While doing time, Phillip Connors was sure that he was going through the legal system for the last time. When he was released from federal prison seven years ago, he found work with a construction company. Three months later he was rearrested for selling drugs and found himself back in the system until his six months on supervised release was over. He claims that it didn’t really happen the way his probation officer and arresting officer both said.
“I wasn’t selling any drugs,” he recalls. “I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. I shouldn’t have been hangin’ with the guys who were selling drugs.”
When he was released again, he moved into his cousin’s basement off Stanton Road in southeast DC. He had no job and no prospects for one so he went to one of the re-entry programs he’d read about in a re-entry book while incarcerated.
He made an appointment to sit down with the representative of the NW re-entry group, located in the Brookland neighborhood. He was looking for two things: a job and a mentor. During his twenty minute conversation with the representative, it was determined that he would not be a good fit for the organization.
“I asked the person why they didn’t want to help me, and the lady could only tell me that I didn’t exhibit the right look and feel of their organization. I said, ‘The right look, or feel?'” He didn’t even stay to hear anything else. He stormed out of the building.
Two months later Connors discovered that his attitude was the problem. In a conversation with another person who was receiving assistance, he said the re-entry rep mentioned to him what was going on. He told Connors. This angered him severely, and his friend refered him to Anchor Mental Health. He also discovered that he had a real anger issue and was given medications to take to curb his anger problem (as well as counseling).
He made a drastic change in his attitude and behavior. He managed to piece together some temporary work, and eventually moved upstairs into a spare bedroom in his cousin’s place. He contacted the re-entry organization again and was told that he was still not a good fit. He explained to the young woman that he was taking medications and things were different for him now. Still there was no go. What was different this time was: Phillip Connors didn’t get angry. He politely said, “Well, we can’t get everything we want.” He hung up the phone and thought about what he would do next.
While waiting for the bus one morning on Alabama, Ave, he met an old friend and they discussed what he had gone through. His friend told him to not get up and went on to talk to him about a person named “Roach.” Roach had been very active in incarcerated and formerly incarcerated issues in the District of Columbia. Roach’s efforts resulted in the passing of legislation that restored the voting rights to the formerly incarcerated in D.C., and a Mayoral Resolution proclaiming September 10 as National Ex-Offender Day.
He was appointed by then-Mayor Marion Barry to create and direct the Office of Offender Affairs as a Special Assistant to the Mayor. Roach created and established an institution based theater troupe for Project Culture, funded by Dept. of Justice (LEAA). Roach was appointed by members of the D.C. City Council as a Special Investigator to investigate disturbances at D.C. Jail and Lorton and was appointed by members of Congress to a Congressional Brain Trust on Criminal Justice (Corrections). Roach wrote and organized the 1994 mayoral campaign strategy. Registering formerly incarcerated and their families resulted in the successful re-election of Marion Barry to the Mayor’s Office.
This motivated Connors to never give up, and he managed to get a decent job doing matienance work for a building on Penn Ave, NW.
Roach has worked as a Television, Radio and Film Producer, Playwrite, Political Activist, Director of Community Programs, Criminal Justice Consultant and Motivational Speaker. Presently Roach produces and hosts the Pacifica radio program called CROSS ROADS on WPFW, 89.3 FM in Washington, D.C., which can be heard world wide via the Internet on www.WPFW.org. Roach writes a column for The Washington Informer newspaper on criminal justice issues.