People are all different; no one has the exact same thoughts or actions and we all make mistakes. Unfortunately, even when if it may not be intended, some mistakes people make can be damaging, even harmful to themselves or others and potentially result in prison time. Although most prison systems have some program in place designed to prepare ex-convicts for life outside of prison, trying to re-establish yourself in a community after serving time in prison or jail can be challenging. So challenging in fact that studies have shown that about 2/3 of those who are released from prison will return for either parole violations or new offenses merely because they are not adequately prepared to regain their place in society. With the stigma attached to ex-convicts, the difficulties in finding employment and the loss of confidence many ex-cons have upon release from prison, leading a healthy, successful life may seem impossible. But, the following four ex-cons prove that it is possible to turn it all around for the better.
Before becoming one of the most influential chefs in the country, celebrity chef, Jeff Henderson, served ten years in prison for dealing and manufacturing cocaine. At the age of 24, Henderson was arrested and charged with conspiracy with the intent to distribute drugs. He served the majority of his sentence in the Terminal Island Federal Prison in Los Angeles. It was during his time as a kitchen cook in prison that he found his calling. After being released early for good behavior, Henderson worked as a chef in Los Angeles before he moved to Las Vegas where he landed a job at Caesar’s Palace. Jeff Henderson is now an influential chef who has won a variety of awards, including the “Best Las Vegas Chef.” He also works with at-risk youth, is a highly sought after public and motivational speaker and an award-winning author.
Tim Allen, well known for his role as “Tim the Toolman Taylor,” has starred, co-starred and directed a wide variety of television shows and films, including the “Santa Claus” movie series. He is also known for his voice-over role as Buzz Lightyear in the popular “Toy Story” movies. However, before becoming a celebrity, Allen was arrested in the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport for possession of cocaine (he was in possession of 650 grams). Facing the possibility of life in prison, in exchange for a lesser sentence, he pled guilty to drug trafficking charges and provided the names of other drug dealers. He was given a sentence of three to seven years and was released on parole in 1981 after severing two years and four months.
Frank William Abagnale
Frank William Abagnale whose life was the subject of the popular film “Catch Me If You Can” began his career as a “conman” at the age of 16. As a teenager, he committed a variety of “petty crimes,” such as shoplifting, burglary and credit card theft. After leaving home at 16, he altered his driver’s license in attempts to get jobs, but still struggled to make ends meet and soon began writing bad checks and overdrawing his own account. He realized he would be caught, so he went into hiding and started impersonating professionals in order to cash bad checks. During this time he pretended to be an airline pilot, a doctor, a lawyer and a college professor, during which time he wrote $2.5 million in fraudulent checks. He was eventually caught at the age of 21 when an ex-girlfriend recognized his face on a wanted poster and turned him into the authorities. He served time in prison in France, Sweden and the United States for his crimes. After being released, he was hired by the FBI as a consultant and eventually started his own agency that educates government organizations, corporations and financial institutions on how to detect and handle fraud.
Frederick Hutson served a 51-month prison sentence for the crime of drug distribution and trafficking. During his time in prison, he was housed in eight different facilities, which made it difficult to receive pictures and mail from friends and loved ones. Once he was released from prison, he founded a company known as Pigeonly, which helps those incarcerated connect with their loved ones while they are behind bars. Since his first project was launched in 2012, Hutson has followed up with another service known as Telepigeon, which lowers the cost of prison phone calls by providing those on the outside with a local phone number to prisons. This allows them to talk to their incarcerated loved ones at a significantly discounted cost than it would otherwise cost.
The moral of this story is, no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, some are worse than others, but they are mistakes nonetheless. Regardless of the reason for incarceration, it is possible to turn your life around before and after your release from prison. The above ex-cons are only a few examples of how it is never too late to improve and expand your life.
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