There is simply no denying that life is tough. This is especially true for those individuals coming out of the correctional system. Not only will you face hurdles and obstacles in your everyday life, but you are going to face them in the real world as well. Of course, people are going to look at you differently, act differently towards you, and treat you different when they discover that you are a felon. This doesn’t mean that you have to let the name define you! A number of individuals have come back from the brink of disaster. Not only did they come back, but they surpassed the expectations of those around them.
1. Daniel Manville
It really is harder to find a bigger success story than Daniel Manville. This is a man that was once serving time behind bars for manslaughter. While he only managed to serve three years and four months, there was a lot he did with his time there. First, he began studying legal professions. This was right about the time that he earned two college degrees, and after he got out of prison he went to graduate from law school. Today he is a professor at Michigan State University of Law and director of the MSU Civil Rights Clinic. With the experiences and injustices he saw during his time in prison, his goal now is to serve inmates in their legal battles as well as to improve the deficiencies of the correctional system. Besides, he helped improve re-entry and rehabilitation programs for former prisoners.
2. Jeff Henderson
If you want to see a guy that has done it all, then look no further than Jeff Henderson. He was once stabbed in the chest when he was just 16 years old due to a gang-related dispute. It was then later in 1998 when he was arrested by the San Diego Drug Task Force because of illegal drug distribution. It was his time in prison where he discovered his true passion, cooking. Today, he is one of the world-famous chefs not only for his New York Times bestselling book (Cooked: My Journey from the Streets to the Stove) but also for the numerous TV shows he has appeared in.
3. Frank William Abagnale
Frank Abagnale might be your typical white-collar criminal if you know his special profile. By the time he was 21, he not only escaped police custody twice, but he was recognized as one of the most notorious impostors ever, having claimed somewhere right around 8 to 9 identities. Amongst some of the most popular was a US Bureau of Prisons agent and a lawyer. After 5 years in prison, he started a new life by cooperating with the Federal government. This is where he decided to use his power for the good side. While he might be retired today, there was a time when Frank was mentoring some of the greatest minds that the FBI and CIA ever knew. Besides, he also runs a financial fraud consultancy company – Abagnale & Associates.
4. Junior Johnson
Junior Johnson might be known as The Last American Hero to his friends and family, but the truth of the matter is that he is so much more than this. Sure, he is just a humble stock car driver with a background in moonshining, but this is one that he can use on his resume. Johnson grew up in moonshining and if you wanted to moonshine in the 60s, you need a fast car to do so. This is exactly where Junior came in. His family was eventually busted with the biggest haul that the county ever seen and Junior spent several years in prison.
5. Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart is a household name when it comes to home décor. She is also known as a household name for insider trading. It was back in 2001 when Martha got involved in insider trading. This would eventually lead to her incarceration, where she would spend five long months in prison. The unique thing about Martha’s position was that she did not actually go to jail for this criminal charge. No, she went to jail for conspiracy, obstruction, and lying. While it was not her finest hour, she did come out smelling like a rose. She used the time to work on her career. She started hosting tv shows and writing new books about her release. Today, she is a successful entrepreneur who is a partner of big companies like Walmart and Macy’s and continues to host her own TV shows.
6. Frederick Hutson
Fredrick Huston is not your typical felon. He was born to a single mother with three siblings and graduated high school in St. Petersburg, Florida. He then went to work with the US Air Force as an electrician. During that time he also started his own business. This window-tinting business earned him $50,000 a year. Just a teenager, Frederick seemed to have it all together. That was until his hopes got too big and he turned to drug trafficking. He was later arrested by the DEA on charges of shipping nearly 2 tons of marijuana.
While in prison, around 51 months, he saw the difficulties that inmates were having with contacting and keeping in touch with their relatives. After his release from prison, he founded a company, Pigeonly, that serves the contact between prisoners and their family members. Today, the company is worth millions of dollars and serves a lot of people.
7. Coss Marte
There has always been a fitness stigma surrounding prisons. It seems like all the inmates have time to do is study and workout. While this might not always be the case, it certainly is the way that Hollywood likes to portray it. That aside, one man took this and ran with it. Coss Marte was in and out of prison his whole life. When he was just 30 he found himself back behind bars facing a six-year sentence for a drug operation that he built. This was when he decided to change his life for the better and that he did. He started what is known as ConBody. This system was inspired by actual workouts that Coss performed while he spent time behind bars.
