Chicago rooftop revelations: Project H.O.O.D. employee discusses recidivism and reentry

ROOFTOP REVELATIONS: Day 29 with Pastor Corey Brooks

CHICAGO – When Jeff Boyd, a strikingly handsome man with graying hair, was released from prison several years ago, he had no idea what waited for him in the South Side of Chicago. The world had changed from when he first went into the prison system over 30 years ago. 

Would he survive with nothing to his name? Would he re-offend and become another statistic like others before him? Or would he find employment that gave him purpose in life? Whether it was by the grace of God or luck, though Boyd would argue it was the former, he found Project H.O.O.D., a community center headed by Pastor Corey Brooks. 

Located in cramped offices on the second floor of the New Beginnings Church, Project H.O.O.D. provided Boyd with a mentor who guided him to new dwellings, a bank account, a credit card, a car and all the things one needs to become a member of society again. 

More importantly, Brooks and the Project H.O.O.D. staff recognized that Boyd had the wisdom of the streets as well as books and that he had the gift of relating to those he crossed paths with. They offered him a job to be the point man that receives men and women coming home from prison and, with that, he found his purpose in life. 

Today, he joined the pastor for the 29th day of his 100-day rooftop vigil to raise funds for a new building to house Project H.O.O.D. (Helping Others Obtain Destiny). When many folks think of a community center they think of something similar to a YMCA and, during the taping of his Rooftop Revelations (see accompanying video), the pastor wanted Boyd to explain his crucial role.

Boyd “makes sure that we stop the cycle of brothers going back and forth to prison,” the pastor said. “Why is it so important that we have this community center as it relates to recidivism and reentry?”

Boyd looked straight into the camera as if he wanted to speak directly to those listening. “Being a product of the federal institution for more than 25 years, state, federal and county institutions, they offer classes on reentry. They offer resources to allow you to reintegrate back in the community. These classes are offered inside an institution, but when the doors open and you’re released back to the community, that is quite a different question.”  

The pastor interjected: “Let me ask you a question because somebody may be watching, they’re saying, ‘Look, what does that have to do with me? Reentry, recidivism, I’m not in prison, never been to prison. I’m not going to prison. None of my family’s in prison. How does this impact me in my community?'”

Boyd held himself and Project H.O.O.D. up as an example.

“I cannot imagine an individual coming home without someone here to receive them, to give them the resources, the services, the tools and the skills they need to become members of these communities. Because once they become productive members of our communities, our communities thrive and develop and better the quality of life of individuals inside our communities.”

If there were no community centers like Project H.O.O.D. to receive them, Boyd warned, the individual may “return back to the old lifestyle, return back to the street, return back to the way they know how to survive out here on the street.” 

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One man who nearly returned to the streets was Varney Voker, a legendary Black Disciple gang boss known widely as the Twin. After serving over a decade in the federal prison system, Voker returned to the South Side intent on rebuilding his drug empire. However, he ran into the pastor who told him there was a new sheriff in town. Voker blew off the pastor. 

Finally, the pastor told him that if he returned to the streets he’d have to find another neighborhood. The strength of the pastor’s convictions shook Voker. He began to work with the pastor to rekindle his faith in Jesus and to learn how to transfer his business skills over to the legitimate world. Today, Voker works hard every day and mentors youth in the very same community that he once ravaged. 

Men like Voker are the types of people that Boyd works with and his task is far from easy. Most prisoners released into Chicago are released into only several out of 77 neighborhoods and most are located on the South Side.

Boyd said he could not imagine his community and the nearby communities being “without Project H.O.O.D.’s reentry services. I just cannot imagine it.” 

The pastor expressed his gratefulness to Boyd for guiding the brothers and sisters “in the right direction, giving them opportunities, alternatives and options. But, most of all, thank you for staying on them and not letting them make excuses.”

Boyd then shook the pastor’s hand and headed across the street to the cramped Project H.O.O.D. offices to resume his purpose in life. 

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