PCAP instructor takes the lead at a nonprofit that fosters community support for returning citizens

Cozine Welch is now Executive Director at A Brighter Way
by Fernanda Pires

ANN ARBOR—When asked about the newest chapter in his life, PCAP instructor and now A Brighter Way Executive Director Cozine Welch found a perfect word: transitions. 

"One thing I love about physics (nerd alert!) is the required acceptance of change and transitions that is necessary in understanding the ever active dynamics of our physical world," Welch said. "But also, in seeming contradiction, there is the fact of stability that is present."

For Welch, this fluid yet secure consistency is a helpful framework when looking at his personal transition from multiple roles at PCAP to Executive Director at A Brighter Way.

"It is a transition, to be sure! It is different and exciting in both welcomed and worrying ways. Still, at the root of it all, the dynamics are the same: using what you have to share with other folks so that they may have, as well."

Welch started working for PCAP in 2017, after being released from prison, serving a 19-year-and-nine-month sentence. He was the Managing Editor for the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, and co-instructed two U-M classes related to restorative justice in prisons. He also ran a re-entry workshop for newly-released prisoners on digital literacy and was involved in many other PCAP activities. Welch will continue teaching with PCAP in 2020-2021 thanks to fundraising efforts by Shaka Senghor's Redeemed Sole project and a generous gift from Median Foundation.

"Cozine is an incredible mentor to Michigan students and formerly incarcerated people," said Ashley Lucas, Principal Investigator of the Documenting Criminalization and Confinement (DCC) research initiative and Welch’s co-instructor. "He has been one of the founding members of the DCC research team and a student in UROP [Undergraduate Research Opportunity Project] on our campus."

"I am perpetually amazed at all he does and have great admiration for his life and work. On top of it all, he is an utterly delightful human being, bringing great joy into my life and all of the spaces in which we collaborate," said Lucas. 

Welch is the most published writer in the history of The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing. His work was included in nine out of the 10 yearly issues published during his incarceration.

"One thing I admire about Cozine's leadership is how he inspires people to build a vision together," said Vanessa Mayesky, PCAP's Associate Director. "From day one as Managing Editor, he said he wanted to reach a bigger audience for PCAP's incarcerated writers. This vision expanded and evolved as he invited editing team volunteers, community partners, and the writers themselves into the conversation. Cozine was wildly successful in reaching new local audiences in bookstores and community events and sharing work with the world through social media. I think inviting others to build the dream with him was a key to his success."

This February, Welch was hired as Executive Director of A Brighter Way in Ann Arbor. The nonprofit was founded by a group of friends with first-hand experience dealing with the roadblocks facing those returning home from prison. Since 2015, the organization has provided mentoring and other supportive services to formerly incarcerated people and their family members across Washtenaw county.

“I realized that my personal history is a part of what forged the path for me to make communication and connection with people so we can resolve the issue as much as we can,” Welch said.

"And make no mistake: I’m away, but not gone. Even now as ED of A Brighter Way, I’m making sure we partner with PCAP on projects that keep us and our dynamic in assisting each other and, in turn, assisting others, alive and active."


Tags: Prison Creative Arts Project