Letter from Raymond Miles
My name is Raymond Miles, I’m the Workforce Development Specialist for the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative and Co-Founder of ReEntry412. I’m also a Landforce Board Member.
When I joined the Landforce Board I began to see something wonderfully new and different, and also began to feel differently about myself. Landforce is comprised of committed people who want to change the world. They’re doing this by providing tangible assets to men and women to help them build their future. Even more, they are promoting social acceptance and friendship to people living on the edge of society, providing tools for them to realize their potential.
I’ve spent over three decades working within the criminal justice system and it’s been an integral part of my existence. I thought that I’d seen everything, and was becoming sadly jaded, noticing that post-incarceration services provided by businesses and organizations were more about sustaining the business, not about sustaining the people.
I can tell you that being labeled a convicted criminal with a tendency to reoffend has a way of changing the way you see yourself. Societal stereotypes and stigmas inform you that you are worthless. Landforce confronts this head-on and prevents individuals from withdrawing from society. Let me give you an example.
This year Landforce hired someone that I’ve known for a long time. He just turned 25 and has been in and out of jail so much that a lot of people didn’t believe in him. I believed in him since I’ve met him, just as I do with everyone. Inside the Allegheny County Jail he was the lead influencer among his peers, creating disruptions and acting a fool. For over 2 years following his release, I tried to spend time with him, and he’d help me do some work at my rental properties.
He’s been at Landforce since late April, where he went through an initial six weeks of training, and since then has been working on stewardship projects like trail construction, invasive plant removal, green infrastructure maintenance, and vacant lot improvements. He’s been meeting regularly with the Landforce Work Readiness Manager to support his efforts to be work ready. Last month I learned that as part of this, Landforce paid for driving lessons, and he is now a licensed driver. A license is the most tangible asset a person can have to reduce the risk of returning to prison. When I learned this, my emotional response was identical to what I felt at my own college graduation. Through Landforce he now internalizes and understands that he is a responsible human being; that despite the past he can succeed and will continue to do so. I’ll remember for the rest of my life how elated he & I were when we saw each other last.
He’s ready for the next step with confidence and not uncertainty, and I’m super grateful for Landforce, the work we do, and the growing number of supporters that make it all possible. Through my Board service Landforce has given me a gift — witnessing the moment an individual realizes that their life is significant, but also helping me feel as if my own existence has become more significant.
That is why I volunteered to write this letter to ask if you would be able to join me in supporting the work Landforce does. Long after falling leaves mark the conclusion of another season, Landforce is still at work ensuring that people have both the tools and the courage to lead more hopeful, significant and responsible lives.
Your donation, of any amount, will go far towards helping Landforce create opportunities for change. And if my experience is anything to go by, becoming involved with Landforce will make you feel more significant too.
Raymond Miles, Jr.
Landforce Board Member