After a short, but intense discussion, the East Palo Alto City Council voted to rename the Re-entry Day Reporting Center after the late David Lewis, a community activist who was murdered in June 2010. The unanimous vote, approving the renaming, was cast by the five-member council during its meeting on July 18.
The center, which will now be called the David Lewis Reporting Center, enables prison parolees to transition from life in prison to a life of being a productive citizen outside of prison. The renaming of the center, which is located at 2277 University Avenue in East Palo Alto, was done to honor Lewis, who was himself, a former prisoner.
Having gone through the prison system himself, Lewis understood first-hand the difficulties that many ex-parolees had upon their release from prison. When he returned to East Palo Alto, after his last incarceration, Lewis dedicated his life to helping newly-released prisoners.
Lewis was the primary architect of East Palo Alto’s prisoner re-entry program, which was established in 2007 after the murder of police officer Richard May. May, who was shot to death in East Palo Alto, while investigating a disturbance at a local store, was killed by newly-released parolee Alberto Alvarez.
In a television interview on the Talking with Henrietta show in September 2007, where he appeared with Ron Davis, who was then East Palo Alto's chief of police, Lewis said that he could not help but think how May’s murder might have been avoided, if Alvarez could have had the type of assistance which the day reporting center offers.
Currently, the reporting center provides the parolees who participate in the program, access to various services, such as residential/transitional housing, employment assistance, anger management and many more services, to assist in their transition from prison life to independent living.
Since its inception, East Palo Alto’s prisoner re-entry program has become a model for other similar programs across the country.
During the July 18 council meeting, Robert Hoover, the director of the Re-entry Day Reporting Center said, "It is important that we as a community honor the people who have contributed so much as this man did and I hope ...that it's not just us putting a name on a building or naming a program but that we are looking to build something that will carry his legacy into the future as a part of what we do as we move foward in this community."
Those who spoke at the council meeting were aware that in the course of his work, Lewis traveled to countries as far away as Africa to lecture and he was perceived as a role model for over 20 years, even before the re-entry program was established. He also worked with local nonprofits, law enforcement and social service agencies to make his city and the surrounding community a safer place.
In, also, advocating that the center be named after Lewis, Davis who is now East Palo Alto’s interim city manager, said that it was his honor to call Lewis his mentor and friend. In a document that was presented to the East Palo Alto City Council for its review, Davis said that it was because of Lewis’ leadership and persuasiveness that he embraced and valued the concepts of reentry as a viable public safety strategy.
Lewis’ accused killer, Gregory Elarms, was arrested six months after Lewis was murdered. Shortly after his arrest, Elarms was judged incompetent to stand trial. This past May, after a year of treatment, Elarms was judged competent to stand trial and is currently in custody awaiting trial.
Karen Zamel and Henrietta J. Burroughs contributed to the above article.
For more background information on this article, click on the links below:
Suspected murderer Gregory Elarms pleads not guilty
David Lewis’ alleged murderer could get maximum penalty
San Mateo Police: Making an arrest for murder
Suspect arrested for the murder of David Lewis