8. Cedric Hornbuckle
Here is another man that was no stranger to the penal system. Just at the tender age of 19, Cedric found himself staring down a 12-year prison sentence. While he was only 19 at the time, this is something that no budding nineteen-year-old wants to face. There is no denying that his time inside was rough, as he was moved from unit to unit for fighting and causing trouble. It wasn’t until he arrived at the Cleveland Correctional Facility when he really settled down. He was accepted into the Prison Entrepreneurship Program and these were skills that he would later go on to use when starting his own business.
9. Shon Hopwood
How many times have you heard about an innocent man behind bars that learns to legally defend himself? He will then usually later go on to serve himself and his local inmates in the court system. This is the exact case for Shon Hopwood. The only major difference in this story is that Shon was innocent. No, he was serving out a 12-year sentence for armed robbery nonetheless when he discovered that he had a mind for the law. Since his release, he has not only built of a one of a kind criminal profile, but he has even been an advisor to the White House on several justice reforms.
10. Reginald Dwayne Betts
There really aren’t many cases where you hear of former carjackers going on the straight and narrow. Well, that is exactly what Reginald Dwayne Betts did. And. He just didn’t do it, he did it with one of the biggest schools possible. That’s right, after spending years and years behind bars Reginald attended and graduated from Yale University. Not only this, but he was just recently approved for a license to practice law in the state of Connecticut. The committee had flagged his application when they saw that he was a three-time felony offender. Luckily, his records were reviewed and the board saw that Reginald was a changed man. Reginald is now legally cleared to practice law in the state of Connecticut. The only thing left is the swearing-in ceremony.
11. Ben Aldana
There are just some individuals out there that are given everything and they choose to throw it all away. This is was the case with Ben Aldana until he turned his life around for the better. Aldana might have grown up in a modest Utah home, but his parents were more than avid about giving him ever tool that he needed to succeed. Unfortunately, at the time the only thing that Ben was interested in was meth. This would eventually lead his behind bars and where he is currently today. While in prison, Ben joined a drug rehabilitation program. It was this very program that changed his life. He says he had an epiphany as he was listening to the other inmates spew stories about their drug days.
It must have had quite an impact on him because he has not only passed the bar, but he is a short while he will be assuming a position with the Utah County Public Defender’s office.
12. Dave Dahl
You just hear so many stories about ex-drug dealers turning their lives around. This really is a good thing, but how many of them do you hear about becoming bakers? That is exactly what Dave Dahl did and that is why he is different. After more than 15 years in prison for drug-related charges, Dave completely turned his life around. Not only is he now working in his father’s bakery, but he has his own successful line of bread known as Dave’s Killer Bread. This bread line is extremely popular in health-food and grocery stores throughout the greater Oregon area.
13. Tracy Mackness
You just don’t really hear about many drug queens. Well, Tracy Mackness puts that theory to bed. This multi-million dollar sausage queen was once one of the most infamous drug dealers of the Essex area. In fact, the producers of Shameless are speaking with her about a possible sitcom. That aside, it really was the inside counseling that turned Tracy’s life around. She was so inspired by some of the speakers inside that she not only cleaned up her life, but she became a multi-millionaire with the best selling autobiography.
14. Kevin Mitnick
Kevin Mitnick today might be best known for his role in his high-tech security firm, but this wasn’t always the case. No, in fact, there was a time when all he was known for was hacking. In 1995 the prolific hacker was arrested for various computer crimes and sentenced to five years in prison. The trial was long and well-publicized. There was also a lot of journalism, books, and controversial that followed the whole trial, but it ultimately ended up in Kevin changing his life for the better. He has built today what is known as Mitnick Security Consulting LLC.
15. Piper Kerman
Piper might have been born into a family of attorneys and doctors, but this certainly didn’t stop her from going down the wrong road. Many people say that it is the home life that makes all the difference in the world, but you can clearly see that isn’t the case in this situation. It probably had something to do with the fact that Piper got romantically involved with a heroin drug kingpin. Luckily, Piper used his story and turned it into the ultra-popular TV series “Orange is The New Black.”
