Managing the Surge: Amicus Volunteer Menes Williams

Editor’s Note:  Added Wednesday, Nov. 23 – We are saddened to hear that Menes Williams was arrested last week.  As you can see by the following blog post from October, Menes has often visited Amicus and has even volunteered at our reception desk. While we are not in a position to judge Menes’ innocence or guilt within this blog or any other media outlet, our staff is deeply troubled by this incident.  We focus our efforts on helping offenders reintegrate into society in order to create a stronger community in which ex-offenders do not re-offend. 

 Amicus Reconnect helps over 2,100 people a year to make a new start in life.  We see successes every day, with people finding new jobs, stable housing and hope. When people re-offend we strengthen our resolve to help the thousands who are trying to find their new start. We remain ready to help whenever a person in prison, or in transition from prison to community, is ready to make positive changes in his or her life.

Post by Jessica Hunt

Menes Williams, 34, has taken a long road. For several years he found himself in a revolving door, going into prison, coming up, struggling and eventually going back in.

Menes was first convicted in 2002 on assault charges, and was sent to Moose Lake Correctional Facility. Now one month out of prison, Menes is ready to move forward, return to school and give back.

Menes heard about Amicus and its programs while he was involved in Men of Rafiki, Amicus’ currently inactive program focused on incarcerated African American men.

Menes first stepped into the Amicus office in 2003. Donna Woltering, who coordinated Amicus Reconnect at the time,  had built a connection with him while he was in prison and that connection extended outside of prison at Amicus.

“She (Donna) welcomed me and I could tell that she was excited that I and others like me, were getting out of prison,” he said.
Menes  found clothing, help with transportation, and assistance in obtaining government identification at Amicus, and he also received some good leads on jobs and housing.

Soon after, though, Menes violated parole and started in the revolving door between incarceration and freedom. This last time on the inside was the longest stretch for him, and he was released in August, 2011.

Menes believes he is successful so far because he truly wants to change, but he admits that starting over is not easy.

“You’re going to be frustrated, you’re going to be rejected, and you’re going to be scrutinized. And you are going to have to be able to take that in stride,” he said.

Menes describes three phases of his transition process.

“Once you reconnect, you have to have a start up, a surge, a jump start, a power, an energy,” he said. “Then, once you have that, you have to manage it. And as you manage it, you begin to upgrade. Everything is a step.”

His parents were a strong social support for him while he was in prison, and they still provide him that support. Menes describes how they visited and supported him financially, mentally, spiritually.

“My mom was in prison, but she’s so strong,” he said. “It gave her a different appreciation for what I was going through, having been there (in prison) herself.”

He also has three girls, who are ages 15, 14, and 8 now but his prison time has been a barrier in their relationship with him. Nonetheless, they are a stronghold for him and keep him inspired.

“I know they count on me. And that motivates me,” Menes said.

Menes was recently laid off from his part-time job. However, he stayed resolute and just secured a new job with Chipotle.

Menes also contacted another nonprofit agency to consolidate loans which have defaulted. Once his financial picture is cleared up, he hopes to attend Century College, or a different college, and study marketing.

Menes volunteers with Amicus twice a week and he said he wants to give back by helping other prisoners and ex-offenders who are struggling.

“I know firsthand some of the…stepping stones that they can use to overcome the hurdles. I can be a great liaison for both sides,” he said.

While Menes has come to Amicus since 2003, he said that he has made a stronger connection recently by going out of his way to connect with staff who might help him. Staff member James Cannon, in particular, has not only helped him with his resume, but he has also extended himself to Menes with apartment leads and finding employment.

Menes also has strong interest in blogging for Amicus, and he hopes to inform people from a unique perspective. He wants people to realize that those who have faced imprisonment can do good.

“You can’t judge them forever,” Menes said. “It benefits…to be more open to people, understanding of people,” he said.
He explains that a person transitioning from prison needs to hear that it will be all right. Amicus staff and interns served that purpose for Menes.

“Amicus has an open door and these are the guys that went through that door and this is what they accomplished,” he said. “We also have to know that, whenever you put your mind on something you can accomplish it.”