An Open Letter from members of the Prep for Prep community in support of Colinford Mattis (P9 XV)

An Open Letter from members of the Prep for Prep community:

We, alumni of Prep for Prep and members of its broader community, write to support Colinford King Mattis III (Prep 9, XV), who is currently being held in a federal detention facility, facing a forty-five-year mandatory minimum sentence and up to life in prison for allegedly causing damage by fire to an empty New York Police Department cruiser in the course of protests in Brooklyn, NY on May 30, 2020. Protests erupt in cities and towns across the United States in response to the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and countless other Black people at the hands of law enforcement.

The federal prosecution brought against Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman, with whom he was arrested, is an attempt to quell the global protests advocating for Black lives and demanding sweeping changes to the U.S. criminal justice system. These protests reflect a deep need for our criminal justice system to accord Black lives the same value, dignity, and fullness of rights afforded to others. We should value life above property and confront the sad fact that the U.S. comprises only 5% of the world’s population, yet incarcerates 25% of the world’s prisoners, of which Black people are disproportionately represented. Fifty-six experienced former federal prosecutors have filed an amicus brief to decry the willful and unjustifiable disregard of the law concerning risk factors that contribute favorably to the case for Colinford’s pretrial release. These disregarded factors include his lack of prior criminal history, his strong ties to his three children, his four siblings and community, and his stable record of employment among other factors recognized under law. We join their voices as well as the voices of members of the St. Andrew’s community, alumni of Princeton, and over 650 NYU Law School current and former students, who have all provided open letters in support of Colinford and his family.

Colinford is a beloved member of our Prep for Prep community, a cherished brother, friend, adoptive parent to two children, and a foster parent to a child, all under the age of 11. We stand by Colinford in the fullness of his character and humanity, and we call for the full protection of his rights. He exemplifies much of what Prep for Prep espouses to be its mission — to develop transformational leaders that will change the shape of our society. Growing up as a first-generation Jamaican-American in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, Colinford was a public school student eager for better opportunities; as a member of Prep 9’s Contingent XV, he found them.

After completing the preparatory component, Colinford joined the ranks of seventy-one other alumni (to date) to enroll at the St. Andrew’s School in Delaware. There, he emerged as a leader joining the football team and mentoring younger Prep students through the challenges they faced in the transition to boarding school. During high school, he spent his summers at Prep, serving as an advisor to the students in the preparatory component and shepherding the new generations of Prep scholars, as a role model.

From St. Andrew’s, he went on to Princeton University. There, Colinford stepped into positions of even greater leadership and responsibility. He served as the President of the Black Student Union and the Co-Chair to Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity and encouraged others to join and collaborate toward a common goal. He played rugby and completed his senior thesis on the effects of cultural capital forms on immigrant entrepreneurship. Upon graduation and in-line with his character of service, Colinford continued his support of youth in under-served communities by becoming a teacher. Just five years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans with little relief from the federal government, Colinford became a middle school Math and Science public school teacher there. Colinford not only achieved class averages of 20% and 26% growth in standardized testing scores during first and second year, he also coached a middle school football team to a 5–1 regular season record. In the same period, he created a matching, algorithm-based student mentorship program named MentorNOLA. At every turn, he helped those who needed a hand coming out of their shells of shyness and insecurity with his gracious and considerate temperament.

After his time as a teacher, Colinford went on to study at NYU Law. As a law student, Colinford was recognized by numerous scholarships, served as the Political Action Chair of the Black Allied Law Student Association, and participated in the Family Defense Clinic. After graduating, he was recognized by Her Justice for his outstanding pro bono advocacy for low income women. He first worked as an Associate at Holland & Knight, and then joined Pryor Cashman LLP, another New York City based law firm.

Today, Colinford is the primary caregiver of three foster siblings, each of whom his mother was in the process of adopting before she passed last year. He moved back to East New York to step into the large shoes his mother left behind. Colinford’s kindness, generosity, selflessness, and cheer make a difference in the lives of those who are part of his community.

We, the undersigned, have been encouraged to witness the outpouring of support from the alumni bodies of every educational community of which Colinford has been a part, from friends and colleagues and teachers and strangers near and far. As part of one of Colinford’s longest-standing networks, we stand in solidarity with him and we urge the federal government to reconsider these charges which carry mandatory minimum sentences of forty-five years. We cannot allow the federal government, in the abuse of its power, to attempt to make an example out of Colinford through draconian charges that far outweigh the alleged conduct.

We thank those who have helped and appreciate those who will help in the coming weeks and months. Colinford and his family have a long road ahead. Our hearts and prayers are with them.

With love and hope,

Prep for Prep Community

If you are able, please consider making a donation to Colin’s fundraiser which may be found here: http://bit.ly/colinfund and please remain apprised of his journey by following the links contained here: https://linktr.ee/colinmattis_is and by following: @colinmattis_is on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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