Dozens gather in Minneapolis to celebrate restoration of rights in historic event

Dozens of people gathered at the Capri Theater in Minneapolis Friday night for a restoration of civil rights ceremony. The first-of-its-kind event celebrated the progress formerly incarcerated individuals have made in redirecting their lives.

“It’s a great opportunity to celebrate it and say ‘Hey, you’ve done well’,” said Shane Price, the co-founder of The Power of People Leadership Institute. “It marks time.”

Governor Tim Walz issued a proclamation designating Oct. 28, 2022 as “The Power of People Leadership Institute Restoration of Civil Rights Day for Ex-Offenders in Minnesota”.

The organization has been doing outreach work at prisons across the state for nearly two decades. Price and his wife Dr. Verna Cornelia Price, who is the co-founder, have visited prisons weekly to meet with those incarcerated.

They’ve provided mentorship programs for those behind bars in Minneapolis, and Minnesota Correctional Facilities Lino Lakes, Rush City, Faribault, Moose Lake and Red Wing.

“If you have offended, you need to take care of that offense and you need to do what you need to do but we also believe everybody deserves a second chance,” said Price.

He explained their 10-week program focuses on addressing the root reasons behind an inmate’s decision to commit a crime.

“Sometimes there’s trauma, sometimes there’s divorce, other things that happen that impact individuals and cause them, for a minute, to lapse in their thinking about what it means to be human,” said Price.  “Unfortunately sometimes the paradigm for criminal behavior overwhelms the thinking of the young mind and it seems like it is rite of passage and it really is not and we have to go back in some ways and re-establish what is correct for our young people and their thinking.”

The training includes three phases. Price explained some participants become student-teachers by the third phase, which helps create a community inside the prisons.

Tierre Caldwell encountered the nonprofit during his seven year sentence, which he started in his mid-20s.

“Sometimes all it takes is for that right person or organization to reignite that spark and let you know that you are powerful, you are loveable, you are valuable, you are important,” said Caldwell. “Inside the institutions, individuals that are participants carry themselves differently.”

He’s one of about 6,000 people who have benefited from the program so far.

“What is important about the replanting program is when you’re released you’re replanted in fertile soil,” said Caldwell. “I don’t think I would’ve got this far without this program.”

He’s employed full-time with The Power of People Leadership Institute and helps connect others with employment, housing, education, training and whatever else they need when they leave incarceration.

On Friday evening, Caldwell was one of about 54 people who received an award for the work they’ve done changing their lives. Each person’s award recognized the restoration of their civil rights.

He officially regained his rights when he finished parole in 2016.

“I actually took my son with me to vote and I actually let him put my ballot in for me so he could learn the significance of voting,” said Caldwell. “I do a lot of policy work involved with civic engagement. I took those transferrable skills I was taught and applied them to the community.”

State Senator Bobby Joe Champion, who represents Minneapolis, and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison were among elected officials who spoke at the event.

“Individuals who are released and they get involved in civic engagement, they don’t reoffend,” said Caldwell. “When someone feels like they’re part of a society, they don’t harm or damage that society.”