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Posted on Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 7:10 a.m.

Ex-West Willow gang member profiled for his new role: Street outreach

By Paula Gardner

A former gang member and ex-convict who now works to improve Ypsilanti Township neighborhoods recently was profiled in a WXYZ-TV report.


Tom Perkins | For

James Whitfield is supervisor of the Street Outreach Team organized by the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department. That hiring came after he spent nearly 12 years in prison.

In August, the street outreach team led a rally in West Willow to encourage residents to fight crime in their neighborhood.

From the story previewing the march:

(Whitfield) explained why, after being incarcerated, he is helping the neighborhood heal and why the Street Outreach Team put together the rally.

“I felt I was one who created a lot of problems, so I’ll be the one to solve a lot of the problems,” he said. “I looked at the position the neighborhood was in and felt I needed to be doing something to be able to push the violence back."

Whitfield is quoted in the WXYZ report: "One of my philosophies was if I was the one who actually helped break down the community then I wanted to be there and try and build it up."

Read that report and see the video.



Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

yea well talk to him in 2 years see how he doing then!!!!!


Sat, Oct 22, 2011 : 10:17 p.m.

As long as he stays with positive people he and the others will be just fine! I wish him well in all he is working on.


Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

Hats off to Mr. Whitfield for showing that rehabilitation can occur for felons and former gang members. This is an excellent story. He should be a role model for other released prisoners.


Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 12:37 p.m.

"I felt I was one who created a lot of problems, so I'll be the one to solve a lot of the problems," Outstanding. This guy took responsibility for what he did, didn't blame others, society or anything else and then stepped up to make thing better. A true role model.


Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 11:59 a.m.

Very cool story. And proof that one can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. How harder could his circumstances get? Congratulations, keep up the hard work guy.


Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 11:57 a.m.

I saw the piece on the news and I am so impressed by Mr Whitfield. His is a heartwarming story of overcoming SO many obstacles. Poor parenting, life on the streets and the the cruelty and corruption that is state prison...all of it made a huge barrier to success. His sense of personal responsibility is impressive. I pray he can get support to continue his goals. The reporter last night said he was asked if he was proud of his accomplishments and he hesitated and finally said "I'm not done yet."

Paula Gardner

Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

That is a great answer to the reporter's question. Thank you for adding it to your comment so that others can see it.