People may be surprised that the lovable and hardworking co-owner of Sweetie Pies spent 10 years in prison. But, at the age of 17 he was locked up and spent most of his young life behind bars. So, when I wanted to find out more about the issues with prison reform and the difficulties ex-cons face, Tim Norman was the perfect person to ask! Tim and his mother Miss Robbie Montgomery, are known for employing ex-cons in their family owned and operated restaurants. Not only because he identifies with the situation, but because he realizes that it’s nearly impossible to find a good job once you’re known as a convicted criminal. And the problem our society faces daily is, how are former prisoners supposed to be expected to lead productive lives, if they can’t find jobs and have not been taught how to transition back into everyday life?
Ex-Cons are often considered second class citizens. Their voting rights are revoked and their opinions are not valued. Tim addressed how he felt about protestors rioting and creating sometimes violent situations in order to get their message across to authorities. He believes you should allow your voice to be heard in a safe and productive way in order to avoid jail and hurting yourself or anyone else.
“You hurt yourself by getting yourself locked up because once you’re in jail or in the system, everything you have to say, they don’t have to listen no more. I don’t want to say you’re giving them what they want, but once you cross that line, your message is muffled because you’re behind bars. And even once you’re released, your message is muffled because there’s an x on your back. You can’t get a job in most instances. You’re putting yourself in a bad situation. So, say your message, say it loud but don’t get yourself in trouble by the rules that they have set.”
How do you feel about the current status of prison reform?
“One thing people don’t realize and this may sound like a crazy statement, but prison is easy. Prison is easy for a person to live in because you don’t have any real responsibilities. You’re taking a young person, and putting him in a situation where if he wants to he can play cards, play chess, lift weights, go to the library. He does a lot of leisurely things and he’s not doing anything to grow. He has no bills, he doesn’t have to work a job, he doesn’t have to take care of a woman or his child, so he has no responsibilities. You take a person and put them in that situation for a certain amount of time and then you release him and now he has all of these stresses. He has pay bills, he has to pay rent, he has to find a job, he gets a girlfriend he has to take her out to dinner. And he can’t get a job, you got a kid you have to take care of and you’re not prepared. You’ve been sitting in a box for 5, 6, 7,8, 9, 10 years chilling and then you’re released with expectations to hop right back into the swing of things and be productive. It’s not realistic. How can you rehabilitate someone that’s never been [taught]. I was 17 when I got locked up. I was working at McDonald s, I had a little job. But, most of the guys have never worked a job before or any real responsibilities. You put them in for 10 years and he never learned how to live life to begin with! A lot of changes need to be made.”
“I would like for us to be the first African American owned and operated franchise.”
At the rate they are going, I believe it can happen!
Be sure to watch Welcome to Sweetie Pies every Saturday night on OWN!
Tim also shared with me the story of how he started the ‘Welcome to Sweetie Pies,’ television series. Watch it on my youtube channel and Subscribe!