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5 Things to Know: SAFE Home for Formerly Incarcerated Women Opens in Mint Hill

...and four more stories from April 9-15, 2023

A group of women cut the ribbon outside of the SAFE Home
Tiawana Brown (center) cuts the ribbon at the SAFE Home alongside U.S. Rep. Alma Adams and Susan Burton, founder of A New way of Life. (Photo by Samantha Council)

SAFE Home for Formerly Incarcerated Women Opens in Mint Hill

Local reentry organization Beauty After the Bars celebrated the grand opening of its first Sisterhood Alliance for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) home in Mint Hill on Thursday. Located on Lawyers Road, the new facility will welcome up to 10 women returning to the Charlotte community following their incarceration, according to a release.

“We can’t expect our system of justice to succeed when our approach begins and ends with time behind bars,” said Tiawana Brown, founder of Beauty After the Bars, in the release. “These women face immense challenges, and without a safe and supportive environment, they are at higher risk of returning to prison. This SAFE home will provide the foundation these women need to rebuild their lives, break the cycle of recidivism, and create a more just and equitable society for all.”

Born and raised in Charlotte, Brown launched Beauty After the Bars after serving four years in federal prison on fraud charges. Through her organization, she partners with Sheriff Garry McFadden’s Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office to run a reentry and mentoring program in helping lowering recidivism rates locally.

Beauty After the Bars is a member of the SAFE Housing Network, an international collective of 32 organizations dedicated to offering reentry services to formerly incarcerated people. The SAFE Housing Network works “to decarcerate the U.S. by bringing people home to stay, helping them to heal from the trauma of incarceration, and empowering them to lead in the fight to end mass incarceration,” according to the release.

A look inside the SAFE Home. (Photo courtesy of Beauty After the Bars)

Since 2018, the SAFE Housing Network has provided a model and framework for supporting formerly incarcerated individuals nationwide, having provided nearly 4,000 individuals with reentry services, housed 300 individuals, and reunited 30 parents with their children across 18 states and four countries.

The SAFE Housing Network relies on the reentry housing model employed by Los Angeles-based A New Way of Life. While recidivism rates across the country hover around 65%, A New Way of Life reports a recidivism rate of just 1% among the women currently living in its homes.

Details Emerge About Grisly Southeast Charlotte Murder

Disturbing details have emerged about a murder that reportedly took place between two neighbors in southeast Charlotte on Sunday. News of the killing broke on Sunday as CMPD announced they were investigating a homicide and had apprehended a person of interest.

Reporting from WSOC’s Hunter Saenz on Monday found that a man had allegedly beat his neighbor, 35-year-old Laura Miller, to death with some unknown weapon. The suspect, a 36-year-old man who lived in the apartment next to Miller and regularly argued with her, had reportedly been seen trying to break Miller’s door down with a baseball bat just a couple of nights before the killing and was known by other neighbors to walk around the complex with that bat.

Police found Miller’s body — which according to further reporting from Saenz and fellow WSOC reporter Joe Bruno on Wednesday had been burned, mutilated, and left with crosses surrounding it — after neighbors noticed blood dripping from the suspect’s door and filed a department-wide Be on the Lookout (BOLO) bulletin for the man and Miller’s car. Officers pulled the suspect over a short time later and arrested him. He was charged with murder, desecrating a body and auto theft.

City Launches New Mystery App at Historic Cemetery

In collaboration with Potions & Pixels, Gökotta, the Knight Foundation and Google Fiber, the city of Charlotte is launching a new interactive augmented-reality app this weekend. Our Stories CLT is a new mystery game designed by high school students where users solve mysteries behind Charlotte’s largest public cemetery.

From 10 a.m.-4 p.m. today, the public is invited to join the students of The Charlotte AR Experience camp as they share the mobile app they created at the historic Elmwood/Pinewood Cemetery in Uptown. The Our Stories CLT app leads users through the historic cemetery by showing them hidden documents that illuminate stories of Charlotte’s past while honoring residents who contributed to the community, according to a release from the city.

A prototype of the app was completed during the summer of 2021 as students toured sites throughout Charlotte to test the augmented reality features.

At the Elmwood/Pinewood cemetery, which was once segregated, students were shocked to learn that seemingly “empty” sections of the cemetery were actually areas where thousands of African Americans were buried without headstones. Inspired to right this wrong, students conducted research to help tell the stories of those individuals once forgotten, unknown or overlooked.

“At the summer camps, parents shared with us how impactful this camp was not just for their teens, but also for them,” said Rachel Stark, program manager for the city’s Smart Cities program. “From learning their own community’s history, to connecting to new career paths, to being part of shaping something that would be built for others to appreciate, parents were giving this experience an A-plus.”

Toddler Shot and Killed in Southwest Charlotte

A father was charged in the tragic shooting death of his toddler son in the Steele Creek area on Friday morning. Shortly before 11 a.m. on Friday, police responded to a shooting call on O’Hara Drive in southwest Charlotte’s Griers Fork neighborhood, where they found 3-year-old Jackson Truitt suffering from life-threatening injuries due to a gunshot wound.

Medic transported Jackson to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police at the scene took Jackson’s father, 36-year-old Richard Pruitt, in for questioning. Following an interview with Richard and a number of other family members, the father was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and failure to secure a firearm from a minor.

Miles Bridges Suspension Announced

The NBA on Friday announced that they have wrapped up their investigation into domestic violence allegations against former Charlotte Hornets star Miles Bridges stemming from an incident that occurred in June 2022. A statement from the league announced that, following an independent investigation that included interviews with the involved parties and witnesses, consultations with domestic violence experts and review of other “available materials,” Bridges would be handed down a 30-game suspension.

However, due to the fact that Bridges did not sign an NBA contract for the 2022-23 season following his arrest, missing out on 82 games, the league will only make him serve a 10-game suspension if he is to sign with a team going forward.

Hornets management has stated that they were waiting for the NBA investigation to be complete before making a decision about whether to re-sign Bridges, though the team had not commented on the situation as of Saturday morning.

Bridges was arrested in Los Angeles on charges of felony domestic violence on July 28, the day after police responded to a call about a woman who had been assaulted during a physical altercation, later found to be his wife, Mychelle Johnson. He pleaded no contest to a felony domestic violence charge on Nov. 3.

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