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Photo credit: M.A.D.E. Institute

At-Risk Youth and ‘Returning Citizens’ Supported by MADE

M.A.D.E. institute helps boost at-risk youth and those re-entering society after prison by instilling life and job skills through a variety of programs. Photo credit: M.A.D.E. Institute


A hand up — not a handout.

That’s the philosophy behind Leon EL-Alamin’s M.A.D.E. Institute. Launched in 2015, the nonprofit organization provides an alternative to prison, with several programs aimed at providing disenfranchised people with the skills they need to help them succeed.

M.A.D.E. stands for money, attitude, direction, and education – tools prisoners need upon release from their sentences. El-Alamin understands these needs firsthand. He’s a former felon and his facial scars speak of the hard and fast life he used to live. The Institute’s outreach director (and board member) Tim Abdul-Matin was also once a M.A.D.E. Institute client, meaning the organization is helmed by people that have walked the walk; they know exactly what their clients need because they’ve been in their shoes.

M.A.D.E. programming is about more than getting a job. It’s focuses on life skills, anger management, housing, reintegration, and learning to live a life that is unlikely to back to the prison system. Clients are connected with resources in their communities to promote long-term success. The program also intertwines these skills with education and training in jobs related to eco-friendliness and sustainability.

The current M.A.D.E. programming includes:

  • Housing and housing support for former inmates, at-risk youth, and those fleeing violence. A transitional housing project seeks to convert vandalized, vacant and foreclosed properties into green, safe and vibrant housing.
  • Civil and humans rights advocacy for former inmates, along with personal development strategies.
  • Green trade skills and on-the-job training for real-world experience. The M.A.D.E. Green Collar Economy program focuses on jobs that include installation of solar panels, solar water heaters, organic agriculture, building upgrade/retrofits, wind power, etc.
  • Re-entry care packages that include the little things many take for granted such as items for dental hygiene, soap, razors, undergarments, pillows, wallets, pens and paper, briefcases for interviews, watches and more.
  • Entrepreneur training to promote continued self-guided learning with weekly meetings to learn from successful business people, students, and professors.

“We are about solving problems. We are agents of change. That’s why we are here,” says El-Alamin, whose big-picture approach envisions a future that is more tolerant of all citizens, along with being greener and more sustainable.

Things do need to change. On a global level the effect of consumerism and years of not living green has, according to NASA, shrunk glaciers, shifted plant and animal ranges, accelerated the rise of the sea levels and created intense heat waves.

In prisons, black women represent 30 percent of incarcerated females, but only 13 percent the non-incarcerated population. Hispanic women represent 16 percent of the incarcerated population, but just 11 percent of the general population. One in every three black men can expect to go to prison, compared to one for every six white males. Clearly, the current system is neither sustainable nor fair.

M.A.D.E. aims to tackle two of the most pressing issues in the U.S. with a sweeping mandate: a cleaner and greener world, and better chance at life for disenfranchised people, either before or after prison. It’s a lofty goal, but as with any change, it happens one person, one step, and one program at time.

Christopher Zoukis is the author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons, (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Co., 2014). He regularly contributes to The Huffington PostNew York Daily News, and Prison Legal News. He can be found online at and

About Christopher Zoukis

Christopher Zoukis, a writer currently incarcerated at FCC Petersburg (Medium), is an impassioned and active prison education advocate, a legal commentator, and a prolific writer of books, book reviews, and prison law articles. While living in federal prison at various security levels, retaliations for his activism have earned him long stretches in solitary, or "the hole." While in prison, he has earned numerous academic, legal, and ministerial credentials. Christopher is very knowledgeable about prison-related legal issues, prison policy, federal regulations, and case law. He is the author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014) and thePrison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing, 2016).The Federal Prison Handbook is an IndieReader Discovery Awards winner. A regularly featured contributing writer for The Huffington Post and Prison Legal News, the nation's most prominent prison law publication, Christopher has enjoyed significant media exposure through appearances with the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch,,, In These Times, The Jeff McArthur Show, The Simi Sara Show,, 88.9 WERS' award-winning "You Are Here" radio segment, and The Examiner. Other articles and book reviews appeared in The New York Journal of Books, the Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, Midwest Book Review, Basil and Spice, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, AND Magazine,, Rain Taxi, and the Education Behind Bars Newsletter, with content syndicated by the Associated Press, Google News, and Yahoo News. He established three websites:,, and, and was a former editor of the Education Behind Bars Newsletter. In 2011, his fiction won two PEN American Center Prison Writing Awards for a screenplay and a short story. He taught a popular course on writing and publishing to over 100 fellow prisoners. Today Christopher is successfully working on a Bachelor's Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Business/Law) from Adams State University. Following his 2016 graduation, he plans on attending Adams State University's MBA program. He regularly advises fellow prisoners and prison consultants about legal issues and federal regulations governing the Federal Bureau of Prisons operations. Upon release he plans to attend law school and become a federal criminal defense attorney. Christopher will not allow incarceration to waste his years or halt the progress of his life. He began his prison terms as a confused kid who made poor decisions but is today determined to create a better life. "We can't let the past define us," he says. "We have to do something today to make tomorrow what we want it to be."

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