Ex-convict's street jail teaches reality

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Michael "OG-Law" Ta'bon uses a mock jail in North Philly to lecture young people about avoiding incarceration.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Michael "OG-Law" Ta'bon uses a mock jail in North Philly to lecture young people about avoiding incarceration.
Posted: March 05, 2013

MICHAEL "OG-Law" Ta'bon was pacing back and forth in a prison cell, planning to kill himself, when he said he felt God talking to him.

"The night I was going to do it was the night that I found out God was real," Ta'bon said.

Last week, he talked about that night in state prison in Albion, Erie County, as he sat on a cot inside a makeshift jail on the grounds of the Berean Institute, in North Philadelphia.

Ta'bon compared the experience to the Biblical story of Saul being converted to Paul on the road to Damascus.

"God told me instead of killing myself, I need to take everything I've learned about jail life and take it to young people on the outside to stop them from going in."

Ta'bon, 39, now lectures, raps and confronts young people at his mock jail at Berean, on Girard Avenue near 19th. A black-and-white "police car" is parked nearby.

He said that he's been out of jail for four years after spending more than a decade of his life behind bars.

Ta'bon said he's been staying at the mock jail since Feb. 14 as part of a program called the "28 Day Prison & Death Fast." It is usually presented for the month of February. This year he plans to continue until mid-March.

This is the third year for his "jail" program. In 2011, he built a mock jail at 19th and Hunting Park Avenue. Last year, he took his message to Atlanta.

Ta'bon wears an orange prison jumpsuit for his "demonstration." Sometimes, he said, parents drag sons to his "jail" early in the morning, "just to shock them."

He said that his G-Law Movement stands for "God's Love at Work." It includes his wife, Gwen Jackson, and 6-year-old son, Lowercase g-law. One theme is "Education Over Incarceration."

In January 2008, Ta'bon's then-girlfriend, Chante Wright, 23, was killed when she returned to the city despite being placed in a witness-protection program in Florida.

Last week, Ta'bon showed a beautiful color photo of Wright, looking like a model. Then he flipped it around. There was a black-and-white morgue photo of her, blood spattered on her nose and at her neck.

"I don't want y'all to have to go through this," he told young men.

At the end, visitor Demetrius Sutton, 19, said of Ta'bon's lecture: "I think it will help people do better in life and not go down the wrong path."

The Ta'bon family video "Education Over Incarceration" is at: http://ph.ly/Tabon.


On Twitter: @ValerieRussDN

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