I was having lunch with Emmett Solomon because friends of mine had recently welcomed home a son from five years in the penitentiary. Their son's story is not unfamiliar. He developed a drug problem as a teenager that he was never able to whip. After four or five run-ins with our court system he found himself in Huntsville.
It was an agonizing time for his parents, who were embarrassed their son had gotten into such serious trouble, petrified that he would be seriously harmed and haunted about what he might be enduring in prison. Any parent can imagine their relief when the call came that he was finally being paroled. Soon after the joyous homecoming, however, the reality began to sink in that the hardships were by no means over.
No one wanted to employ an ex-felon. No apartment complexes wanted to rent him an apartment. They learned that he was barred from scores of licenses. Forget getting any credit. My friends have made do, allowing their son to live at home and finding him a job in a family company. But as I watched them struggle with trying to help their son get back on his feet, I wondered what becomes of the vast majority of ex-offenders who have no such support systems.
For years at the TDC Emmett Solomon had asked himself the same question and did not like the answer. So in 1993, he left TDC and formed the Restorative Justice Ministry Network. For the last 15 years, Emmett and his group have met men as they walked out of prison, welcoming them back to society and offering whatever help they can.