Edwin Eddie Ellis served 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, but he never let that get in the way of living a life of purpose.

In prison, Ellis became an advocate for prison education and, following his release, went on to have a distinguished career and helped other formerly incarcerated people find stability and success.

In 1969, Ellis was director of Community Relations for the New York City branch of the Black Panther Party when he was caught up in the FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which systematically targeted radical groups.

A year later he was convicted and sentenced for killing James Howard, a man Ellis had never met, despite there being no evidence linking him to the crime.

He was sent to Attica Prison, where he witnessed the notorious riot there in 1971.

He was then transferred to Greenhaven Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison where New York’s infamous electric chair “Old Sparky” was stationed.

At Greenhaven, Ellis and a group of men successfully lobbied to have college programs made available to inmates, and persuaded the warden to house the participants together in the same area of the prison.

A college dropout, Ellis said he was motivated by his parents to return to his studies. In prison, he earned two associate degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Marist College Greenhaven (magna cum laude) and a master’s degree from New York Theology Seminary (summa cum laude).

Leval “Positive” Chambers, who was serving time for murder, said he heard about a “good time” bill that Ellis was seeking to allow long-termers to be considered for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentences. A watered-down proposal eventually passed the state legislature.

“I got involved in this movement, and I stuck around Eddie for wisdom and knowledge,” said Chambers, who took college classes with Ellis’ support. After he release went on to serve as the president of the NAACP Brooklyn chapter and currently is a general inspector for Reliable Optics, a professional eye care service in Brooklyn.

“Eddie sees things that people don’t see and I pushed others to attend college, because Eddie pushed me,” Chambers said.

By 1992, Ellis was in a work release program at Lincoln Correctional Center in Harlem.  Two years later, he re-entered mainstream society and continued his advocacy work.

While still in prison, Ellis, Warren Harry and George Prendes set up the Prisoners Parolees Anti-Crime Organization. It eventually became the Community Justice Center and Ellis became executive director after his release. Harry and Prendes were deputy directors. The center provided housing, education opportunities funded by the state and federal government and assistance from social services programs.

In 2002, it became the Nu Leadership Public Policy Group, concentrating solely on justice and prison conditions, employing workers who earned post-graduate degrees and PhDs.

“The Director of the Center of Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, Esmeralda Simmons, was excited and located us on campus,” Ellis recalled.

In 2008, the public policy group became the Center for Nu Leadership on Urban Solutions, a criminal justice think tank, headed by center director Devin Pryor, PhD.   

Ellis has traveled the world on behalf of the center, lecturing at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, in London, South Africa and Scotland on crime and conditions in the community that keep people in poverty, and how the community produces law abiding citizens. “We look at the larger picture, both economically and socially,” Ellis said.

A former adjunct professor at Medgar Evers College, Ellis, now 70, works at home writing and researching. He lobbies state and local legislators on behalf of the unemployed, provides briefing papers to lawmakers and trains parole officers, police officers, social workers and clergymen how to deal with at-risk youth.  He also is working on a major campaign to end the practice of charging teenagers under 18 as adults.

Ellis’ raspy voice – a result of a paralyzed vocal cord – can be heard on “On the Count,” a 90-minute weekly, public affairs radio program on WBAI FM 99.5. It is the only radio talk show in the country produced by formerly incarcerated employees who have post-graduate degrees, two of them with PhDs.

Ellis, author of “The Real War on Crime,” said thousands of formerly incarcerated, educated people reshaping the world don’t get the respect they deserve because their former status continues to define them after they’ve paid their debt to society, even though research shows recidivism drops significantly for African Americans who earn a degree while imprisoned.

The former director of Metropolitan Prison Ministry at the historic Riverside Church in New York, has received a number of honors, but said he didn’t do it alone.

He was a recipient of the Citizens Lifetime Achievement Award; the Joseph L. Galiber Award from Black and Puerto Rican legislators, and recently the Human Justice Award presented by entertainer and human rights activist Harry Belafonte.  “This award was the highlight of my career, but to receive every accolade is attributed to teamwork and staff,” Ellis said.

Ellis is emphatic that there is positive life after prison, but one must be prepared with education and employment skills.

To learn more about Nu Leadership on Urban Solutions, visit www.mec.cuny.edu/.
 

