For five months, members of Orlando, Fl., Mayor Buddy Dyer’s crime-fighting panel have been searching for ways to reduce violence. Yesterday, one solution became crystal clear, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Delgardo Royal, 45, who was released this week from prison, told the mayor’s SAFE Orlando Task Force about coming home with no money, no job, and the temptation to return to crime to survive. “I’m at the crossroads right now,” he said. “I’m not going back to prison. I’ll die on the streets instead of going back to prison. I know what it’s like being out on the streets. I just need someone to be near the phone to catch me if I fall.”
His safety net was a community activist and former probation officer he met four years ago. Royal called Mercedes Bigelow from a bus station. She picked him up, took him to a neighbor’s home and then brought him to meetings of the task force because she figured who better to describe the needs of those released from prison. Royal’s experience led to the kind of solution the task force is proposing: A one-stop resource center to help ex-convicts get drivers licenses, jobs, medical care, mental-health counseling and other services so they don’t return to crime.