Ramon Semorile, an ex-convict, is acclimating back into society with the help of Mandy Restivo, a task force social worker from the Bronx Re-Entry Working group.
After being hauled off to jail for the 26th time, capping a criminal career spanning 16 years, Ramon Semorile looked back on his life and saw nothing.
"I couldn't continue doing the same thing over and over, because I would end up in jail all my life or I was gonna get killed," said Semorile, 51. "That's when I decided to change my life."
Semorile's recidivism is a pattern seen in thousands of men across New York City, especially in the Bronx, so Bronx Community Solutions and other groups have formed the Bronx Re-entry Working Group.
The immediate goal of the fledgling group is to give the estimated 128,000 former prisoners living in the borough a forum to discuss future plans and find organizations that can help them transition back into society.
"Manhattan has a very strong task force looking at reentry issues, but there is no coordinated group in the Bronx looking at these issues," said Mandolin Restivo, deputy project director for Bronx Community Solutions. "Aside from just the sheer numbers of people coming home [from prison], the Bronx has high levels of poverty and low levels of health, so all these issues converge to create a lot of problems."
Semorile got caught up in the wrong crowd in his teens and helped fuel the drug trade that gripped the city during the 1970s and '80s.
"It was chaotic. There was a lot of abandoned buildings, gang members, hard drugs. You would get robbed by your own neighbor," said the Dominican Republic native, who lived in Soundview. "Children were growing up by themselves."
Restivo and other members of the reentry group want to help paroled prisoners from reverting to their old ways.
Valera and Restivo added they also want to develop a reentry court similar to that in Harlem, which provides housing case managers and job-training programs.
Semorile said the road he took may have been different had there been a similar group at the time. He received job training at a transitional facility and he has been a crew supervisor at Bronx Community Solutions for five years, guiding petty criminals coming out of arraignment.
"I tell them, 'It doesn't matter how many times you got arrested, it's what you do after the arrest,'" he said. "I always try to grab that one that really wants to change their life."
Tonight's meeting is from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Pizza will be served. For more information, call (718) 618-2495.