16. Robert Downey Jr
Today he might be known as the superhero Iron Man, but this certainly wasn’t always the case. In fact, one-time beloved actor Robert Downey Jr was faced with a whole load of legal and substance abuse problems. Throughout his entire career, he has been plagued with substance abuse problems, but this certainly hasn’t stopped him from setting his sights high. Some might even say too high, but there is nothing that has proven too high for the ultra-popular actor. He has not only garnered many actors of the year awards, but he has dawned lead roles in some of the highest-grossing films ever.
17. Tim Allen
Today he might be the most beloved tool man on TV, but this certainly wasn’t always the case at all. Tim’s life started out with a modest mother and farther, but quickly began to spiral out of control. In 1978 he was arrested at the Battle Creek International Airport with over 650 grams of cocaine. He pled guilty and ended up giving over some big names in the process. Luckily, this is when he decided to focus down and change his life for the better. The tool man hasn’t looked back since and he’s never been more popular.
18. Christian Slater
Christian Slater’s career is one that is fueled by drug abuse and addiction. This doesn’t mean that he hasn’t received critically acclaimed responses for his performances because that he has. In fact, he is the leading role of many best-selling movies. The only problem is that for every success he saw, he also saw a decline. He was arrested in 89 for drunk driving, in 94 for gun possession and in 97 for domestic abuse. He has certainly seen his ups and downs, but through his charity work, he now vows to change all this.
19. 50 Cent
50’s career has seen many ups and downs over the years. And, not all of the downs have been for the better. Sure, getting shot and arrested makes you tougher on the streets, but it does nothing for your business image. What’s your business partner going to think if he learns that you’ve spent 10 years in prison for carjacking of drug trafficking? The results would not be good, and this is something that 50 has faced ever since he has tried to move to the legit side of things. Luckily, he broke through the barriers and now not only owns his own record label, but he has a hand in several other profitable promotions.
20. Danny Trejo
There is simply no mistaking Danny Trejo’s heritage. You can look at his face and see clearly that he is Mexican. While you are looking at that face, you can also see the battle-hardened lines. Danny’s face is one that has seen a lot over the years, starting back to his early childhood days as a hardcore gang-banger. If he wasn’t out there in the streets slinging, he and his friends were planning to steal a ride from just down the block. It would be these antics that would eventually lead Trejo to prison. Luckily, he is another that found a major break.
Trejo was counseling a former drug addict on set when he was offered a role, and this is how he got his big break. It should also be noted that during his time in San Quentin Trejo also used his athletic prowess to reign over the men’s lightweight and welterweight boxing programs.
21. Mark Wahlberg
Old Marky Mark might be one of today’s highest-paid male actors, but he had his run with trouble as well. In fact, he not only dropped out of school, but there was a time when he ran with legit street gangs. He was born the youngest of nine children in a three-bedroom apartment. And, this was all before he even thought about creating Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. This was just the start of many successful adventures.
Through determination and preservation old Marky saw through. He landed major roles in hit films like Renaissance Man and The Basketball Diaries. Today he is the star of such films and is a regular donor with several charities.
22. Clifford Joseph Harris Jr. (T.I.)
Rappers are always associated with street crime and this is because they usually grow up rough. This was the case for one Clifford Joseph Harris. He wanted to support his mother and younger siblings, but only had several means to do. He could either sells guns, turn tricks, or sling dope. Which do you think he chose? Luckily, it was a life that he was able to walk away from. It was his love for music and talent that really pulled him out of poverty and danger. He began rapping at the tender age is eight and knew right away that he was talented. This just proves that anyone can use their best assets for massive gains. Anything really is possible given the right circumstances.
At the end of the day, there are a number of reasons that one ends up down the wrong road. Maybe you just grow up in bad circumstances. Maybe you have a friend who leads you down the wrong road. Just one little legal altercation and you could be looking at 10 or 20 years behind bars. Luckily, that doesn’t have to be the end. With the right information and determination, you can come back from your legal problems. Not only can you come back, but you can come back more successful than ever.
Find something that you are truly passionate about and pour every ounce of yourself into it. If you don’t have anything that you are avid and passionate about that’s okay too. You should never be afraid to try new things. In fact, you should always be out there venturing new business opportunities and exploring every avenue open to you. Prison or jail has already set you back several years. Now is the time to get out there and act.