From prison to influential pillars of their communities. These 5 shocking stories of inmates will give you hope of life after prison and the avenues we need to take to lower our recidivism rates in the US. Their stories not only inspire, but guide us into understanding that opportunity, education and community just might be the deciding factor in breaking the prison cycle.
Hudson Link For Higher Education
Sean Pica went to prison as a 9th grade teen from New Yorker with a 24-year sentence. Pica said he had no hope of redemption for years while in prison. Pica’s life changed when he began reading children’s books to fellow inmates and teaching them how to write letters to their loved ones. He said “I witnessed how education created a flicker of joy amid the isolation’. Shortly after, he enrolled in an organization called Hudson Link and took college classes. After he was released, he went on to earn 400 credits from Nyack College and two master’s degrees from New York Theological Seminary and Hunter College. In 2007, Pica returned to lead Hudson Link as its Executive Director. Today, Hudson Link’s programs provide an education for thousands of men and women in prison. As Executive Director of Hudson link, Pica now saves New York State taxpayers over $21 million per year.
Link for more information: Hudson Link
“Education transforms hopeless situations into inspiring opportunities to lead and give back.” – Sean Pica
2. Tim Arnold
By the time Tim Arnold was 18, he had 27 convictions on his record and spent six years incarcerated in the state of Ohio. “By everyone else’s account, I was a failure’, he said in an interview”. When Arnold turned 25, someone gave him a chance despite his record and hired him full time. Arnold later went to real estate school and because of his determination, he learned the ropes quickly. In 2008, he launched Lawn Life, a nonprofit that employs formerly incarcerated young men and teaches them work ethics and business skills. Today, Lawn Life has hired over 700 at-risk youth in five different cities.
Link for more information: Lawn Life
The best person to teach the lessons you wish you were taught when you were younger is you. – Tim Arnold
3. Kenyatta Leal
The Last Mile
At the age of 22, Kenyatta Leal’s very familiar with drugs and robbery with firearms that inevitably led him to a life sentence in the San Quentin, California prison.. In prison, Leal learned about The Last Mile, which is an entrepreneurship program for inmates. Leal stated, “I was always looking for a way to channel my entrepreneurial energy and gift.” The Last Mile inspired Leal to launch Code.7370, an education program that teaches incarcerated individuals how to code. Launching this education program was in part to overcome the challenge of no internet connection but it eventually developed in a proprietary programming platform that simulates a live coding experience. Once inmates graduate, they’re invited to join TLMworks, the first web development agency to provide individuals coming out of prison with the opportunity to earn a living, professional wage.
Link for more information: The Last Mile
“Software engineers who are judged by the quality of the code they develop, not by the stigma of criminality.” — Kenyatta Leal
Miles Of Freedom
From age 19 to 34, Richard Miles spent 15 years in prison for crimes he would later be found completely innocent in. Even after he was released from prison, employers and apartments offered him nothing. When the case Miles vs. State of Texas exonerated him completely, he had one mission: to give men and women re-entering society housing, employment, and the opportunity to regain the dignity to rebuild their lives. Miles of Freedom, a Stand Together Foundation Catalyst, offers educational classes, including a three-month Job Readiness Workshop, which results in financial literacy, resume building, and placement with employers.
Link for more information: Miles of Freedom
“Empathy undergirds the drive to accomplish a huge, meaningful vision.“-
Root To Rebound
In and out of prison for 20 years, Marilyn Barnes struggled with drug addiction. With the help and guidance of Root and Rebound’s Roadmap to Reentry guide, Barnes went on to earn her master’s degree in education, authored the book From Crack to College and Vice Versa and founded a non-profit, Because Black Is Still Beautiful. Having experienced systemic problems firsthand, Barnes’ education fuels her passion to help people break free from the cycle of recidivism. She is now drug free, prosperous and guiding at risk adults through addiction and life after prison. (Image source: Rootandbound.org)
Link for more information: Root & Rebound
One of Root and Rebound’s core principles is education empowers. Knowledge breeds power and can have exponential impact.– Marilyn Barnes
Education is directly linked to becoming more prosperous after prison. This is why prison reform is so crucial. Instead of creating repeat offenders, we can help them navigate using their jail time to create a positive experience for themselves and their future. The stories above reached success through hard work, positivity and community support. Developing a way so that each inmate is aware they have the same tools at their disposal, even while in prison, just might be the catalyst to “diminishing recidivism” that we’ve been searching for.
If you know anyone who has a post prison success story, please let us know and we would be happy to share their story with our community on Prison Press.