‘I have always belonged here’

This is Part 2 of an ongoing series following a Cincinnati Works Member, Angelo Robinson, as he rebuilds his life after spending 22 years in prison. Part 1 recounts the considerable effort he put forth in his first two months out of prison, before he could even begin to work. In the ensuing two months, he has worked about 60 hours per week between a full-time job at Meyer Tool and helping friends renovate a house. He plans to attend college part-time in the spring and hopes to buy a house within the next year. Here, Angelo reflects on why he is so determined to reach those goals:

Every day since I was released from prison has been a new challenge, but it is a good challenge. Different streets, different people, different relationships, all of them positive. I am working every day, saving for a house and getting ready to go back to school.

Alyssa and Angelo
Alyssa Beck, paralegal at OJPC and legal coordinator at Cincinnati Works, and Angelo Robinson

You know how people say, ‘Stay in your lane?’ I’m trying to show that this is the lane I belong in. I have always belonged here, I just didn’t know it.

The environment I came from was so chaotic it pulled you down, it made you lose hope. I have always been kind and compassionate, I have humility – but where I grew up, that meant you were “soft” or “a punk.” So I put on a mask. Be tough. It was the same way in prison. I don’t like to fight, but I had to do it. I was constantly on the defensive.

I didn’t know the kindness of people like I’m seeing right now. I missed a lot growing up, because I wasn’t around a lot of positive people. Or if I was, I didn’t recognize it. Everything seemed so unhealthy. I didn’t know what I was missing out on.

With the help of Cincinnati Works and the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, I have a chance to be myself. I know I can be myself and be productive.

David Singleton (Executive Director of OJPC) saw something in me before anyone else. He pulled me out of that hole. He is the reason I came to Cincinnati Works, and Cincinnati Works helped me set the foundation I needed.

That’s why I go out of my way to prove I deserve my freedom. I made a mistake. I live with it. I think about it every day. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m actually here. I see the kindness of so many people, and I try to show the same kindness to the world. I’m not going to stop. I’m going to keep paying it forward. This is me.

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