GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — (May 22, 2014) A man accused of robbing three local businesses in order to get back in prison spoke to FOX 17 last week to tell his side of the story.
Paul White is accused of armed robbery at a party store on Butterworth, a 7-11 and a Chicken Coop restaurant.
He was released on parole in September 2013.
White told FOX 17 about his situation during an interview from jail.
“I didn`t know what to do,” said White.
He faces a possible 25 year prison sentence.
White had been in prison since he was 18 on a murder conviction.
He said he was not trying to go back to prison and blames the system for failing him.
He said he tried to get a number of jobs and was laid off.
White said he was told in one situation that nobody wanted to work with him because of his murder conviction.
He also claimed that the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative program had promised to pay for his apartment, however, he said the landlord told him the bill had not been paid.
White said he thought he was behind on his bills by more than $1,000.
“People need to actually start caring and stop acting like they do. They need to actually start helping people,” he said.
However, some members of the CLEAR group say they are taking it personally that White said the system had failed him.
His former mentor in the program, a former GRPD officer, said that just wasn’t the case.
“He had access to food. He was working. He was doing the things that he needed to do,” said Ralph Mason, CLEAR founder. “But, when troubles came, like the job laid him off, instead of reaching out and talking to us he separated himself from us.”
Mason founded the Coalition, Leadership, Education, Advice Rehabilitation program called CEAR which meets every Thursday with former prisoners.
The organization was formed to help ex-offenders stay out of prison and adapt to civilian life.
Mason said he took White’s comments, which appear to discredit the program, personally.
“I took kind of offense of him saying that there weren`t people out here willing to help him because that`s just not true,” said Mason. “I had more or less been his mentor. He did some things that I just didn`t agree with and I basically let him know I was unhappy with him and I cut communications with him. But, the door was always open for him to re-establish communications.”
Kevin Evans was released after serving 12 years for armed robbery on the same day as White.
They were also in the CLEAR program in Grand Rapids together.
“CLEAR facilitates all and everything that you need in order to stay out here,” said Evans.
He said he wasn’t close to White, but said in order to be successful, he needed to change his mind-set.
“As long as a guy is willing to go through the changes you got to go to in order to be productive,” said Mason. “I`ve talked to Paul after he`s been arrested and there may be things that he didn`t` know. But he wasn`t really willing to tear down some of those layers and really open himself up.”