KENT COUNTY, Mich. — (May 15, 2014) A once convicted murderer now accused in a series of robberies tells FOX 17 News he believes the state failed him during his darkest hours.
He was in prison for the 1997 murder conviction for around 18 years.
During that time, he married a prison guard and he thought upon his release, he was on his way to a better life.
He said what he found instead was disheartening.
Paul White is accused of robbing three Grand Rapids businesses in April of 2014, including a party store on Butterworth in which the crime was caught on camera.
It’s story we be brought you late last month.
“I didn`t know what to do,” said White.
He was just paroled in early September of 2014.
From behind bars in the Kent County Jail, White expressed to FOX 17 his frustration as he recalled what he thought would be a better transition to life with his wife, a corrections officer.
“I did 18 years in prison. Yes, I did marry a corrections officer,” said White. “We were married five years prior to me being released. We were together for 10 of them.”
Although White said his wife told the parole board he had a stable place to call home, he said she didn’t pick him up when he was released.
An officer at the parole office finally took him to her apartment, but she wasn’t home.
He said he sat on the steps and waited for her because he was stranded without money until a neighbor took pity on him and got him a hotel room, telling him he hadn’t seen anyone in his wife’s apartment for quite some time.
White said he eventually made contact with her and she picked him up from the hotel, but when he got back to that apartment he realized something was wrong.
“When I get to the apartment, I find out that she was not living there at all,” he said. “There were a few boxes inside of the closet, she claimed at first she was living up there, but after awhile she couldn`t keep lying.
“I came across her journal,” he said. “Come to find out she had been living with this man in Indiana for quite some time.”
White said he tried to move on, got a new girlfriend and a job for a time working with animals.
“In prison I had experience training dogs and it was the best job ever,” he said.
However, White said he was told that funding ran out for that position.
He said he tried a job at the Goodwill recycling plant and left that position and his parole officer then helped him get a job at Spring Mattress.
“God bless his soul, he stayed on the phone for 40 minutes trying to convince this man to hire me,” he said.
White said he worked there for a week, and received praise that he was doing a good job.
However, he said when he arrived for work the following week, he was told there wouldn’t be work for him at the company.
“In the end, he told my parole agent that nobody wanted to work with me because they knew I had been in prison for murder.”
As far as housing, Cliff Washington with the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative told White the program would pay for him to have an apartment for 90 days.
However, after he signed the lease, he said the property manager asked him for money.
“My manager said, MPRI made an agreement, said that MPRI would pay that rent, and they failed to do so. I told him I didn`t know. I talked to Cliff and he said, ‘Yes, they would continue’. I ended up being $1,000 behind in rent because they never paid it.”
“At this point I`m walking the streets and collecting recyclables just so I can have a roll of toilet tissue,” said White. “God bless my girl because when I was collecting those bottles, she was holding the bag for me. she didn`t put me down once, and she understood everything that I went through. It wasn`t fair.”
We talked to Cliff Washington about the apartment funding situation.
He said he wasn’t sure why White said his landlord was asking him for money, because they had agreed to help.
“We agreed to pay for Paul for 90 days through Michigan`s reentry program. His 90 days is not even up yet. March, April and May rent were taken care of,” said Washington. “We can always get an extension as well.”
For privacy reasons, Washington coudln’t tell us who White’s landlord was, so we were unable to ask if there had been some sort of mistake on the part of the property manager and White was unreachable in the afternoon.
Department of Corrections Spokesperson Russ Marlan said that the reentry program for the most part can be a success.
“I think when we started the program in 2005, the recidivism rate was around 50% now 29% we dropped the recidivism rate significantly,” said Marlan.
He addressed the White case directly.
“The individual you`ve been speaking of has spent 17 ½ years in prison. When you spend that amount of time in prison, transitioning back to society back on the street, no doubt he had some domestic issues, family right from the very beginning. But, he was plugged into reentry services. He`s part of the CLEAR program. They assign officers to be mentors. We did everything we could help him transition back to society, They found him voluntary employment and he left those jobs for various reasons,” said Marlan.
When asked what needed to change, White said, “”People need to actually start caring and stop acting like they do. They need to actually start helping people.”