Community searches for answers as violence escalates

caines | 10/11/2012, 5:30 a.m.

The revolving door of prison

Matthew Howard, 42, is an optimistic businessman that has teamed up with his fiancee, Charlene, to sell affordable womens clothing at M&C Fashions in the Village Flea Market on NW 27th Avenue. But hes been in prison twice most recently for 17 years and 10 months after being convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine base [he was released last March]. The Liberty City native points to his fathers death when he was 12 as the moment that his life began to spiral out of control. Two other brothers would go to jail first before he too was locked up. Im the youngest of five and dealt poorly with one brothers death in 1980 and my dads death in 1982, he said. Mom did her best, everything she could, but she wasnt a man and I needed a man in my life. I did petty crimes, like stealing cars, and dropped out of of Miramar High so I could run the streets with my boys. But my heart was never really in it. But it took time in federal prison to convict my spirit and to make me realize that if I didnt change, Id never be free. He earned his GED behind bars and since his release has made it a point to engage young men in frank conversation. They think going to the fed is sweet I tell them the hard truth, he said. Extortion, rape and murder is what theyll face behind bars. The hardest thing for me is that my only son, 20, is now in prison. Thank God he isnt facing a 30-year sentence like I did. But I cant help but believe that if I had been there for him, he wouldnt be locked up now. Ive gotta show him theres a better way. He has a short sentence so hell be home soon. Maybe this will show him the light. If not, I sure plan to. Part one of a two-part series. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com