VIDEO: Out of prison, he wants to give back to his community ‘in the best way’

Arnold Julien stands with his colleague at the One Northside office.

By Amina Ismail

After spending nearly a decade going in and out of prison, Arnold Julien, 47, decided to change his life. He joined One Northside, a non-profit that works on neighborhood equality and social-justice related issues. Julien’s focus is on preventing violence in the very same neighborhoods where he grew up.

“I felt that I was definitely part of the problem that was being displayed in the communities, so I thought I would fit in best in that part,” Julien said.

Raised on the South Side of Chicago, Julien’s family life was unstable at best. His father, a drug user and alcoholic, used to beat him a lot

“My father jumped on me when I was in 8th grade and beat me up as if I was somebody on the street,” he said.

Julien doesn’t blame his childhood for his crimes. Instead, he takes responsibility for a lifetime of poor decisions.

“I can’t say it is the environment because me and my sister come from the same environment and we are different in that aspect like night and day,” he said.

Julien was freed from prison in January of 2014 and has been unable to land a job.

“It is a feeling like no other,” Julien said. “It literally hurts.”

With nowhere else to go, he turned to One Northside.

“I feel that those are my people,” he said. “We all go through the same things mentally and emotionally so I felt that I can be an individual who can help individuals.”

 Julien still has hope of someday finding work. In the meantime, he gives back to his community in the best way he can, by sharing his life and the mistakes he’s made with young men and women at risk.

Photo at top: Arnold Julien, left, stands with a colleague at the One Northside office. (Amina Ismail/Medill)