Three Men Behind Bars On a Mission To Get Guns Off The Streets
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Deep within the fences and walls of Orleans Correctional Facility sit the faces of gun violence.
"I have been incarcerated for 18 years,” said Aaron Naceo Daniels, Sr.
"I'm going on 12 years,” said Marece Bilaal Matthews.
"Eighteen years,” said Marble Spikes.
They must live each day with their own violent past for the rest of their lives.
"I didn't know how to function in society, and I'm sitting in a prison cell,” said Spikes.
"I don't want to live the rest of my life behind bars,” said Matthews.
All three men say they all used guns to intimidate others. In the cases of Spikes and Daniels, they used guns to murder.
"I had weapons of all sorts: pistons, carbines, rifles, shotguns... you name it, I had it,” Daniels said.
"If it came out, people was gonna start talking nice,” Spikes said.
Now, they're working to take guns off the streets.
"This right here,” said Matthews, gesturing to a poster of a gun, “we can't use when we're angry. You have to find other means, when you're angry."
The three men are part of Orleans Correctional's "Civic Duty Initiative Team;” the local branch of an organization that's taking hold statewide. The men sold cakes and muffins to fellow inmates to raise enough money for the gun buy back program.
"The program was actually founded three years ago at the Sullivan Correctional Facility,” Daniels said. “By their efforts, as of today, over 200 illegal weapons have been confiscated off the streets of Albany, New York."
Matthews, Spikes and Daniels are hoping for similar successes this Saturday in Rochester at the gun buy-back at Full Gospel Tabernacle Church on Clifford Avenue.
"If one person bring in a gun, and receive a $50 dollar certificate for a long-gun or a shotgun, or a hundred-dollar certificate for a handgun, one gun can represent numerous lives being saved,” Daniels said.
Of course, guns are worth far more than fifty or a hundred dollars, so the three are instead appealing to the people's conscience, and their futures.
"We're here to tell you: put the guns down, turn them in... or this is your reality. Between the three of us, it's 47 years behind bars,” said Matthews.
All three men acknowledge that theirs is a sad fate, and that the fate of their victims is even worse. Truth be told, they cannot know when or if they will get out of prison, but what they've learned here transcends the iron bars and razor wire. Whether here or elsewhere: they say their good work will continue.
"This initiative will expand far beyond just buying guns back off the street,” said Daniels.
"We're tired of seeing individuals being victimized, on the news. We're in here watching this, and we see that it's bad. And we're hoping that we can initiate in others to be proactive, and do something that's going to uplift the community in the most positive manner," Spikes said.