RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - An effort is in full swing to crack down on crime. The program is connecting former inmates with youth and young adults to steer them away from violence.
It's called the RVA Night League for Safer Street, an effort that's uniting Richmond and even getting the attention of the police chief.
The police chief is now working with organizers to help them accomplish their mission.
The idea here is that those who have already served time behind bars can now offer valuable lessons so others won't have to.
"I took the life of a man that didn't deserve it," Paul Taylor admitted with grief.
He has been out of a prison for only a few weeks after finishing a 23-year sentence for a homicide he committed in his early 20's.
While behind bars, he dreamed of the day he'd be out.
"You want to do something different. You don't want to stay here and say, 'I did my time'. When you get back out here, I feel like we owe," Taylor said.
Now he's working to make a difference through a program he came up with called RVA Night League for Safer Streets. It targets young men 17 to 24 years old from the inner-city, uniting them through basketball twice a week.
"So it's not just, 'Hey, it's a basketball game.' You're going to have workshops, life skills, mask off, skills and training for employment," said radio personality Community Clovia.
Participants learn critical thinking and how current actions impact the future.
Taylor and former inmate Juwad Abdu created the idea when they were both incarcerated.
"We're just trying to get these guys to understand that there's something better," Abdu said.
Now, the vision is reaching the community with full force.
Richmond Police Chief Al Durham is even interacting with the group.
"He said, 'In my 30 years of law enforcement, never ever has an ex-offender knocked on my door to reduce crime,' " Community Clovia recalled.
The goal is to plant a seed now, in hopes it will grow in an effort to take back the streets.
"It's incumbent upon us to return to our communities and make an effort and eradicate some of the things that we helped create," Taylor said.
The weekly sessions will culminate in a huge championship game later this month.
Organizers are looking to instill pride in those who need it most so they can value both their lives and the lives of others.
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