FLINT, Mich. — Today, more than 44,000 citizens are incarcerated in Michigan prisons, with hundreds of thousands serving probation or parole sentences in the community. Between 1980 and 2010, Michigan’s prison population grew at 29 times the rate of the state’s total population, and correctional expenditures have since increased exponentially since then — rising from 3 percent of Michigan’s General Fund in 1980 to more than 20 percent today, with approximately $2 billion in yearly corrections appropriations. The majority of inmates are people of color.
These statistics and more are stated explicitly on the website of a relatively new non-profit called the M.A.D.E. Institute, which stands for Money, Attitude, Direction and Education. Founded two years ago, the institute focuses on providing support to former inmates after they are released from prison.
M.A.D.E. accomplishes this by providing comprehensive programming for at-risk youth and returning citizens in the area of workforce development, social advocacy, training and research as well as violence prevention. The goal of the organization is that after going through the program, a former inmate will leave with job skills, financial awareness, skilled trade and mentoring.
The nonprofit was started in January 2015 by current Founder and Executive Director Leon El-Alamin — an incredibly busy man. El-Amin is the president of an LLC called Abdullah Building Performance Bloc, a property management company he started to help create jobs for returning citizens and at-risk youth who have been systematically structured out of society.
In addition, the same year that El-Amin founded M.A.D.E. he also became the City of Flint 1st Ward Zoning Board of Appeals Officer, and is a graduate of Flint Strive and Mott Workforce Green Construction. Leon currently works as a Genesee Health System Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid Recovery Coach.
And as a convicted felon himself, El-Amin has the ultimate empathy and understanding of what it means to be in prison. In addition to his wealth of organizational experience, El-Amin’s history gives him the added determination and efficacy necessary to successfully lead the organization as well as being a relatable leader to the citizen’s his non-profit is designed to serve.
M.A.D.E. provides a variety of programs, including a transitional housing program that offers housing and support to the formerly incarcerated. The transitional housing program converts vacant, foreclosed and vandalized properties into vibrant, environmentally sustainable transitional housing. A current example of the success of this program is a complete remodel on an old duplex on Parkway Street on Flint’s north side that is currently underway. The duplex will soon be able to house up to six men, with room left over for a kitchen, large meeting room and a basement.
In addition, the organization offers a Green-skills trades training program that provides individuals with customized vocational on-the-job training. Another program called The Re-entry Care Package program eases the transition back into society for former inmates by providing basic toiletries as well as socks, underwear and undershirts, a set of bed sheets, pillows and towels. In addition to these more basic necessities, the program even supplies these men with a wallet, a watch, a portfolio and briefcase for future interviews.
Along those lines, M.A.D.E. offers an Entrepreneurship Program — an education program designed to promote continued learning outside the prison gates. Weekly gatherings include top tier executives, MBA candidates and university professors mentor and teach M.A.D.E. Institute participants.