By David Betancourt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The anti-violence group Peaceoholics said yesterday that it will send volunteer ex-offenders to the Anacostia and Minnesota Avenue Metro stations a couple of times a week because of altercations among youths on their way home from school or nightclubs.
"We can't rely on [D.C. police] or the city to deal with these problems," said Keith Johnson, program manager for Peaceoholics.
Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said the transit agency was taking a neutral stance. The volunteers "can come in and do their thing, but they can't impede any Metro rules," she said. The volunteers do not have police powers, she said.
In the past, groups such as the Guardian Angels have offered to help keep the peace on buses, and Metro's policy allows that sort of activity as long as it does not interfere with customers or Metro employees.
Peaceoholics praised Metro for hiring ex-offenders and encouraged it to continue the practice. Metro officials said recently that they were in the process of tightening hiring standards after two incidents in which Metrobus drivers were allegedly involved in crimes. One of those drivers had a record of violent felony offenses, including one in which a man was killed.
"We first want to thank Metro for hiring returned citizens," Richard Moten, co-founder of Peaceoholics, said yesterday at a news conference at the Anacostia Metro station in Southeast Washington. "A lot of these people were not given opportunities in the past. And a lot of [them] do jobs that others wouldn't do."
Moten said "returned citizens" -- a term used by Peaceoholics in place of "ex-offenders" -- are better able than most people to defuse a negative situation involving young riders.
When asked why he did not use the term "ex-offender," Moten said: "We've never heard Martha Stewart called an ex-offender. It's a negative stigma. When people come out [of jail], they need a fresh start."
According to Moten, 78 percent of the people involved with Peaceoholics are ex-offenders. "If we fired people because they did something wrong in the past, we wouldn't exist."
Peaceoholics will send four volunteers to the Anacostia and Minnesota Avenue Metro stations twice a week, Monday and Friday, for at least two hours a day.
Staff reporter Lena Sun contributed to this report.