officer. Now, he wants to discourage kids from following in his footsteps.
“I was in the streets when the crack epidemic hit, and the whole world changed,” White said. “At that time, West Point was one of the worst places for it, and I was right there in the middle of everything.”
Since he was 19, White has spent most of his life incarcerated in the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He was released in 2009, spent time with his family in Georgia, and returned to the Golden Triangle in March, looking for ways to give back to what he feels is a declining community he helped create.
“I wasn’t satisfied coming back to a place where I was part of the cycle that created the problem,” he said.
White, along with his family members and a few volunteers, started the Come Together Outreach in Columbus to bring community leaders together to find ways to stop violence and drug use among youth in the community. He’s started a similar program in West Point, called Better Days Outreach, which will host its first meeting at 7 p.m. July 26 at St. Matthews Temple.
“The project is not about me or any church or organization,” White said. “It’s about putting forth an effort to make a change in the area we live in.”
He said the program is not a racial movement, but a humanity movement. All community members are affected by violence and drug abuse, according to White.
“We shouldn’t have to wait until we’re sitting in the family section at a funeral before we care what’s going on,” he said.
White has also volunteered his time to the Clay County Drug Court. Drug Court Counselor Cindy Tidwell said White came to her a couple months ago and said he wanted to give back to the community.
“He’s spoken to our group a couple times about his experiences,” Tidwell said. “I liked that he’s so open about his life and doesn’t want to see other people make the same mistakes.”
Tidwell said White’s interest lies more in helping adolescents and youth. She said White has never turned the drug court down when staff asked him for help.
White said his passion for youth comes from having experienced abuse at an early age. He said when kids grow up with skeletons in their closets, they have to deal with them their entire lives.
“We help create the monsters we lock away and condemn,” he said. “No child is born having filled out an application to be a criminal.”

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