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One thought on “Former Black Panther Edwin Eddie Ellis Finds Purpose After Prison

  1. I’M IN NEED OF A LEGAL TEAM… AS OIL WAS FOUND BUBBLING OUT OF MY LAKEFRONT LAND LOTS AND I CAN’T SEEM TO FIND LEGAL REPRESENTATION. THEY ANSWERED IN DEFAULT….AND I WAS TOLD BY THE STATE PROSECUTOR, THAT I HAVE CONTINGENT
    CASES BECAUSE IT ENCUMBERED MY DIVORCE/ PLEASE HELP ME—470-778-7695 POAFRACKINGPLUSVACATEOFFINAL@GMAIL
    My husband and I had back to back closings in 2006. Our First Closing was a Financed Lake Front Home with a 1st & 2nd mortgage. We then Owner Financed a combined (two build able Lakefront Land Lots) The Entire Cul-De-Sac on the Lake-(until the End of the Lake / with over an Acre on the lake) adjacent to the home we just financed, as “The Owner Financed Lakefront Land Lots”, was Our Second Closing.

    Shortly after the purchase, our neighbors next to our home informed us that 40+ Years Ago They started a Bird-Watching EAGEL-SANTUARY on the Double Lake Front Land Lots and to please, Preserve the “Over an Acre of Virgin Timber Woods That Housed Over 16-20 BALD EAGLES and Other Rare Birds” Of course we became THE BEST OF NEIGHBORS and AGREEDED TO PRESERVE THE EAGLES THEIR NEST AND SANTUARY.

    In late 2009-2010 my husband abandoned me and the Martial Properties; however, he’d already Deeded Me Ownership for the Home in 2006 and the Lake Front Land in 2008. The Property Owners Association (P.O.A), then Started Trespassing, Squatting, Conducting Adverse Possession By Prescription. Living alone then & now, I called the police numerous Times, & the Trespassing Continued, then my neighbors on the side of the Lake Front Land Lots ( With-Out Lake-Front OWNERSHIP) started collaborating with the (P.O.A) doing the same thing as I called the police on them as well. My neighbor who started the EAGEL- Sanctuary informed me of the P.O.A meetings deliberately without me (but mainly everyone else on the Block), started holding meetings to Take-Over-My Lake Front Land(and make it into a Park etc., and My Home into a Registration) because I own until the end of the Lake and the Property Owners and Time-shares Can’t Access the Lake With-Out Trespassing and they was going to start charging people to fish on the lake. Since my husband abandoned me and I could not maintain my Properties they would not Pay An Easement, to access the lake, but would take it over shortly through abandonment adversely as I am the only African American on the block. My neighbor who started the EAGEL-SANTUARY OVER 40 YEARS AGO pleaded with me to go to the “FORESTRY TO GET A GRANT TO SAVE THE TREES WHICH ARE FEDERALLY PROTECTED AS WELL AS THE EAGLES AND OTHER RARE BIRDS” but I had to explain to her that my MOTHER was now in STAGE-4 OF CANCER DYING, and I had to leave Now, but as soon as I bring my mother back, We would go together to the Forestry to get the Grant…

    Unfortunately, I could not Move My Mother she was TOO far gone with the Cancer, so I stayed with
    her for 4-5 months coming home after Burying My Mother to ” THE DESECRATION OF THE LAKE FRONT LAND AND THE HOME BROKEN INTO, ALL MY MAIL RETURNED TO SENDER, AND THE P.O.A’s MAIL IN MY MAIL-BOX AT MY HOME AND THE NEIGHBORS TOOK OVER MY MAIL-BOX TO THE LAKE FRONT LAND” (when I left their home was Valued at 78kwas NOW-198k (even though I placed A Vacation Hold Request At The Post Office. The Mail-Man Usurped It To ABANDONMENT).
    AND THE HEADQUARTERS AT POST OFFICE SAID THEY WOULD PAY RESITTUTION for their Mail- Man Illegally Usurping “MY VACATION REQUEST” to “ABANDONMENT”. I told them I needed to get an Attorney to find out my damages… (I have it on tape).

    1.) THE P.O.A DESECRATED THE LAKE FRONT LAND LOTS CHOPPING DOWN OVER AN ACRE OF VIRGIN-TIMBER-WOODS WERE EAGLES & OTHER RARE BIRDS NESTED.

    2.) THE P.O.A REZONED MY PROPERTY COMMERCIAL INDUSTRIAL.

    3.) THE P.O.A AND NEIGHBORS WITH-OUT A LAKE FRONT HOME, RE-SURVEYED MY LAKE FRONT LAND LOTS (pulling out the original pins).

    4.) THE P.O.A STOLE TOOK MY FENCE.

    5.) TOOK OVER MY MAIL-BOXES. (ADMITTED TO EVERYTHING IN THE POLICE REPORTS) JUST LOST A CLASS-ACTION LAW SUIT FOR THEIF
    OF PROPERTY, TIMESHARES AND HARRASSMENT.

