By Chinta Strausberg
He made a bad decision back in 1998 and one that cost him to lose his freedom for an entire decade. Today 45-year-old, Aldolphis Cooper, has completely transformed his life and is now giving back to those who have made wrong choices in their lives.
Once embroiled in a life of armed robbery, one day Cooper just got tired of violating people for economic gain and selfish choices; so he turned himself into the police. That was the best day of his life and one that has led to the complete transformation of the lion into the lamb.
Referring to the years he robbed people, Cooper said â€œsome people say those were my worse years, but as a result, it has led to the best years of my life.â€Â Emanuel Barr, Outreach Manager, GEO Reentry Services stated, â€œMr. Cooper is a changed man.Â He works tirelessly to give back to the community.Â He volunteers regularly sharing his changes with other returning citizens in the Decatur area.â€
â€œI knew robbing people was not for me,â€ Cooper reflected. â€œI knew it was the wrong decision, and I hurt my wife and my mother. Thatâ€™s when I knew I just had to make a change,â€ said Cooper.
The father of seven girls, Cooper said he had a good childhood so he canâ€™t blame his bad boy role on his upbringing. â€œMy dad didnâ€™t stay with us, but we had a great relationship. I was raised by his grandmother and great-grandmother.â€
When asked when did he begin to go wrong in life, Cooper said, â€œI went wrong at the age of 17, hanging out with the wrong crowdâ€¦hustling. I was making money. That was the beginning of my downfall when instead of selling drugs, I began using cocaine.â€
Cooper didnâ€™t just cocaine the usual way. â€œ I used to lace it over a reefer,â€ he confessed. â€œBack then, they called it a Primo. That was my downfall.Â It made you want more and more.â€ Well, that â€œmore and moreâ€ is what got Cooper in deep trouble.
Ashamed at the pain he was causing his family, Cooper turned himself into the police and spent two-years at the county jail before going to prison for his 10-year sentence.
â€œI got myself together before I went to prison,â€ he said. While in jail, Cooper recalled, â€œI already had my mind made up that I was done doing these things.â€
When Cooper was released from prison, he was referred to the BI, Inc. now called GEO Reentry Services Center where he was able to get his birth certificate and driverâ€™s license. He was taught how to present himself on job interviews. â€œIt paid off. â€œ I got a job,â€ said a proud Cooper.
â€œBeing at that center benefited me in so many ways,â€ said Cooper. â€œTo this day, I still go back and talk to men and women going through the program. Itâ€™s my way of giving back.â€
Today, Cooper is a stocker at Family Dollar and a maintenance person for the building.
Out of prison for seven years when asked about Illinois House Bill 2510 and 3929, introduced by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-14th) which if passed would ban for-profit reentry companies from doing business with the state of Illinois, Cooper said, â€œFor people like me who want a second chance, if they pass this bill, they wonâ€™t have the opportunity I have had to receive information, love and respect.
â€œIt would be a good thing to receive adequate information when they get out. I donâ€™t care if it is for-profit or non-profit. I just want them to get the service they need to turn their lives around,â€ said Cooper.
â€œAll I want is for them is to have the services and opportunities I had so they can be as successful as I have been,â€ Cooper stated.
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.