I was 18 years old and living in New York City when I was sentenced to 42 years in prison for a crime I did not commit. In 2018, the conviction was overturned, and I was released from prison. I had no family and nowhere to go until someone offered me a place to stay in Philadelphia. My caseworker then suggested Philadelphia FIGHT. Whether it was home or not, this is where I started. FIGHT became the beginning of a new life for me. I’ve never seen anything like it before. 

I had to restart my life, but I had no clue how until I found ICJ, the Institute for Community Justice, at FIGHT. The classes taught me how to readjust to life outside of prison. I learned how to express my feelings and socialize again. I get all the help in the world here. It’s the biggest blessing that I’ve ever seen. Once at ICJ, life turned around for me. 

I’m also getting my healthcare here at the John Bell Health Center. When I first came into the clinic, my diabetes was off the charts. But because of the care I got here, I no longer need to take insulin for the diabetes. I was also suffering with damages in my legs until my provider got me new wrappings that helped the pain. The help I get here has been life-changing. Now I am finally happy with my health. The providers at FIGHT are helpful even beyond my medical needs.

To someone else it may not mean anything, but the small acts of kindness are uplifting. I was in the worst place in the world, but I knew it had to get better. It’s all about how you come back out here and address society. You can’t do anything without help. What’s happening in my life now would not be possible without Philadelphia FIGHT. I’m motivated by the people that have assisted me along the way. 

People ask me if I’m angry or bitter about what happened to me, but I am not. Through FIGHT, I’ve found a lot of goodness. Even though I was a child who grew up without a lot of love, I’ve found people who love and care for me, which means everything. My experience in prison will never go away, but I am not looking in the rearview mirror. I’m looking forward to what the future may hold. 

Spotlight On

Karam Mounzer, MD

Dr. Mounzer identified two major gaps in the care of patients with HIV/hepatitis C (HCV) co-infection, and the complexity of multidrug-resistant HIV treatment. He is involved with many clinical trials focusing on drug development and better understanding of HIV immunopathogenesis with the Wistar Institute. He is involved in teaching and mentoring.

Learn More about Spotlight On
Dr. Karam Mounzer

Dr. Mario Cruz

Dr. Mario CruzDr. Cruz is a board certified pediatrician who serves as the Medical Director for our Pediatrics and Adolescent Health Center. He has presented and/or published in the fields of community violence and domestic violence prevention, quality improvement, behavioral health, curriculum development and mentorship. In 2019 he received the Greater Philadelphia Social Innovation Award for Innovations in Healthcare.

Translate »