    THIS ENCUMBERED MY MORTGAGE & DIVORCE AS THE MORTGAGE WAS CONTACTED BY THE P.O.A & THEY TOLD THEM THEY OWNED THE LAKE FRONT LAND LOTS & MY HOME SINCE I HAD ABANDONED BOTH PROPERTIES. I HAD RECEIVED THE P.O.A & MY MTG. COMPANY LETTER ADDRESSED TO THE P.O.A & MYSELF FOR FORECLOSURE. & THE MTG. COMPANY RAN BOTH PARCELS TOGETHER, WHICH CREATED AN “”ILLEGAL ASSEMBLAGE”” & THEY WERE FORECLOSING ON BOTH (EVEN THOUGH THE LAND WAS OWNER-FINANCED & IS A SEPARATE PARCEL ADDRESS, ID- DESCRIPTION, ETC.,) THEY PUT THE SECOND(2nd) NOTE AS THE OWNERSHIP OF THE LAKEFRONT LAND LOTS AT 60k AND THE HOME AS THE FIRST(1st) NOTE AT 232k. I THEN SUED THE MTG. COMPANY THEY FORGAVE THE DEBT IN NOV. 2014 AND FILED THE “”CANCELLATION – OF – DEED”” ONLY TO ATTEMPT TO FORECLOSE FOUR(4) WEEKS LATER IN DEC.2014, A CHURCH ATTORNEY CONFERENCED THE CALL TO THE MTG.ATTNY WITH ME ON THE LINE AND THE ATTORNEYS APOLOGIZED FOR ATTEMPTING TO FORECLOSE ON A CANCELLATION OF DEED AND STILL INCLUDE THE LAKE FRONT LAND LOTS, THEY SAID THEY WOULD TAKE IT OUT OF THEIR SYSTEM “”INDEFINITELY””NEVER TO FORECLOSE AGAIN, ONLY TO WAIT- 4-5MONTHS LATER AND FORECLOSED STATING:

    ((THEY MADE ANOTHER MISTAKE AND “CANCELLED THE DEED FOR ONLY THE 2nd NOTE BUT WERE NOW- FORECLOSING ON THE 1st NOTE BECAUSE IT WAS IN-FACT 4-MONTHS BEHIND.
    THE MTG. COMPANY ATTORNEYS DID-NOT RECOGNIZE THEIR ILLEGAL ASSEMBLAGE (still including my OWNER-FINANCED / FREE & CLEAR lake front land lots) MY BANKRUPTCY FILING A DAY FILED BEFORETHEIR FORECLOSURE OR MY ACTIVE LAW – SUIT FOR THEIR ILLEGAL ASSEMBLAGE AND PREDATORY LENDING PRACTICES, ETC., OR THERE FAILURE TO (as I have on recorder) PROVIDE 1% OF THE DURATION OF THE LOAN, SINCE THE LOAN HAD SANCTIONS WRITTEN AGAINST IT ALREADY ON A MILITARY SOLIDER AT 9-10%. THEY FORECLOSED ANYWAY MAY 05, 2015..)) AND WYNDHAM RESORT HAD JUST LOST A CLASS ACTION LAW SUIT FOR THEIF OF PROPERTIES, TIMESHARES AND HARRASSMENT. TAKING TO THE SENIOR PARTNER, HE TOLD ME THAT I WAS 2MONTHS TO LATE THEY’RE SETTLING.
    MY HUSBAND WHO LATER FILED DIVORCE A FEW MONTHS BEFORE I FILED MY LAW SUIT WAS “ORDERED” TO PAY THE HOUSE NOTE TO CURRENT (from abandoning me) MAKING SURE THE HOME DID-NOT GO INTO FORECLOUSURE–P.O.A DUES, MY ATTORNEY’S FEE’S AND MAKE APPOINMENT TO IMMEDIATELY RESTORE / RE-INSTATE MY MILITARY BENEFITS THAT HE WAS FOUND GUILTY OF DIVERTING TO HIS EX-WIFE (girl-friend) FRAUDULENTLY. HE AGREEDED BUT NEVER COMPLIED & WAS ARRESTED NEVER RESTORIING (&/OR) RE-INSTATING MY FEDERAL MILITARY BENEFITS ETC . *INSTEAD HE JUST PAID MY ATTORNEYS FEES* THEN MY ATTONEYS ASSISTED HIM IN GETTING OUT OF JAIL WITHOUT PURGING HIMSELF or BEING INCOME-DEDUCTED, AS THEY STATED HE WOULD BE. MY HUSBAND FIRED HIS ATTORNEY WHILE IN JAIL & HIRED MY ATTORNEY COUSIN ALSO, WHILE IN JAIL. WHILE MAKING OVER $16k MNLY IN RETIREMENT. I RECEIVE $160.00 DOLLARS MNLY WITHOUT “NO-RESTORATION OF MY DIVERTED BENEFITS” THE 2 JR.JUDGE THREW OUT THE “SENIOR – JUDGES-ORDER-BASED-FRAUD”. Message phone line 404-319-9548.- Cell Phone 470-778-7695

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