Life After Prison: Success Stories — Kenneth M.
This story of change isn’t for me to keep, it’s to give it away. People need to hear it, my brothers and sisters need to hear it: if he can do it, I can do it. And they do.”
Kenneth M. was released from prison in February of 2019, after nearly a quarter of a century inside. This is his story:
I’ve been gone 22 years. This past Christmas was the first one I’ve gotten to spend with family in 22 years…since I was only 17 years old. I’m what you would call a former lifer — someone who was sentenced to a lifetime in prison, but was released and is now back in the world. Before I was even a legal adult, I was convicted and given 19–22 years inside. And after spending that long in prison, I am grateful to be out here.
But here’s the thing about life after prison. It can be tough out here. The new technology, the amount of people, the checklist: state identification, a bank account, a job, a place to live…and doing it all at once for the very first time.
“Success after prison was really about finding my place in society. It was about finding my purpose. And truthfully, it’s about accomplishing things I never thought I would have been able to accomplish.”
For people who have spent their life in prison, it can seem like we don’t have a lot to look forward to when we get out. But we do. We have people that look out for us — people that know us, people that know our background, people that have done time themselves. We look out for each other.
Because the thing is, we do have opportunities — like the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), or 70 Million Jobs. The opportunities are there…but it takes the individual to step up and grab hold of them. CEO has given me a platform, but it took my own initiative to go out and apply to jobs — to get out there and take advantage of the opportunities that exist. And that’s what I did.
I have a car, I have a job, I have my first bank account. I’m walking around with my California License and ID card for the first time. To obtain these things that I’ve never had before…it may seem simple, but it’s really good for me. I’m happy knowing that I have a bank account, that if I want something I can go buy it. And I don’t have to do bad things to get it.
Like the souls that were out here doing the right thing the whole time, now I understand the responsibility.
See, success after prison was really about finding my place in society. It was about finding my purpose. Truthfully, it’s about accomplishing things I never thought I would have been able to accomplish.
For example, now I can give back. Like the souls that were out here doing the right thing the whole time, now I understand the responsibility. So I step out of my comfort zone to be able to do things of substance for my community — talking to people, sharing my story — all for the people out there.
This story of change isn’t for me to keep, it’s to give it away. People need to hear it, my brothers and sisters need to hear it: if he can do it, I can do it. And they do.
What CEO and 70 Million Jobs are doing — it’s highly appreciated by those who feel they have no hope. I know that you guys care, that you’re here to restore that hope. The hope to be able to get your life back on track. I appreciate you guys so much — you are the foundation for me to able to do these things. And I’m still pushing forward. In that process, I’m pushing other guys away from old lifestyles, and into the help that exists out there. Into programs, support, and good jobs. There is hope! You just got to own it. So that’s what I do — I reach out, to let them know there are opportunities out there.
See, you can’t understand the dark if you’ve been in light all your life, and on the other side, you can’t understand the light if you’ve been in darkness your whole life. You need to see something real happen in order to understand the other side. But when you do see the other side, you have hope. Perhaps for the first time. You learn that you want something better for yourself, because it’s real to you now. You think to yourself, “This can’t be it for me.” And organizations like yours, they’re the foundation for this kind of hope.
With this hope, I changed. And this story of change isn’t for me to keep, it’s to give it away. People need to hear it, my brothers and sisters need to hear it: if he can do it, I can do it. And they do.
Thank you to the Center for Employment Opportunities for connecting us with Kenneth. And our sincerest gratitude for Kenneth for sharing his story with us.
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