How one ex-inmate is helping others have a second chance at life.
Julio Medina served 12 years in New York’s notorious Sing Sing prison for drug trafficking. He was a kingpin, and a murderer, and not a someone you would consider a “good man.” But it was while he was in Sing Sing that Julio realized something needed to be done. To stop the violence in in the prisons, to stop the violence on the streets, and to help inmates have a second chance when they were released. So 12 years ago Julio took a true leap of faith, quit his job, and started the Exodus Transitional Community to help former inmates transition back into society. He says,
As soon as I got out, guys from Sing Sing started writing me and sending me their résumés, asking me what I thought of them. After work, I would sit down at my mother’s kitchen table and rework their résumés and write them letters telling them what they needed to do, what they needed to say. The onslaught of letters and résumés kept coming, kept coming, and I would ask myself, “Who’s out here to get people really prepared?”
In the letters I’d get questions like, “My wife’s been living without me for 10 years, how am I going to be able to contribute?” Or “Hey Julio, I was 16 when I went to prison. I’m 35 now. I’m a virgin; the only relationships I’ve had were with other men, so I don’t know where I am sexually.” There wasn’t a place for them to talk about any of that. There wasn’t a place for them to ask, “Yo man, I grew up in prison. I grew up in institutions. How do I make this adjustment out here?”
So ten years ago I walked away from my job and created Exodus. Call it faith, because I had no job, no money. I walked away because it was my calling. We now have 500 former inmates coming through our program every year. We teach life skills so my brothers and sisters can become productive members of society and don’t end up back in prison. Exodus helps inmates adjust to being fathers and sons, husbands and wives, good friends and neighbors on the outside. We help former inmates find and keep a job to support themselves, restore their dignity, and avoid resorting to crime.
Julio Medina has met numerous famous and influential people in the years since he started Exodus. He has been featured in books and documentaries including one by PBS called, “Hard Road Home.” But even with all of that, Julio says, “my greatest honor is to go back and teach the inmates, so I can show these men that they can change their lives.”