Men of Purpose President on helping incarcerated men re-enter society

Brother Lewis Lee

Brother Lewis Lee never knew he was going to co-found multiple organizations which provide support to incarcerated individuals, but the journey that brought him here was not an easy one. When he was 15 years old, he was sentenced to life in prison. After multiple unsuccessful attempts of having his sentence commuted, he accepted his circumstances. “I had a conversation with God, and I said if this is where you want me to be, then I’m okay with that,” Lee said. When he was in prison, Lee became a Christian and says he found God, which helped him through this time.

In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for juveniles to be sentenced to life in prison. Pennsylvania has the largest number of individuals who were juveniles at the time they committed their crimes and later sentenced to life-without-parole. Most of these juveniles were re-sentenced after the Supreme Court ruling and were released from prison and returned back to their community. Among the 521 juvenile lifers in Pennsylvania, 325 of them were sentenced in Philadelphia.  A study done in 2020 determined that there was a recidivism rate of 1.14% among juvenile lifers in Philadelphia. 

In 2018, Lee received parole, and in 2020, 45 years into his sentence, he was released. Lee was involved in church leadership in prison, and through this, developed skills that would serve him well on the outside. In addition to being employed by the Defenders Association of Philadelphia, Lee is a founding member and President of Men of Purpose International. In his words, Men of Purpose serves to “connect the church on the outside with the church on the inside.”

When Brother Lewis was released, the world was on the brink of a complete shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the convergence of these events which inspired him to reach out to other church leaders around the country and begin forming Men of Purpose International. The organization aims to give incarcerated men access to church networks which will help them re-enter society once they’re released. Oftentimes, men who find God in prison don’t have these types of support networks on the outside, and that is what Men of Purpose wants to address.

Additionally, Lee is a founding member of LIFERS Ministry, which works to provide legal assistance to incarcerated people. Although there is no shortage of work to be done, Brother Lewis believes that it is God who enables him to accomplish the important projects in front of him.

If you or someone you know needs help with reentry, you can contact Men of Purpose at 215-990-7883.

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