During his 27 years in a Michigan prison, Ronald Simpson-Bey earned a reputation as a staunch advocate, promoter and defender of prisoner rights. Today, just two years after his release, Ron continues his commitment to activism as an intern with AFSC’s Michigan Criminal Justice Program in Ann Arbor, where he’s establishing a groundbreaking prisoner co-mentorship program—the only one of its kind in the state.
Ron’s “Good Neighbor Project” will pair long-term prisoners with co-mentors on the outside. The goal of the program is to impart strong citizenship skills to the prisoners before they are released and re-enter society. “Prisons have gotten in the business of warehousing people instead of developing programs to help them become better citizens,” Ron explains. “When they get out they have few coping skills, and these people are your neighbors, church members, and people dating your sisters, brothers, and mothers.”
As a first-year goal, the Good Neighbor Project hopes to pair 100 prisoners with co-mentors. Secretly, Ron has a more ambitious goal: “I want to match 500 in the first year!”